- Article by: Abby Wheeler
- Posted: 08/20/2012
For anyone who has watched a gritty Quentin Tarantino classic like Pulp Fiction, the Kill Bill series, Reservoir Dogs, or Inglourious Basterds, the disillusioning effect they can have is all too familiar. The innovative director’s overlapping snapshots of cold realities and moral questions can result in uncertainty but, if anything, he makes the viewers of his films think -- even if the resulting question is, “What in the world just happened?!”
Nashville based and Tarantino-inspired jam-band, Moon Taxi, layers their work with similar complexity and disregard for accepted song molds. It is with this youthful and dauntless demeanor that Moon Taxi has captivated audiences across the southeast and redefined the genres they boldly affix.
Unafraid to discard genre boundaries and blaze new ground, the band has cultivated both a sound and a grassroots following that is entirely their own. Lead singer Trevor Terndrup states of his band members, “It’s just that we all had very diverse influences, and that’s kind of why Moon Taxi is diverse in its stylings…we encourage that diversity, we like it, we embrace it, as opposed to trying to whittle it into something that’s too confined.” Anything but confined, their sound is both electric and liberating, as it is crafted primarily for the notoriously energetic live shows that the five man jam-band has become known for.
Much of this fearless ability to juxtapose genres and discard expectations comes across in the overall attitude of the band, whose inspiration comes from surrealist artists that push the limits like Quentin Tarantino, Kurt Vonnegut, and Tom Robbins.
“We’ve compared our sort of blending of genres to Quentin Tarantino movies because we’re all into him and we like how he combines a spaghetti western with a kung fu flick. I like the sort of surrealist art work… you know, we tend to gravitate toward people who are more wacky and inane and like to put contrasting ideas together just to see something new created,” explains keyboardist Wes Bailey. The band’s latest album, Cabaret (2/12, 12 South Records), features a variety of songs that could each stand as Tarantino flicks on their own, dealing with questions of identity in a disillusioning world that can oftentimes confound kung fu and a spaghetti western. Relix Magaizine recognized Cabaret for its rich songwriting and apparent challenge to common convention, asserting, "Moon Taxi’s comfort zone appears to be in constant exploration on Cabaret, an overwhelming lyrical and musical success."
When asked to describe the band’s writing style, Bailey implies that the process is as intentionally undefined as the band’s sound, lending itself to the creation of diverse albums. “It really just differs from song to song. It’s not defined and that’s what I like about it; there’s no one way to get to a song…it is communal, everyone has their own touch on it eventually.”
According to Terndrup, it is Moon Taxi’s emphasis on live performance and the desire to please their carefully cultivated grassroots following that drives the writing process. “We try different things and whatever hits live is usually what we keep. We try to really do a lot of the writing for the live show because we want to make sure that it has a lot of energy and that the crowd can get into it.” The crowd did exactly that at Bonnaroo this summer when Moon Taxi fans were front and center, a highpoint that the band cites as one of their proudest moments.
Across the span of three albums -- (Melodica, the band’s 2007 debut, Live Ride, released in 2009, and their most recent effort, Cabaret) -- Moon Taxi has taken funk, indie, rock, and jam-band influences and molded them with a chemistry unique to their creative talent and well-matched personalities.
“I’d say a lot of the chemistry was that we’re sort of in awe of each other because we come from pretty different musical backgrounds… It’s just a nice blending of different influences and I think that’s why it works; it’s fun to see the ideas bounce off of each other,” admits Terndrup. All five admittedly “alpha-dog” personalities seem to fit together just fine. While there’s really no telling what’s next for Moon Taxi, audiences may rest assured that the band will continue to create new music with an uncommon and inspiring sense of self and artistic integrity.
Moon Taxi - "Mercury"