One of the best things about music festivals is the bleary-eyed stumble onto the unknown band that suddenly becomes an absolute favorite. It’s even better waking up to the announcement of that band playing three nights in your backyard. For free. Moon Taxi, a Nashville-based indie/jam/progressive rock tour de force, is doing just that starting on St. Patrick’s Day at the Hangout in Gulf Shores. Vocalist and guitarist Trevor Terndrup talks about the Nashville music scene, molding indie and jam worlds, and the impact Southern literature has had on Moon Taxi’s lyrics.
IN: What’s it like for a rock and roll band being based in the honky tonk capital of the world?
Terndrup: Nashville’s great for almost all kinds of music. It was surprising to us. We thought we’d have to twang it up when we first got there, but if you create your own niche of music, no one can take that from you. Luckily, we’ve created this community of people that want to hear us. We also cut our teeth on the road. People started noticing us outside of Nashville before they did inside the city.
IN: Was it a conscious decision from the get-go to be on the road as much as possible?
Terndrup: We’ve always thought the live show was important. People would get tired of us if we played Nashville every weekend, so we branched out. We’ve played a few of the shittiest bars to ever exist in the world, but we came out stronger because of it.
IN: How big of an influence has the jamband world been on you guys – both musically and how you approach the road?
Terndrup: In a live setting, it’s more apparent. Jambands tend to peak things out and stretch out for that really “home run” set and setlist. We place a strong emphasis on making every show unique. That’s a definite jamband influence. But with this last record, Cabaret, we wanted to prove to ourselves that we could do a more relevant studio record. I don’t think a lot of jambands shoot for that. They just try to recreate the live sound in the studio. Studio recordings and live recordings are two fundamentally different things, but we like to think we mix the best of both worlds and have our feet in both camps.
IN: That’s one of the things I really like about you guys. I come from a jamband background, but when it comes to quality studio records from my favorite bands, they’re few and far between.
Terndrup: We think it’s very important. When you’re jumping on the highway on a road trip and you want that record experience, most people don’t go to some random show from, say, 1994. Most people reach for that classic album. We think that has more of a broad appeal, but we our live show is still our sweet spot. That will never, ever get old for us.
IN: You talked earlier about setlists when you’re building a show. How do you keep things fresh when you’re doing a three-night run like you are in Gulf Shores starting Sunday?
Terndrup: There are some songs we’ll play more than once for sure, but there will also be different people at the shows each night. If someone were to come to each night, there will be nuances and different songs happening. We also tend to break out some interesting covers on the three-night runs. Anything from Nine Inch Nails to Rage Against the Machine to The Who and other classic rock stuff.
IN: Speaking of that run on the beach, one of the shows is going to fall on St. Patty’s Day. Is there a typical St. Patrick’s Day for Moon Taxi?
Terndrup: It always involves some debauchery. We’re not going to break out the Irish jigs or anything like that, but I’m sure we’ll flavor the show and be drinking some green beer.
IN: Talk about the influence of the South on the lyrics.
Terndrup: In order to speak what’s true to you, you have to talk about things that are close to your heart and home. For us, that’s a lot of traveling around the South. I’m a big fan of southern Gothic genre of writing with that old-time thick, swampy Dixieland feel. We hint at that throughout our songs.
IN: One last question. What gets you off as a musician?
Terndrup: Seeing something we created from scratch come alive each night. The vibe is different and we learn something new every show. If it wasn’t always fresh, I’m not sure I could do it.
Photo: Moon Taxi Official