Editor’s note: Our original phone interview with the guys of Moontower occurred on May 29th ahead of the original dates of their “What Day Is It? Virtual Tour;” however, due to the fight for racial equality finally being prioritized in the United States, we paused our platform to hopefully amplify voices that matter in the movement. Similarly, Moontower pushed back the dates of their virtual tour.
“Take care of yourselves, take care of each other” is the mantra of the indie-electropo band, Moontower. Perhaps more fitting than ever, the Cali band is known for their dynamic stage production and presence. If the eclectic, rhythmic tunes don’t pull you in, the live show and stage design will.
Moontower, born out of chance, has already toured with The Driver Era and Night Riots, along opening for Bad Suns, COIN and Yungblud. Having met in university, Jacob Culver, Tom Carpenter and Devan Welsh have pulled out the best parts of each other and molded a space of musical excellence and solidarity.
Their latest single, "Got My Way," is a deeply personal reflection of the thought of losing a loved one. Although, the track is full of self-loathing and regret, the catchy-ness is undeniable in a heart-wrenching way. On July 10th, they will be releasing their next single, "Guess I'm Jaded," featuring goldroom.
The band's biggest undertaking during this quarantine was planning their 15 minute live performance, titled, "What Day Is It?" Filmed in Eastside LED’s warehouse and directed by Jacob Fish, production manager and founder of Glow In The Dirt, the set is full of lights, LED screens and aesthetically pleasing visuals. The set list is all of their previous singles and highlights a new song out later this year called, "Hit The Lights."
Staying true to themselves, the guys wanted to elevate listeners' experiences with their music. The “What Day Is It? Virtual Tour” is a four day session from July 5th to the 8th that will take place in the same warehouse their latest performance was filmed in. Each day of the sessions is different and includes a variety of special guests including OSTON, The Shakes, Sleeptalk and Beginners. Different bundles and single day access can be purchased here. A portion of the proceeds will be going to the National Independent Venue Association and Know Your Rights Camps.
Originally, the virtual tour was scheduled to take place June 5th-8th. In an effort to not draw attention away from the BLM movement, it was pushed back a month. Moontower released a statement saying, "This is not an appropriate time for warmness and celebration but rather outrage and activism." In addition to our original interview, we asked the band to answer the following important questions.
How do you think those with privilege can act as allies during this movement?
Jacob: First of all, we have privilege as white males in general, and in the industry as white male artists. We think it’s most important to be honest with ourselves. There is no way we could ever know or fully understand the pain that hundreds of years of systemic racism inflicts because we are privileged to have never experienced that pain. As a Jewish man, I know the importance of education. Learning about the Holocaust and passing that knowledge onto future generations is what helps to ensure it never repeats itself. I think we have to enact that same principle here. The best thing we can do is educate ourselves, check ourselves when we learn how and why we’ve been a part of the problem, and then work to change how we act and interact with the world around us. Past that, it’s about passing this knowledge on to anyone who will listen, and most importantly opening our ears and listening to those who have experienced these injustices, supporting them, and if we can, donating to places that will make real, long-term change. Listening is the hardest thing to do, but it’s the most important.
What's something you've learned during this movement?
Tom: This is a little bit of an umbrella answer but one of the things I’ve learned is how much American history was shockingly decontextualized in my school and the schools of people I’ve talked to – I am not proud to admit that I had never known the significance of Juneteenth, the truth of Andrew Johnson and subsequent administrations having gutted policy to allow for continued de-facto slavery even beyond the reconstruction era, the reality of redlining and its pipeline into the prison industrial complex of today, etc etc. In fewer words, there is so much American history – racist American history that was not treated as a necessity; I would have never learned so many of these things had I not been forced to seek it out myself, and that is mind-blowing in a sickening way. How can we expect to grow if we are not only “not learning from” our mistakes but purposefully hiding it?
Why did you guys choose to donate portions of the proceeds from the virtual tour to Know Your Rights Camp and National Independent Venue Association?
Dev: The reason why we’ve chosen to donate proceeds in general is no shock – the world is in chaos relative to anything we’ve known in our lifetime, and we feel an obligation to use our “dollar vote” to subsequently aid struggling institutions that we rely upon and support the social change we believe to be long overdue. To that end, we are donating proceeds to KYRC for the work they are doing in BIPOC communities to inspire and create change leaders for the future and, more specifically, combat voter disenfranchisement of those communities (one of the most disheartening and pressing issues that MUST be addressed before November voting season). In addition, we are supporting NIVA as independent venues are, to a very large degree, the reason why we have any platform at all. They have lost their only source of income and, without support, up and coming artists, like us, may lose stages to play on and therefore their way to break into and have a voice in the industry. Overall, we look forward to seeing how both of these organizations will make positive changes as the world does.
