Lo Moon’s Matt Lowell talks about his fantastic new album ‘A Modern Life’ – // MELODIC Magazine
After causing a stir around the world with their self-titled debut album and debut single “Loveless”, Los Angeles’s Lo Moon found themselves on the road opening for bands like The war on drugs and CHVRCHES, and put their own headlining dates in between. These experiences transformed what lead singer Matt Lowell once called a “strictly studio band” into one that found itself more and more with each gig played and fan won over. Driven by a cinematic quality reminiscent of the best of bands like speak speak and XTC, Lo Moon creates anthemic, world-building music that’s easy to get lost in.
The band’s second album, A modern lifeis another extension of their sound, but they didn’t Lo Moon second part. These songs are lighter with a focus on head-sticking hooks and an exploration of the fringes of their sonic palette that makes for incredibly rewarding headphone listening. It’s a gripping album that sees the band fully embrace the big-screen vision they yearn for – songs like “Raincoats” and “Expectataions” burn with a driving intensity that begs these songs to be heard live in the same way their first album invaded our ears in 2017. A few weeks before A modern life version, I spoke with Lowell about the journey of making A modern life and why he sees hope as a crucial part of Lo Moon puzzle:
I think the last time we spoke you had played in my home town of Birmingham three times in one year.
Man, I think it could have been four, with three of them in one place – we opened for CHVRCHES, The War on Drugs and Glass Animals all in one place. I remember when we stopped for the Glass Animals show and there was a SWAT team there because of a bomb threat (laughs). I remember thinking how weird it would be in Birmingham, Alabama.
What I take away the most from this new record is that I feel like you’ve expanded the scope of what you’re doing with instrumentation and production, but somehow you’re narrowing it simultaneously. There are no seven-minute songs like “Loveless” on this album, and it’s a pretty meager forty-minute record. Was it an intentional decision on your part?
You know, I don’t think we intended to make it a shorter album. We intended to make it more direct in a number of ways – I wanted the lyrics to be more poignant and direct with the listener. I also think the mental space we were in with the band was, “can we make this a full album?” With the first record, we did it without ever playing a show – those songs were born out of a livelier energy, and as a result, it made the writing tighter. I think I made the decision to focus on writing songs in a more poignant and direct way but without sacrificing the heart of those songs. With that, we were able to really dive into the sound and where we could push ourselves as a band. That doesn’t mean that, live, you can’t stretch (laughs). There’s more space in these songs to really explore it live, which I think is going to be incredibly interesting; a song like “Raincoats” has no real ending.
The last record carried a heavy influence from bands like Talk Talk – were there any touchstones for this record that continued in the same way?
It was different this time around because we had so much experience touring with amazing bands that really gave us insight into where we wanted to go. I think touring with The War on Drugs was an incredibly formative experience – just seeing them move crowds each night in their own unique way was enlightening. Sam and I also really had fun Achtung Baby, and more specifically, the interaction between man and machine on this record was an inspiration for the way we approached this record in the studio. The path U2 I was exploring sounds and dynamic range was something I kept coming back to in the recording process.
It’s a great opportunity to talk about my favorite song on the record (laughs). I hate to be the guy who chooses the first single as his favorite song, but man, “Raincoats” is crazy. I would like to know how this song was created.
This song is really interesting, man, because the writing process was really spontaneous. We were working on something completely different – I think it was the song “Stop”, actually – and the track engineer brought in some plugins for my vocals. I just started singing this opening melody of the song, and the band just listened and slowly started to chime in. It started off almost like a symphonic poem with no words, but just a melody that guided us to where the song wanted to be. We built the back half of the song – to be completely honest, I can’t remember how we got there (laughs). It was just something in the room that really caught fire and brought this song to life. It was crafted in such a unique way, and I think it’s a unique song because of that.
The most interesting part of a song like that is when you realize the song has a feeling, but you don’t really know what that feeling is. I realized later at the time that I was reading Kurt Andersen’s book Fantasyland: How America Went Wrong and dwelt on all the feelings of retracing 500 years of America. I had the “under the raincoats” line, and I felt like it was a metaphor for this book – you have no idea what shape the story is going to take, and obviously the last four years were very heavy. It wasn’t a pandemic-era song; it was a song from the Trump era. So it was like we were reacting, as a band, to that lament.
What do you think is the theme of the album, given that you’ve taken this more poignant direction?
I think I was really focusing on that feeling of survival. So many things are thrown at us on a daily basis, and I think it’s pretty hard trying to find hope and keep hope alive in modern life. There were times when I felt extremely nostalgic, like on “Dream Never Dies,” where you reflect on youth and that time when your anxieties are just lower. You get older and you get more anxious, asking yourself things like, “Am I going to live up to my own expectations?”, and I never would have asked those questions when I started out as a songwriter. . These questions evoke very moving feelings, and I think understanding that gave me an anchor to build this album.
It’s funny, my outline here is all caps “EXISTENTIAL DREAD”, because I feel like that comes across a lot of the album. I think there’s a fair amount of hope here, though – ‘Dream Never Dies’ is a good example, but I think you’ve got a nice balance to the weight of modern life.
Yeah, I’m just wondering – I know what an “existential terror record” sounds like, and I can’t help but think how much I’d like to listen to this. (laughs) I think hope is a crucial part of Lo Moon’s sound; it creates the wash that can be overwhelming at times, and that’s where I think we’re at our best. I think that’s the sound of hope, and I think I’m still exploring that. As dreadful as things can be, I like to keep hope alive as best I can.