Lo Moon has just released their stunning second album, ‘Modern Life’ and are in the midst of a major European & North American tour with The War on Drugs. Matt Lowell and Sam Stewart from the band spoke to Lee Campbell about the origins of Lo Moon, going out on their own, their shared love of Radiohead and an insight into some of their new material.
‘Carried Away’ is a beautiful track. With the lyric “It’s easy to turn away”, I couldn’t help thinking of Ukraine and what’s going on in Europe when I heard it. Can you give me some insight into the inspiration behind the song?
Matt: Weirdly, Sam and I got together a couple of days before lockdown to write that song. It reads like a pandemic song, but really we had the chords for a long time, and the record was close to being finished. Sam pulled up the demo and called me, saying that we should get together; there’s something in this. So, we got together at his house, and it came together really fast. We were listening to The Verve, trying to catch an emotion and a spirit that felt very fresh to us. The chorus was done that day. A few days later, we had the verse, and we were off and running.
Sam: Yeah, we were just listening to the chords over and over, and we felt very excited. I remember just handing you a microphone and asking you to sing some shit. I kept telling you, “pretend you’re Richard Ashcroft…” (all laughing). You sang the verse melody and it pretty much just came out finished. We were very frustrated at that time because we had an album we thought was finished, but we were at a label at the time that didn’t seem to care or pay any attention to it. We had worked so hard, and it was maybe going to be shelved, so we wrote the song out of frustration to do something new. The lyrics were almost a premonition of what was to follow in the very immediate future (this was late February 2020), days before lockdown.
Matt: Lyrically, we were talking about the love of reconnecting, of being in a band and connecting on a real, human level.
Where did the band’s name come from, and how did the group begin?
Matt: The band is named after my nephew, whose name is ‘Lowell Moon.’ I moved out to LA and had some demos. I really knew that I needed to put a band together to get to the next phase. I met (bass player) Crisanta (Baker) pretty much right away. I played her some of the demos that I had. Then, through the same friend, we got introduced to Sam. The three of us got together, and they reacted to the demos. When we got signed, we kind of had to figure out how to make a record as a band together, which was an amazing learning experience. But, until we met Sterling (Laws) and finally got a drummer, that was really only when we could call it a band. So, the second record was a completely different record because of that, because we had played a lot of gigs and that elusive fourth member.
Did you specifically move to LA for that reason because you couldn’t find that dynamic in New York?
Matt: There was a manager out here (LA) that was really interested in the work. I didn’t really want to move to LA, but I must say that the scene in New York had dried up. I was working at a studio there, but it didn’t really feel like anything exciting was happening. The music scene in Brooklyn was pretty much non-existent after the big Indie / MGMT boom. New York used to be a hub of creativity. To be an artist in New York now is just incredibly difficult.
How would you describe your music to someone who doesn’t know the band?
Sam: Cancel your plans for the next hour, because you need some time to understand and enjoy our music, just kidding… It’s atmospheric and very emotive. I think Matt’s voice is so emotional, and that’s so much of the music in his voice and what he carries through it. Matt, you’re quite an emotional guy (chuckling). It feeds into the music. The people who are seeking a personal moment in their life, then we’re your band. Come hang out with us.
The final recording sessions of ‘Modern Life’ took place in Seattle. Just over a month ago, we lost one of Washington State’s and the world’s most prolific writers, Mark Lanegan. What would you say about his music and legacy?
Matt: That’s funny. Adam from War on Drugs was talking to us recently about a Mark (Lanegan) album. I know how much of an impact that he had.
Sam: I am and was a massive Queens of the Stone Age fan, so I know Mark Lanegan’s voice more than his songwriting. His voice was super-beautiful, kind of how I wish Tom Waits’s voice sounded.
You have been compared to a wide range of bands. Who would be your main influences as artists?
Matt: I grew up in Long Island, NY, so it was definitely the Bruce Springsteen’s, the Billy Joels and the Paul Simons. That was part of the bedrock of growing up in that area. Then I discovered Talk Talk, The Blue Nile and Prefab Sprout. Then that became the bedrock of this new musical landscape that I was really interested in discovering more about. That was probably the main influence on Lo Moon. Before that, I was doing a lot of singer-songwriters and acoustic guitar, but that’s always gonna be there in the DNA of what I do and where I lean to. Then bands like Radiohead that Sam and I both revere. That’s such a huge touchstone. They come up every time we are together.