Black lives still matter. Check out this list of resources.
I think the title of the video and tour is pretty clever, “What Day Is It?” I obviously understand the context, but I’d like to hear your words about it.
Jacob: We were playing a lot with the idea of the light spectrum from cool to warm whites. I have this memory of going outside in my childhood home at about 5 PM, or if you’re lucky enough, 5 AM, and depending on the time of the year, there’s that just blue light that is sort of casted over everything. We have these sort of bright orange walkway lights on this walking path right next to our house, and if you went out at the right time of morning or the right time of dusk or the right time of dawn, you couldn't really tell the difference between day or night, and it just always was my favorite time of the evening or my favorite time of the morning if I could catch it. We sort of wanted to create a similar feeling within this video, a sort of timeless, sort of encapsulating-- that feeling of being a little bit lost and feeling like you could be anywhere at any time of day. I think a lot of people right now sort of miss that quiet calm feeling of just getting lost in their day, and we just wanted to give people a little bit of an escape.
Yeah, definitely! I think too what you described obviously can be a really great feeling and then there's that whole thing like I know that I'm going through right now is like, what day is it because it's just all starting like to blend together in kind of like a negative way too. It’s like wow, this day, what did I do today? I’ve been measuring a lot of my time in productivity.
Jacob: Yeah, I think we just wanted to take that feeling and maybe turn it on its head. Give it a little bit of a positive spin and like tell people that it’s okay to check out for fifteen minutes and lose yourself in this video and indulge yourself in some self care and get a little bit lost. We hoped to create something that kept people encapsulated for the time and made it feel seamless and hopefully by the end of the video, they could just feel a little bit of peace.
Do you guys ever have any reservations about writing that and putting it into the world?
Dev: Jacob is sort of the head songwriter of the group, I mean we, Tom and I, make sure that it sort of checks the boxes.
Jacob: Tom and Dev are incredible songwriters as well I have to say.
Dev: For the music that Jake writes, it’s like pretty much 98% of the time honest, and the other 2% is finding a way to like spin it on its head that sort of makes it unique enough to not be any type of cliche. It’s just a healthy balance between it meaning a lot to you, being honest, and then it being accessible to other people. All these songs we try and get to that happy place.
Tom: It’s kind of the balance between like reading your diary into a microphone, and then being kinda Ezra Koenig with it, where it's more of these abstractions and poetries and non-specifics, and there’s a happy balance that I love that we found at least in the writing that we’ve been able to do and the music we’ve released and what’s coming. It feels special and personal and honest, but it also doesn't feel necessarily like Confessions Part II. Jacob: I think for me, the songwriting process is self-discovery, and I kind of subscribe to the belief that the value of art is how much you change while you’re making it, not what the final product is. So, I just want to be as honest as I can with myself, and I have no qualms about sharing that honesty with hopefully whoever will listen. Obviously, there are things in my life that I’m still figuring out, and I want time to figure out before I share, but I think it’s much easier to try your best to be honest because if you’re honest, nothing can hurt you, except for yourself.
I was having a conversation with a friend in a band, and for me, to get my feelings out, I can journal them and then I can close that book, and it can stay there. But for musicians and artists, for example, you’re going to be singing these songs over and over again live.
Jacob: I don’t think it’s normal. I don’t think that most people talk about break ups and their parents almost dying and then go on stage and yell that into a mic. I think it takes a certain level of ego, there’s no delusion here. We understand what we do and that you have to have some level of ego to do that, but hopefully, we can channel what we’re doing to bring joy to people and to make people feel like somebody is speaking about something that they’re feeling, and maybe they aren’t somebody who is going to go shout it from a rooftop, but to have someone else shout it for them can be really powerful. We’re always trying to check our own ego, and we’re always trying to channel our ego into something positive and i’m really proud of the way that we’ve been able to do that so far. But, we have so much more to learn about ourselves and so much more to grow as people. I think what we just wanted people to know is that we’re really confused, and we’re just gonna play out our confusion in real time and hopefully everybody can come along for the ride.
