(Photo: Marcus Haney)
I don’t remember where I first heard – it probably was on one of the Sirius XM alternative/indie rock stations – but it took all of 10 seconds to make me a fan of the song. Just as the song was a bit mysterious, so was the band. Lo Moon. When the song was released – in September 2016 – Lo Moon had very little online presence and there was no word on whether this single was a precursor to a full length or if, in this era we live in, it was a song that some band had uploaded to Soundcloud and some radio DJ found it and started playing it only to see it go viral.
A year later, the mystery about who Lo Moon is has been solved (the band is made up of Matt Lowell, Crisanta Baker and Sam Stewart) and a second song (“This Is It”) has been released, though the timing of the debut album is still in question – rumor has it that it’ll be out in early 2018.
Lo Moon makes their Columbus debut on Tuesday night opening for Phoenix at Express Live. I had the chance to speak with Matt Lowell this past Friday afternoon, shortly after the band performed a set at World Cafe Live in Philly for WXPN.
With the press you’ve been doing lately, people are trying to uncover the mystery of who Lo Moon is and how the band came together. I’ve read a few interviews where you talk about the past few years but I was wondering if you could tell me what you were doing in the years leading up to the formation of Lo Moon?
Three years ago is when I moved to LA, five years ago is when I started writing the song “Loveless”. I had finished at Berklee College of Music and I moved back to New York and I was working at a studio in New York. My friends had bought a space and I helped them build the studio. I was an assistant, working as an engineer, just kind of learning my way around. At that time I started working on what would become Lo Moon but it was basically me and a friend of mine working on “Loveless” and a bunch of other songs that didn’t end up ever making it. I met my manager and he convinced me to move to LA. There was some label interest at the time, not from Columbia but from a different label, and so I thought, “Okay, I think this is a good time to do something like this.”
I had tried moving to LA right when I got out of college and I really didn’t like it so I was very skeptical. But I did end up moving there, and I met Crisanta (Baker) very shortly after I moved and showed her “Loveless” and said, “I have this song and I have these other songs and I need a band. Maybe we’re going to sign to this label, maybe we’re not. But, do you want to join my band?” And she was really into it. That band was called Stranger at the time and then we started from there. Then I met Sam (Stewart) a bit after that. But, the weird thing was that with Stranger, I kind of took a year in between [Stranger and Lo Moon] and started writing a lot more. And then I was like, “We definitely need someone else in this band” and that’s when we were connected with Sam through a mutual friend. Same thing, though. I showed him the songs and he was really into it and that’s when the band officially formed. That’s going on three years now.
Oh, so Stranger was the name of the band before it became Lo Moon?
Yeah. And we were playing “Loveless” out and no one seemed to care about it.
What do you think it is about this combination of musicians that people do care about who you are now?
I think it is just about the combination. I think everyone is just really committed to it in their own way and they bring what they do to it. We also get along really well and we’re great friends so it makes it a lot easier.
It seems you took some very orchestrated to get where you are. There are bands that write a couple songs and jump in a van and that’s how they get to know each other. Sounds like you did it the opposite way – spend a lot of time together before going out on the road.
We spent a lot of time at my place. Instead of going on the road, we just spent time in there. And I think that’s where it all started to connect. And then instead of going out and touring, we started making a record. Which, in it’s own way, is way more stressful than touring. We got the most stressed out part about music out of the way as a band really early on.
Having gone to the Berklee School of Music and then working at a studio, has writing songs always been something you wanted to do?
I started doing that sophomore year of high school.
When you were in high school, did you have an interest in the recording aspect of music or were you an angsty kid listening to bands like Linkin Park?
I was more into … I was going through my early phase of jam bands at the time. But, yes, I had a band that I put together in high school and that’s where I really fell in love with it. Sophomore year of high school, I wrote my first song kind of around 9/11. That’s when I really started writing. I started picking up guitar a year or two before that but I was a drummer mostly.
Because it seems like you’re so focused on the quality of the music and everything is well planned out, I assume the videos you’ve made and the press photos of the band have also been well planned out.
Yeah, I think that’s all part of it. That’s the first thing people see before they’ve even heard a note. That’s so important to get that stuff right and we’ve slaved over that stuff which has been really fun. I think we enjoy that as a band.
That got me to thinking … back in the ’90s there was this magazine called Sassy, not sure if you’re familiar with it, you might have been too young to have any knowledge of it.
No idea of that magazine. What kind of magazine was it?