Sam: The first record I ever bought was ‘What’s the Story..’ by Oasis. I got really into Nirvana; then I discovered The Pixies, Radiohead and The Beatles. I got into The Beatles when I was 18 and never looked back. I’m a true ‘band, band’ person. I love all of the mythology around bands.
You are playing your headline show at Lafayette in London on April 25th. It’s a great venue. What are you looking forward to most about playing in London?
Matt: The fans in England, and in Europe in general, appreciate what we do on a musical level. Every show we play there has progressively gotten more enjoyable because you can tell that the fans really care for the record or the music. There’s always been a buzz in every London gig, from the tiny first gig we played at The Sebright Arms to the last two that we did at Omeara. It feels like we’re playing to people that genuinely get it. This is our biggest show yet, so we’re really excited.
Sam: I’m really excited to play in a venue that isn’t a pub (all chuckling). That’s all I’ve really known since I’ve played gigs in London. Apart from when we opened for the bigger acts such as London Grammar when we played at Hammersmith Apollo and Shepherd’s Bush Empire. We’re going to be opening for The War on Drugs at the O2 Arena, so that’ll be insane. But I’m really looking forward to playing in a club that’s actually built for music.
Yeah, so on the upcoming tour, you are playing support for the incredible War on Drugs. Congrats on that. How did that intro come about and that relationship with Adam (Granduciel)?
Matt: On our first album, we started working with this producer Chris Walla from Death Cab for Cutie. We didn’t have a drummer, and we needed a drummer for the album. He immediately said, “my friend Charlie (Hall) in this band, The War on Drugs, would probably love where you guys are coming from. Maybe I’ll reach out to him.” I was trying to act cool because ‘Lost in a Dream’ had just come out. They were out on that tour, and that album just hit all three of us. We were obsessed with it. A couple of weeks later, Charlie invited us to see them at The Greek Theatre (Los Angeles).
In true War on Drugs fashion, whenever you are in that world, they really make you feel special. He had never met us before; he gave us backstage passes, he came out to say hi, and we had a drink. He just embraced us like we were his family. They finished their tour, and a couple of weeks later, we were starting in Seattle on our first record, and somehow he convinced his family that he was going to go up and make this record with these guys.
He just showed up at our Airbnb, and he was in the studio the next day, and it was like family. Since then, we have been working on the record in LA, and Adam would drop by. He just loves being in the studio. He came by and hung out, played a little guitar on a song, and we all just became friends. They are like our big brothers in music. They give us advice; they let us use their rehearsal space. They’ve just taken us under their wing. We’re massive fans, but it’s also good to know that they’re just great people. They are the best group of guys of all time.
You are playing Dublin on April 14th – played Dublin or Ireland before?
Matt: We played Dublin before at the Olympia Theatre with London Grammar. That place was awesome!
‘Digging up the Dead’ – is another great song. Any background to that one?
Matt: I heard someone use the phrase, “she keeps digging up the dead in me”, and I wrote down the term. I had never heard anyone use the phrase before or say that. I thought it was a really interesting metaphor. So I sat down and wrote what I thought was like a Neil Young progression, sent Sam a voice memo, and we got together and finished the song in a day. It was really simple, and what I remember most was playing it in the middle of the pandemic on facetime. And then we were getting ready to finish the record, and that was the impetus to bring in Chris Walla to help us finish the record. We had a version of ‘Modern Life’ that we struggled to come to terms with. It felt like it could use a fresh set of ears. I think it was Sam that really wanted to put ‘Digging up the Dead’ on the record.
How you run the band, from managing the social media and producing the music, is truly ‘indie’. Do you think this helps contribute to better working relationships within the band, less pressure and greater freedom?
Sam: I think that it’s really lit a fire under us. Being more in control of everything in-house just makes you more passionate because you don’t have time to rest on your laurels because everything that doesn’t get done is down to us. If we don’t go and take the photos, if we don’t mix the record, if we don’t make the videos ourselves, it’s not going to get done. It really does make you feel like shit. It’s really hard work, but it’s worthwhile. You never feel like anything is ever a waste of time. When you’ve got a lot of money to put into it and other people hired to do things, you don’t really understand the amount of time and energy it takes, even as simple as taking a few photos. Everything’s a big deal. At the end of the day, we’re much prouder. Everything feels like a bigger accomplishment as it really is just us on everything.
