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Interview: Lo Moon

5 April 2024

The work for Lo Moon’s third album, I Wish You Way More Than Luck, began before their second album, 2022’s A Modern Life had been released. That album was finished in early 2020, just as a global pandemic closed the world down, and then put on the shelf until Lo Moon could put together a proper promotional effort including getting back on the road. At first, singer/guitarist Matt Lowell found it difficult to write during a time of uneasiness and stress but as the 2020 holidays approached, and Lowell returned to the East Coast to spend time with family, he recalled another time in his life where he felt anxious, the horrific events of 9/11. This led him back to a place that was instrumental in launching his music career and it’s where writing for I Wish You Way More Than Luck began in earnest.

With their hauntingly beautiful art-rock and understated emotional resonance, Lowell, guitarist Sam Stewart, bassist/keyboardist Crisanta Baker and drummer Sterling Laws have created another album that takes listeners on a warm and soothing journey.

A few days before the release of I Wish You Way More Than Luck, Lowell joined me to discuss how the album came together, how the first song written (“Borrowed Hills”) helped set the theme, and how his music journey started with artists like Dave Matthews and John Mayer before he discovered Talk Talk, The Blue Nile, Peter Gabriel, and Tears for Fears.

When we last spoke in early 2022, you mentioned that you had already started writing for the next album. Are those songs that are on the new record?

MATT: I started writing in December 2020 but then I kind of left all this music for a while and didn’t really have any idea what it wanted to be yet. In January 2021, we were about to go on tour with The War on Drugs. There was the crazy COVID spike and Adam (from The War on Drugs) called me and was like, “I don’t think we’re going to take any openers for this tour. But, if you guys want, you can camp out in my studio while I’m gone.” I was like, “That’s a sweet consolation for not going on the road.” The tour was supposed to start in Austin in March, but Adam was like, “We’re going to be rehearsing and in January I’m not going to be in the studio so why don’t you guys set up and work there?” And so we did. Then was when we started recording. I started bringing the guys the songs. I had already sent them an early version of “Borrowed Hills” but it really started taking shape in that very first session.

The story is that you wrote “Borrowed Hills” in 2020, during the pandemic, while visiting the chapel at Pomfret School in Connecticut, the same place where, as a high school student, you performed live for the first time shortly after 9/11. Was it a planned trip or did you feel some sort of pull to go back there?

MATT: I live in LA, and I was going home for the holidays back to New York. I had no intention of going up to the chapel, up to Connecticut. The weight of the entire situation, the pandemic, and just the weight of putting out a record at that time and knowing we weren’t going to be touring, the weight of it all made me think about the time when it was a lot simpler to just do it because there was so much I wanted to say and discover. I felt emotionally charged to do it. I didn’t really know what to write about during the pandemic but I felt like something kept telling me, “Why don’t you go back to the place where you discovered this thing that you’re currently obsessed with and have reached a block and don’t exactly know how to go through it?”

Weirdly, it was 20 years ago that I was there, but a lot of people are still there on that campus, so I was able to make phone calls and be like, “I want to come up and use this chapel.” The school doesn’t actually own the chapel, it’s rented property, but the school uses it. I was able to get in there and it was very cathartic. I think that was what I was searching for. It wasn’t like I woke up and was like, “I need to write a record about this.” I woke up and I was like, “I need to feel better about making music and why I’m doing this in the first place.” That just made sense to me. It was very odd.

Was “Borrowed Hills” the spark that helped kick off the writing for this album or had you already been working on other stuff?

MATT: That was definitely the spark. The first time I sang, “When you’re looking for the truth on the borrowed hills of youth,” I think it just came out when I was jamming in the chapel. And I was like, “Oh, that’s interesting.” And that felt like some kind of door to walk through and just keep exploring what that meant. I thought “borrowed hill” was a cool line because there was this idyllic place that I learned about myself and discovered so much about what makes me a man now. It was this place that I went to for a couple of years and then I left it. It’s borrowed. I just like the idea of borrowed hills. I thought it was interesting. I think I sent Sam a voicemail that had those lyrics and he was like, “Borrowed hills. That’s really cool.” To him, it didn’t mean the same thing that it meant to me, but everyone has that moment that they think about.

