Moon Taxi is another successful band rising up from Alabama. Most members came together at Belmont University in Nashville, but the band’s roots go back to Birmingham where Trevor Terndrup and Tommy Putnam’s first band, Apex, played in the Vestavia Hills High School’s talent show. It was their first time to play for a crowd and the moment they began to feel like musicians.
Today, Moon Taxi plays on late night shows and in festivals across the country. They have released four albums and their songs are played in television shows and commercials, including BMW, McDonalds and MLB. Their last album, Daybreaker, was released a year ago and they have started to write again.
The Southern Rambler talked with Terndrup (vocals and guitar) and Putnam (bass) on September 30, before they played on the opening night of the 1065 festival.
TSR: You once played at a Krewe De Bienville Mardi Gras ball and have become regulars at the Hangout Festival and 1065. What is your first memory of playing in Mobile?
Trevor: We played at Monsoons the first time we played in Mobile. There were eight people there and owner Noell Broughton had to drag them in off the street. Noell gave us a chance. That was a weird show and he gave us about 25 Jager shots apiece. We stayed up until the sun rose.
TSR: You are part of the growing number of break out bands with Alabama roots. What does being from Alabama mean to you?
Trevor: We tell everyone our roots are in Birmingham. That is where we met and Alabama is important to us. We moved to Nashville after high school, but Birmingham is where we started playing out. Our story centers around I-65.
Tommy: We are playing at the Alabama Theatre at Thanksgiving and that is a big show for us. I have always wanted to play there. My little sisters were members of Jackie O’Neal dance studio and every year I had to go to the Alabama Theatre to watch their dance recital.
TSR: Are your sisters going to your show?
Tommy: No. One is getting married and the other will be in Nashville for Thanksgiving.
Trevor: That’s not right. You should talk to your sisters about that.
Birmingham has changed significantly since we were there and it is now a music-loving town. People even go to shows to see smaller acts and a lot of bands go through. Alabama Shakes and St. Paul and the Broken Bones are elevating Alabama culture and everything else is coming together as a higher taste, including food and residences.
Tommy: The Hangout Festival and 1065 have been good to us too. We have done three shows at Hangout as Moon Taxi and one as People of the Sun. We are fans of Rage Against the Machine and covered three of their songs and realized we could do a whole set. Hangout Festival was the first time we did it.
TSR: What changes when you do a show as People of the Sun?
Trevor: It is a way to live out some fantasies that we don’t normally get to. I get to live out a lead guitar but not lead singer fantasy. I am in awe of Tom Morello’s genius on guitar. I try to play the parts verbatim. You can’t improvise the parts because they are so methodically thought out. It is harder, more direct with the message. Moon Taxi music is more escapism and more fluid and improvisational and lose yourself in the party. Rage is more “wake the fuck up and pay attention to injustice.” It is nice to have that because we don’t have it in our own music.
Tommy: We do the Rage show once every few years. We knock the dust off and go back at it. It is all part of rehearsal. We rehearse on the road and are going to rehearse this afternoon. Rehearsal is the only part of this that feels like work. It is fun when you have a new song and it is clicking. But it pays off because the shows are never work, and rehearsal makes the shows that much better. It never gets old.
Trevor: Shows are a shot of adrenaline that makes you focus even when you get lost in the music. It is a weird dynamic of playing the right parts and feeling them. The people who can do that well at the same time are the superstars.
TSR: You made a Facebook post a month ago that just said, “Writing new music.” Where are you with new songs?
Trevor: We wanted to put it out here that we are writing again. New material is in the pipeline, it just hasn’t come out yet. Wes, Spencer and I do most of the writing. Sometimes bringing all of those ideas into one song works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Tommy: It is a time to bat down bad ideas. I brought in a song a couple of weeks ago and thought it was great the night before when I wrote it. The next day I played it for Trevor and realized it was bad.
Trevor: I didn’t need to bat that down. He knew. I may take control on stage because I am in the middle and there has to be a leader sometimes, but during the creative process and songwriting it is all of us. One person comes up with a spark of an idea. The first spark is the hardest part.
We became a better band when we concentrated on songwriting and making better songs that appeal to more people. It is about moving people. In the beginning, we were writing songs that were inaccessible and cool only to us. We grew up and realized we had to concentrate on lyrics and melodies to move more people.
Tommy: We also became a better band with hard touring. We aren’t a radio band. We build a fanbase through shows and word of mouth. Our goal is playing Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado in the next few years. It would be a milestone for us.