Matt: You have to come to grips with the fact that this is the only way. It’s made the band way tighter and way more communicative & the message of the band becomes clearer because everyone knows what it is. It’s not up to anyone else to figure it out and talk about it. We have to feel passionate about it, and I do believe people who land on it will see that. There’s no magic ticket. If the band feels good about it, then that’s a win. For us, it’s just become, ‘hey, what do we want to do?’
Sam – does your Dad (Dave Stewart from The Eurythmics) still give you much advice, or do you seek much advice from him about making music and being an artist in your own right?
Sam: He used to give me a lot of advice growing up, solicited or unsolicited. Now I think he’s in the same boat as most people, as in ‘I have no idea what’s going on..’ He’s very supportive and really is into our band a lot. He DMs Matt quite a bit (laughing).
Matt: It’s great; I love it.
Who was the last band you saw play live, and where?
Matt: I saw Arcade Fire in New Orleans. I was visiting my girlfriend who was working down there, and Arcade Fire did a show in a club for 350 people. It was friends and family only. There was a friend of mine who invited me. I went by myself and had the time of my life. It was absolutely unbelievable. They played some new songs as they have a new record coming out. It was awesome to see a band that hadn’t played a gig in five years. They were really nervous. It was a tiny club, and he (Win Butler) forgot the lyrics to ‘The Suburbs.’ He finished the show and then said, ‘I wanna play one more new one, but we haven’t got it completely worked out, so please, everyone promise that they won’t take a video..’ It was awesome, and the main takeaway was that everyone is feeling the same way about playing live music again, whether you’re a band that can play hockey arenas like them. Just that feeling about being up there again is cathartic, man!
Sam: I went to the NME Awards here in London, and we also went to see Wolf Alice. They were great. Me and Matt went to see them in a mid-sized club in LA called the Teragram. The crowd was going nuts. All the kids were singing along to every word. Man. Gigs are back!
‘Stop’, the final track, is one of my favourites. Your music seems to have that elusive blend of hope and melancholy. Talk me through the craft of making that song.
Matt: We were in our friend Tony’s studio. We had the chorus locked in, but I was frustrated as I couldn’t really get the timing right. There was something missing. I remember it was fall, and I was apple-picking, and Sam called me and said, ‘hey, I have this post-chorus idea that’s really good.’ I said awesome because I was so stumped on this song it was driving me mental. Now we’ve got it. It’s a song now. The arrangement was very simple. From there, we finished the lyrics, and it came together quite quickly. After being dropped (by the label) and then being in the band & knowing that we were just going to keep going, but was it ever going to be enough?
Making the second record was a huge accomplishment. Just getting through it and being proud of it. That had to be the sentiment. Even if it’s not going to be enough, we gotta keep going. So the song is a hopeful lament, I would say.
Sam: All I can remember is that the actual recording of that song was a nightmare. I think that is the one song that was truly recorded in isolation during the lockdown. I don’t think we were ever in the same room recording it. I remember almost losing hope with it until we were finally able to get into a room together again with the producer, Yves (Rothman). He just balanced a few things and thought, ‘Holy Shit, I think it’s all here.’
Finally, what is your most treasured vinyl?
Sam: I have a vinyl copy of ‘On the Beach’ by Neil Young, which I love. It’s a known rarity. I also own two different versions of The Beatles box-set, one in stereo and one in mono. That would be my current one.
Matt: I have a box of Talk Talk 10″ singles which Charlie from the War on Drugs sent me after we finished recording the first record. Those are really cool and treasured. I have an original pressing of (Springsteen) ‘Born to Run.’ I have about four different versions because I never archive my vinyl collection. I also have an English pressing of ‘Return to Eden’ by Talk Talk.
Lo Moon UK Tour Dates
Mon 11th BIRMINGHAM, O2 Academy *
Tues 12th LONDON, O2 Arena *
Thurs 14th DUBLIN, 3 Arena *
Sat 16th LEEDS, First Direct Arena *
Sun 17th EDINBURGH, O2 Academy *
Mon 18th EDINBURGH, O2 Academy *
Mon 25th LONDON, Lafayette (Headline Show) – tickets on sale HERE
*w/ The War on Drugs
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