You use “borrowed hills” in lyrics on the song of the same name but also on “Waiting a Lifetime” and “Water”. Would you consider those songs a trilogy of songs that go together or did you just like the idea of singing “borrowed hills” and you decided to use it in other songs?

MATT: There was a moment when I questioned if I was using those lyrics way too many times and everyone was like, “No, I think it’s great.” It felt like I overthought it for a second and I was like “I shouldn’t say that again” and then it just stuck. I tried not to overthink it. I mean, that album by Arcade Fire, The Suburbs, that was a moment where I was like, “He really says ‘the suburbs’ a million times.” I remember when I first discovered that album, there was a real connection to a place and I think that for “borrowed hills,” I kept saying it because it connects back to a place.

The last song on the album is “Honest,” and the album ends with you singing “I might not be everything you think I should be.” Are you singing that to somebody or are you singing that in a moment of reflection to yourself?

MATT: I think it’s however anybody wants to take that. That song’s just an enigma. It’s been around for a while. I wrote it when I was in London at a time that was particularly strange for the band where we were in between touring. That song just came out and that line just stuck. But it’s a very personal song for sure.

And was it an intentional choice to end the album with that song?

MATT: 100 percent. I’ve known that that would be the last song on an album for going on five years now. It’s been a song that we tried to record so many times and it just didn’t work. It was weird because when we started writing this album, the deeper we got into it, I finally was like, “Oh, ‘Honest.’ This song is the last song on the album.” We tried to record it so many times and then we went up to the studio in Stinson Beach, California and there was a beautiful studio overlooking the ocean. I came up with a new version of how to play it. We got really lucky that the engineer had the mics up and the tape was rolling and I did it like 10 times and that was it. It’s the one Lo Moon song that has no real magic. We caught a moment and got really lucky. Every song on this record has that to some extent, but that song was one take. There’s no edit. You hear exactly how it went down. We tried to do that so many times in the past and completely failed.

These songs are coming out three years after you started working on them. Is Tom Petty right? Is the wait the hardest part?

MATT: It’s weird. It doesn’t even feel like we waited on it that long because that other record, Modern Life, came out and then we started touring when things opened up. I think we made this record really fast. The idea of putting an album out, it’s hard to even understand what that means in 2024. I have a real affinity to the process of making the record and this record feels to me like we made it really fast even though it’s probably taking a while to come out. We haven’t been sitting on this record that long in terms of final mixes to master.

Are you going to tell me today that you’ve got the next record halfway done?

MATT: Well, yeah, I’ve started writing the next one. I don’t even know what it means yet. The next record, to be completely honest, I don’t know if it’s possible, but the idea would be to finish a record this summer. That’s my goal. I’ve been writing. Sam and I have been getting together and starting to write and inviting a few friends over to see what happens. And then we’ll just go from there. I’d love to make another record now.

When you first started playing music 15 or so years ago, you were more in the Paul Simon, Dave Matthews, John Mayer camp, right?

MATT: I put myself in the camp of having very odd tastes while growing up in Long Island and New York and Connecticut. I was on hockey teams in school and there was always music in the locker room. We were listening to Nirvana and Rage Against the Machine and all this stuff that teenage boys listen to that makes you feel hyped up. The other side of me was discovering this beautiful world of jam bands, which was very weird but got me obsessed with the idea of live music. The live show is paramount and the live show has to be different every night. Those two things clashed somewhere. And then there was also this really weird revival of “the guy and the acoustic guitar.” When I was a freshman in high school, if you were in Connecticut and you didn’t know a John Mayer song or you didn’t know Dave Matthews, you were the odd man out. My dad had me listening to Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel. That was what I grew up with – Neil Young and Dylan and the real singer/songwriters.

I opened for Howie Day when he had that song, “Collide.” I opened up for Matt Nathanson. I just went out and played songs on my acoustic guitar and toured doing that and tried to figure it out. I slowly realized that I liked being in a band. And then my musical tastes evolved when I discovered Radiohead. I’d always loved Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins. That side of the band was always in there because my dad was always playing those guys. My dad loved Genesis. The proggy, oddball records of that time I used for touch points for Lo Moon, they’ve been steeped into my soul from my dad’s record collection. In terms of that other stuff, I think that’s what was happening around me. Songwriting was paramount to those guys so that was probably the draw into that.