Kind of going along with that, you just talked about how you’re just figuring it out. How do you guys think you have been taking the time to be kind to yourselves right now? Dev: I think on the entire project or at least team Carina (Carina Glastris, creative director), Fish and the three of us, we give each other a lot of leash. I think when quarantine hit, not a lot of stuff really changed. It was sort of just like taking a second to sort of let it sink in and then move on, but I think each of us have what we uniquely need to like be okay, whether that’s like personal time with people or time away from people. There’s already a healthy relationship established between all the team so I think we’re fortunate to have that and continue to have that when we are in quarantine.
Tom: We put on the cover of all the singles that we’ve released this year a little stamp that says, “Take Care Incorporated.” It refers to something that Jacob says at the end of all of our live shows which is: “Take care of yourselves, take care of each other.” That’s kind of been our mantra for our time as a band but specifically for this release cycle. We had this discord made that’s this sweet fan community that we started in January, and I mean none of us knew how necessary it was gonna be you know later in the year to have a digital tight knit community of people that can come together, whether it be like music recommendations, pictures of raccoons, emotional support. It’s fun, and it’s serious, and it’s been a really awesome way to not only provide but learn from a lot of people that we might otherwise consider fans that we get to interact with on a day to day, and it’s been a really special thing to have rolling.
That’s great. I think you know too, when you go to those shows that definitely feel like a community, they just become that much more special. How do you guys think you’ve kind of fostered that?
Tom: I mean I think, well first of all we’ve always been a live band first. We think that that’s just the only way to have a true present experience with people as a band. You're in that moment, and I mean obviously someone can be in the back of the room on their phone I’m sure whatever, but you’re in that moment, and everybody’s locked in together and mostly, we’re locked into that moment. This band may have a thousand things going on at any given time, but when we step on stage, that’s the only thing that matters. And, it's the best feeling in the world, and it’s why we love it so much. We make our live shows such a huge priority because it’s what we love doing most, and it’s where we feel most connected to our fans. We’re known for getting kicked out of venues because meet and greets run too long. You know our meet and greets are always free. We’re always down to stay as long as people want. You know if you’re gonna come pay to see us, which is still fucking insane that people do that, we’re going to give you as much of our time as possible. We just try to create an environment where it doesn't matter if you want to stand in the front row and scream every lyric and come and hang out at the meet and greet for two hours, or if you wanna stand in the back of the room and just enjoy your time to yourself, watch the show leave and not say anything, and that’s the night you want to have. We just want everybody to know they can have whatever kind of night they want at our shows. They can be whoever they want as a part of this community and hopefully, people are feeling the energy that we’re putting out, and that’s why this community has been so strong. But, I mean we can’t take too much credit for it. It’s the members of the community that have fostered the community, you know, we’re just three of the thousands of people in the room so we’re just trying to be good leaders I guess, but also, we’ve learned so much from people in our community I can’t even really say that we’re the leaders of it.
I feel like you guys are very big on a fully immersive experience like how you focused so much on the production and what-not of the live shows to, for example, your first collection of music, “Season 1.” You created this whole story to go along with it.
Tom: All of our favorite records are concept records or at least have that extra step. One of our pet peeves is when we want to learn something more, you wanna immerse yourself more in something, and there’s nothing there. We definitely wanted to make the rabbit hole as deep as we possibly could for people to fall into for “Season 1.” So, if you really want to, there’s a story about a guy named William Hollywood and this surrealist visual album that’s on Youtube that is like a 23 minute accompaniment of the EP, and it tells this awesome crazy love story, and you can go and get into what the individual lyrics are to the grander story. But, we also didn’t want to disallow people to enjoy it in any way that they wanted. Like we were talking about earlier with the live shows, we really appreciate it when people love just William or love just one of the songs on “Season 1,” and we love it equally as much when people tell us that they found the whole story, and they’ve gone all the way through the visual album, and they have all the William Hollywood lore committed to memory.
Dev: Tom is also really into world building and like theme parks so both of us were really into Rollercoaster Tycoon as kids, but there’s like a whole entire thing of like preventing immersion breaks and just making sure that there’s a due diligence involved in making sure that you're’ in an actual world, and that nothing else outside of that world matters.
Jacob: Tom doesn’t miss details, it’s fuckin awesome.
You guys really, genuinely love what you’re doing, which is great. How do you guys think you continue to keep falling in love with it?
Jacob: You just keep challenging yourself. It’s like the same thing we were just talking about, always making your goal a little bit out of your reach so you wake up every day kind of enthused on how you’re gonna get the task at hand done. That's the most exciting thing ever. I think if things got predictable we’d get bored.
