Moon Taxi promotes new album, prepares for Vail performance
See them live Feb. 26 at the Winter Mountain Games
Last Word Features
In early 2020, Moon Taxi was set to begin the next chapter in the band’s burgeoning career. A new album, “Silver Dream,” was getting wrapped up and a single, “Hometown Heroes,” had been released. The group was getting in some touring to start the year ahead of the album’s planned release.
Of course, the pandemic got in the way of those plans, and touring and the release of “Silver Dream” were put on hold.
“The original plan was to put the album out in the summer of 2020,” singer/guitarist Trevor Terndrup said in a late-May phone interview. “Back then, we just didn’t know what was going to happen, and then we got to the fall, and we were like, ‘Should we put the album out or should we just set a (future) release date?’ So in the fall, we were like OK, if things aren’t opened up by Christmastime, we’re just going to go ahead and go for it and put it out in early 2021, which is ultimately what happened.”
Normally, Moon Taxi would have road tested at least some of new songs before they were released, but that didn’t happen with the pandemic. So now that touring has resumed, the group has only begun to get a sense of where the new material fits in the live show, as the band assembled two different setlists (which will come in handy in cities where the group has back-to-back shows) covering Moon Taxi’s six-album career.
“The new songs, we’re just trying to figure out how to present them in the best light possible,” Terndrup said. “We’ll continue to hone in on what we’re going to do there.”
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The group, which also includes bassist Tommy Putnam, guitarist Spencer Thomson, drummer Tyler Ritter and keyboardist Wes Bailey, has plenty of experience judging what works on the live stage. Debuting with the album “Melodica” in 2007, Moon Taxi released three more albums over the following eight years while gradually building a fan base.
Then in May 2017, Moon Taxi released “Two High” as a single from the band’s fifth album, “Let the Record Play,” and saw the song rack up millions of streams on Spotify and other online sources.
Soon Moon Taxi was being courted by a number of labels, including major label RCA, which signed the group.
By 2019, Moon Taxi was in the early stages of writing for what would become “Silver Dream.” As part of the process, RCA suggested that Moon Taxi’s three songwriters, Terndrup, Thomson and Bailey, travel from their Nashville home base to Los Angeles to write for a week with a half-dozen seasoned songwriters. Such sessions are a common practice for major labels, which hope the collaborations will produce a hit song or two.
The songwriting trip turned out to be time well spent.
“We probably wrote about half of the songs for the (“Silver Dream”) album there just in six days,” Terndrup said. “So it was fun. I definitely think it sharpened our skills as songwriters.”
Ironically, Moon Taxi and RCA parted ways, Terndrup said, due to differences in how the two parties viewed the group’s career path. But “Silver Dream,” which was released on BMG, has a bit more of a modern-pop, major-label sound, while still fitting with Moon Taxi’s previous albums.
The group has always crafted songs with pop hooks, although they were blended in with rootsy elements and a bit of jam band feel. But songs like “Light Up,” “Palm of Your Hand,” “Say” and “Live For It” feel tailored to pop radio airplay with their buoyant melodies, perky synthesizer/synthetic instrumental backing and sonic ear candy.
“It does feel like it is kind of geared toward that, yeah, to modern pop, rock radio-friendly,” Terndrup said of “Silver Dream.” “We have a good history of getting our music played, so that’s the idea, but not a huge departure.”
If the music feels a little more tailored for a mass audience, “Silver Dream” is actually deeper lyrically, with some songs having real life/autobiographical elements. A prime example is “Take The Edge Off.” It evolved from its initial intent as a fun drinking song during a Los Angeles writing session with Busbee, the hugely successful songwriter who sadly passed away in September 2019.
“I brought that idea to Busbee, and he heard it and he kind of sat and thought about it for a second and then just proceeded to like really dig real deep and talk about how life is ultimately not fair, but you kind of rely on these people to sweeten the bitterness of life,” Terndrup recalled. “That’s what take the edge off is, it’s people that you love. I’m like ‘Oh my God, Busbee, you took this like kind of stupid idea that I had and you elevated it to this beautiful level.’ Anyway, I just think that’s something I will always take with me. You can have a catchy little hook, but it has to have a deeper meaning.”
Moon Taxi is scheduled to play at 7 p.m. Feb. 26 on the Solaris Concert Stage as part of the Winter Mountain Games in Vail. For more information, visit winter.mountaingames.com.
What: Moon Taxi performs in Vail
When: 7 p.m. Feb. 26
Where: Solaris Concert Stage
More information: winter.mountaingames.com.