Last time we talked, we discussed Talk Talk and The Blue Nile. Did you get into those bands coming out of listening to Radiohead and Genesis and just wanting to dive deeper? Had you heard Talk Talk while you were in high school?

MATT: Not when I was in high school. I mean, I knew “It’s My Life.” I wonder if you would have asked me back then if I knew that No Doubt’s version was a cover, I’d probably be lying. But I knew the song. I had heard a lot of people talk about Talk Talk when I was at Berklee, especially their album Spirit of Eden. And then I read an interview with Thom Yorke where he said that if it wasn’t for Spirit of Eden, Radiohead really wouldn’t have that experimental side. There was something about Spirit of Eden opening the door for so many of the choices Radiohead made. I was like, “There’s that band again that keeps coming up.” I put Spirit of Eden on and “The Rainbow” came on and I was like, “This is all I need to know.” The path of Talk Talk is what I’ve become more obsessed with. A band making pop records and then making Laughing Stock and Spirit of Eden at the end of their career, that’s just so amazing and awesome to me. The record was panned, the record label didn’t even want to put it out. There’s something really beautiful about their trajectory as a band.

When you were discovering Talk Talk, were you downloading their stuff off Napster? Were you buying it on iTunes?

MATT: When I was at Berklee, I forget who played it, someone had it on vinyl. And then I distinctly remember this moment when Andrew and I had written “Loveless,” this guy who was kind of A&R-ing us and helping us at the time came over and was like, “This reminds me of Spirit of Eden.” I was like, “Whoa, I haven’t thought about Spirit of Eden in a long time.” He gave me a vinyl copy of it and I listened to it again. I hadn’t listened to it in ages. I was blown away again.

You guys did a cover of Black Sabbath’s “Planet Caravan.” That doesn’t seem like a band that would influence Lo Moon but you killed it.

MATT: It sounds like Talk Talk to me. When I was growing up, I was a fan of all the Black Sabbath and Ozzy hits. What’s so awesome about it is I can think about times when we would come out to a song like that when we were coming out of the locker room when I was playing hockey in high school. Black Sabbath is what I think of. But when I discovered that record, I just remember thinking, “Wow, all right. This band’s weird.” I think Sam was like, “We should cover Planet Caravan” and I was like, “That’s a great idea.”

You didn’t do a ton of touring in 2023, at least not in the U.S. Did you do some touring in the UK?

MATT: Yeah, we did a residency in London and then we toured around the UK a bit and then we did a bit of Europe.

You did a residency in L.A. too.

MATT: We did four residency shows in L.A. and four in London. We had guests for the L.A. ones.

Was that to test out some of the songs that would be on this record?

MATT: Exactly. We wanted to play the new songs. We never had an opportunity to play songs before they were released or feel like we were getting our live show to a point where we felt really good about it going into a new record. And now we’ve got three records, so it’s doing things like building set lists. Going back to the way I grew up discovering music was going to see it live, that was my obsession, so doing the residency let us dive into the live show and change our set lists and expand and extend songs and not play them exactly like they’re on the record. I think the residency made that easier because every Monday we showed up at this one place and we just did it. And then the next Monday we’re like, “We can’t just do the exact same thing, we have to change.” It was keeping us honest.

You’ve mentioned how you love the live aspect of music, but I also get the idea that you love being in the studio. If you could tour forever and not have to put out another record, you might be into that. But, if you were only a studio band, you’d probably be into that too.

MATT: I could definitely see it going both ways. I love being in the studio. It’s hard to explain. There’s something that happens when you’re in the vortex of making a record that everything else around you is in chaos and you’re only thinking about the record. The real struggle with that right now is that people are not consuming music. Now, I could be obsessed with making records, which I am and I love making records, but sometimes you wake up and you’re like, “For what? Why? Why are we making records?” And the reason is because that’s how we as a band, or me, express myself. That’s why we make records.