Tom: Also, I mean the original concept for Moontower was again, it wasn't a band, it was a live space. When we started it, we kind of knew that it was going to take on a bunch of different forms. For “Season 1,” we were telling a story with a visual concept record. Now, for this current EP, we’re building this physical space and innovating, born out of circumstance. We’re stuck in a quarantine. We can't have concerts, so, let’s build a space online that we can post these songs in a visual way and in a performative way. It’s knowing that although we are a band, we release music, we’re a three piece yada yada yada, but we also kind of get excited by the idea that we can be something different next year and that six months from now, we may look and feel like something that doesn’t necessarily abide by the rules that we set six months prior.
Do you guys feel kind of pressured to sound a certain way?
All: No, not at all.
Tom: We definitely all have three different influences in what we listen to in our free time and what we find inspiring. Jacob likes well-written songs of any form, but he also will gravitate more towards your Phoebe Bridgers, Julia Michaels, Manchester Orchestra, just these well-written songs, well-constructed. And Dev has an affinity for stadium rock and kind of your U2 and your Coldplays and the big sounding and very pretty sounding large music. Then I like the more electronic side of things like Disclosure and French House and all that, banger guys. So, we all have this kind of constant push and pull taking the sound one way or another, but we don’t have an expectation when we start producing a song, and oftentimes, we produce a song seven different ways before we find one that we all agree is great. But the one commonality is that we all three have to have our hands on the song before it really feels like us.
So your songwriting process then is super collaborative?
Jacob: Yeah! Each song is so different as far as its inception to the multiple stages to the final product, and we all have our strengths. Tom is gonna handle more of the drum and bass, the rhythm side of things. Dev is the harmony guy as in like guitars, pianos, quarter changes within songs, you know sort of the more like textural elements and like Dev said before, I do like a fair share of the songwriting at least initially, but we are all involved in all of it, and we don’t look at ourselves as having roles. You know I'm not the songwriter of Moontower, Tom is not the bassist of Moontower, Dev is not the guitarist. We sit in a room and do everything together. We obviously let each other shine where everybody can shine, but we put our hands on everything.
I think you can definitely hear that in your music too. Going to a quarantine question, what is some music that has been keeping you guys positive, getting you through the hard times?
Tom: Oh! That’s a great question! Jake and I are actually doing, with a group of our buddies, we’re doing an album expanse where everyone submits an album and then we’re listening to a new one every Thursday and every Monday. So music discovery has been very high for us recently, listening to a lot of albums that we never otherwise would. But specifically, the Lady Gaga album that just came out today is pretty sick, the 1975 album that came out last week I think we all had a lot of love for, maybe not as much as Online Relationships, but it’s still a good inspiration.
Dev: I listened to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue for the first time, which I feel like is criminal having gone through music school and gotten a bachelor of music and not listening to that album. It’d be funny if they played it that first day of class, no talking, just music, and then they hand you a degree. Yeah, that’s all music school is really. It’s like the John Mulaney thing that you listen to about school. “I paid sixty thousand dollars for somebody to tell me to read a book, and I did it.”
I just watched that bit not too long ago. It was so accurate.
Dev: Yeah! Also the bit where he describes college as living like a goddamn Ninja Turtle I think is a great summation of what we were trying to say earlier of how our summer started.
Have you guys watched any live streams?
Tom: Countless, that was our challenge. We loved that people are doing live streams from their houses, and they feel very intimate. We are obviously doing some of those as well, but we really just wanted to say okay, well, what’s the biggest show that we could put on during quarantine? We still want to make it feel intimate and connected and experience some togetherness, but we also wanted to push the boundaries of what we’re seeing a little bit. And if we crash and burn all the better.
Well I’m super excited. I’m glad there’s artists like you guys who are still thriving and pushing through and putting out content cause I know it can be hard right now.
Tom: Thank you, I don’t know if we feel like we’re thriving, but we definitely feel like--
Okay, you’re right. Thriving could be the wrong word, but I’m glad that you’re still doing stuff. Do you guys have anything left you’d like to say to anyone, I mean the world's kind of like a dark place right now. Any inspiring words of hope?
Jacob: Just take care of yourself first, and then take care of each other when you can. I think maybe something beautiful that could come out of all of this is that we all have to spend a lot of time with ourselves right now, and let’s not be afraid to get to know ourselves because that’s just going to help us when we get back to being able to be around other people.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Purchase tickets to the What Day Is It? Virtual Tour here.
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