It was geared towards older teens/early 20-somethings that listened to alternative music but wasn’t necessarily a music-only magazine. That had this feature called the “Cute Band Alert” and they were always trying to find the indie band that many of their readers might not know. But when I see Lo Moon’s band photos, it makes me think that you would have been exactly the type of band that would be featured in the “Cute Band Alert”.
That is so funny.
(Photo: Jonathan Weiner)
When you guys are out, either as a band, or, individually – like getting your morning’s Starbucks – do you find people doing a double take or that sideways glance, like, “I think they are famous, like maybe they are in a band or an actor or actress”?
When we’re in the middle of the country, we get asked every day, “What are you guys doing here?” I think Crisanta’s the one that throws it off the most though. Sam and I are just wearing jeans and t-shirts every day but Crisanta’s always walking in somewhere and gets sideways looks – in a great way, it’s hilarious.
What’s your plan for a physical release? Vinyl is king but people are still buying CDs. Do you have ideas for the packaging?
We’re going to do vinyl and CD. I don’t know about CD as much … I know in Japan it’s still a thing but I don’t know if we’re going to do CDs here but I’m sure we will. We’re definitely going to do vinyl though.
Will you include lyrics, liner notes, etc and, if so, a thank you list? In all honesty, that’s one of the biggest things I miss about physical copies of albums. I always like to dig into the credits, the thank you lists. I subscribe to Spotify but I miss reading liner notes.
I miss it too. We’re working on the packaging now. The artist that did the next single’s artwork that’s coming out soon, she’s doing our packaging and she’s amazing.
If the internet had been around when I first started writing, I would have loved to have done a blog where I dug into “Thank You” lists on albums and find out from the band why they chose to include somebody on their album credits; like, what criteria did they have to meet to earn a spot on your “Thank You” list?
(Laughs) I don’t know. For us, I think we’ve just had a lot of support along the way.
I get that, but there’s got to be somebody that you’ll throw on that, when they see their name, will be like, “Wow, I can’t believe they put me on there!”
Yeah, maybe. We have to find that person!
Totally switching gears but, when you were a kid, did you ever try to meet bands?
Yes, all the time. I had a really weird phase where I got into Dave Matthews for like one year. And so I stalked him once. And I did the same thing with Thom Yorke. I did get to meet Dave Matthews – I have a picture. I didn’t meet Thom Yorke though. I’ve been in a room with Thom Yorke, with somebody that knew him, and I didn’t even go up to him. I couldn’t. I think when I was younger, it was easier. Now that I’ve met some of these people, I realize you don’t really want to meet them.
Not sure if you have people waiting by back stage doors to meet you, but I do notice that you’re pretty active on Twitter and are forming online connections with fans. You’ve got some pretty passionate fans, which is great considering you’re still a “new” band.
Yeah, that’s been the interesting thing. The people that are into it, are really into it which is great.
In the interviews I’ve read, I understand your desire of quality over quantity. I had a boss who once said done is better than perfect but that seems to go against Lo Moon’s aesthetic. That being said, does there come a point where you say “We have to finish this up otherwise it’ll never get done”?
That happens a ton. Sometimes, it just gets too much. There were a few moments like that but not so many. I think there are other people – like management and the label – were more like, “Okay, let’s go now. Are you making a double album?” But, that was fine. They were also really happy that we were taking our time.
For as calculated as you’ve been with the formation of the band, the writing and recording of the songs, does all the attention you’re getting feel like it’s coming fast and furious?
It actually feels slower because there’s less in your head that you’re thinking of. You’re just going day by day now. So, it’s like, I would drive myself crazy that it wasn’t moving fast enough so now it’s just that there’s so much going on, I try not to get ahead of myself, which has been good for the band as well. We’ve all been doing this for a long time so we try to focus on each day.
With the touring that you have done, do you take something away that you use to make yourself better or change things the next time you go out?
Oh yeah, 100%. Every tour has been different because of that. Muna was the first tour we ever did. We did Lemon Twigs in Europe, a few shows with Glass Animals and a few shows with Temples. Then we did Air, we opened for Air on the West Coast and then we did Ride, the ’90s shoegaze band and now we’re getting ready to go out with Phoenix and London Grammar.
One more thing, from a timeliness perspective … were you a Tom Petty fan?
Yes, huge, we all are actually. It was completely unexpected. So many of our friends went to the show at the Hollywood Bowl, it was just wrenching. He toured so much, just like Dylan. I never saw him. He did LA only like a month ago and then he did it again this month at the Hollywood Bowl and we were away. We were home a couple of months ago and none of us even knew the show was happening.