But touring, there’s an immediate feeling of connection. You’re there in front of the fans and you’re there in front of people that have never heard you and there’s other people discovering you or there’s a friend of a friend who brought a friend and is like, “Hey, come check this band out.” The point of entry into the band is so much quicker. There’s no barrier up in front of how we get our music heard. Live is a little more rewarding right now. It feels like that’s the way people are accepting our band.

The art of recording music, I love it so much. I’m obsessed with it. There’s something about the allure of being in the studio and how to make the classic record and every time I make something being like, “We just made that. Now move on. Let’s make the next thing.” That’s going to be an obsession of mine hopefully for the rest of my life. But something about touring and playing live right now feels like there’s a direct connection to the fans and to the people that are kind of digesting the music.

I’m not sure if frustration is the right word, but I’ve noticed some tweets recently have been a bit of a downer. You tweeted about making a new record but the void is getting harder to scream into.

MATT: It’s not frustration as much as it is a reflection of where we’re at. I think about us and I’m like, “We’ve got some fans and people that care and that’s beautiful.” It’s just so hard to get heard. There’s so much noise out there. Every single artist says the same thing. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to reach them. I don’t know where to go. I don’t know what matters and I don’t know where to put my energy.”

My thing right now is that we’ve put our energy into one thing and that’s making art. If you want to do that, you can do that. You can always do that. And to be honest, I think you have to submit and succumb to the fact that nobody might hear it if somebody does, it might change their life. We’re really lucky to have anybody who’s listening at all and the point of it is to make art. But, as an artist, you need to make a living and you do need to figure out how to make those things happen if you want to be in a band. That’s all it is. It’s something that I’ve just been thinking a lot about. We’re on our third record and we keep going and going. We’re going to keep making records, it doesn’t matter really who’s listening.

What is a way you think the music industry could right itself?

MATT: I have a lot of ideas. I don’t know if I have answers. One thing I know is that there’s this trend happening that fans want to connect with artists that they love. There’s diehard fans of every artist, and so the artists are creating these places where those diehard fans can come and directly support that artist, support the art. It’s about understanding their world, and it’s about the direct connection between the artist and the fan. We launched a subscription service like that six months ago.

Artists are starting to figure out that the big companies are not in it for the artist. You’re just lying to yourself if you think that if you sign to Sony Records, or somewhere on Sony, that they’re there because they love the art. There are people there that do, and I’ve met them. There are people that are great, and there are people that do care about the artist, and that is always going to be the fact, but they don’t care about the career of the artist long-term. They care about the bottom line of the company. Artists now don’t really need the companies because we can get our music out there. We can talk to fans. I think that that’s the way it’s trending, and it’s really interesting because it seems like every time Lo Moon puts an album out, there’s a fever pitch of something new happening. The first record, streaming really wasn’t a thing. Then streaming became the thing right when we released our album. The second record was the pandemic and it was like, “How are we going to tour?” and the whole label disbanded and with the third record you can see the way things are parting and there’s AI and there’s fans-to-artists connections and all this crazy conversation going around the music business. And here we are putting out another record.



07/26 – Valley Bar – Phoenix, AZ
07/29 – The Perplexiplex at Convergence Station @ Meow Wolf – Denver, CO
07/30 – Urban Lounge – Salt Lake City, UT
07/31 – Shrine Social Club Basement – Boise, ID
08/02 – Madame Lou’s – Seattle, WA
08/03 – Mississippi Studios – Portland, OR
08/05 – Rickshaw Stop – San Francisco, CA
08/06 – El Rey – Los Angeles, CA
08/08 – The Casbah – San Diego, CA
11/17 – 3rd and Lindsley – Nashville, TN
11/18 – The Masquerade – Purgatory – Atlanta, GA
11/19 – Eulogy – Asheville, NC
11/20 – Motorco – Durham, NC
11/23 – Atlantis – Washington, DC
11/24 – The Foundry at the Fillmore – Philadelphia, PA
11/25 – Music Hall of Williamsburg – Brooklyn, NY
11/26 – The Sinclair – Boston, MA
11/28 – Garrison – Toronto, ON
11/30 – Sleeping Village – Chicago, IL
12/01 – 7th Street Entry – Minneapolis, MN