“Hey, can you sign this?” A man in a knit cap and thick black jacket approaches Matt Lowell, lead singer and guitarist of the synth-rock band Lo Moon, with a flat package in hand.
“Where did you even find this? I need to go show this to someone,” Matt says as he scrawls out a loopy signature on the CD cover. This is Matt’s solo EP, put out nearly 6 years ago. “Thank you so much for coming out tonight man, good to see you again,” Matt says as he hands back the CD. When I ask about it, Matt waves a hand. “It’s not really that good.” But he’s wrong- Matt’s solo work showcases his development as a musician, and the song ‘Better Alone’ in particular sees him beginning to experiment with a less conventional employment of percussion and a simple but striking keyboard accompaniment that Lo Moon elevates with ‘Loveless’.
Matt, Sam Stewart (guitar, vocals), and Crisanta Baker (keys, bass, vocals) have each been involved in musical projects prior to forming Lo Moon. Each are talented as separate entities but Lo Moon renders them a collectively much more powerful force. Crisanta was formerly a classically-trained pianist and visual artist, and Sam was a part of the indie-pop band Nightmare and the Cat along with his brother Django Stewart.
At a diner nearby the venue, Matt and Sam order chicken soup and split a sandwich, and Crisanta orders a black coffee while they discuss the transition from being exclusively a supporting act to a headliner.
“When you start supporting so much, the thirty minute set just kind of goes by. Then when you start playing headline shows, you’re getting in your head to remember everything- there’s a different pacing and a different flow. You know people paid to see you so you put a little more pressure on yourself. We’re not just going up there to help the band that people paid to see who’s on after us. I found that really interesting to think about. I might not know any of the people here tonight, but they’re here to see us,” Matt explains.
“It’s fun to finally sweat,” Crisanta adds. “Sometimes, after those 30 minute sets you think to yourself, ‘that was fun, can we keep going?’”
Though they’ve picked up an adolescent audience from their support tours with MUNA, Phoenix, Temples, and more, their audience for their three US headlining shows (NYC, Philly, LA) seems to span every age group.
“Last night was the first time we’ve gotten a look at our demographic [at the Rough Trade show], and we realised we were really all over the map.”
Their appeal to a diverse set of fans is in part reflected by the two sides of their personality as a band. Their image and visual style is sophisticated – rich black and white images (a favourite here by Phil Smithies), a cinematic but dark music video for ‘Loveless,’ and a seemingly all-black closet- but the band has a goofier side as well. In the diner, Sam snaps a blurry iPhone photo of Matt mid-slurp.
“For our Yelp review,” he explains matter-of-factly. As a way to pass time on the road, the band started a Yelp account to review places they’ve stopped along the way. Past reviews include Thai Crystal in Oregon (“all dishes were quite delicious and came out relatively quickly, although not so quickly as to arouse suspicion”) and Aladdin’s Eatery in Indiana (“ Lo Moon loves us some hummus.”).
“I have to admit, we’ve fallen behind at these.”
“The worse the photo for this, the better.” adds Matt.
At the venue, the crowd files past the bar until the room is completely full. By the time Lo Moon takes the stage, after a brief set by Shape King (highlight: ‘Bushwick Bitch’) the audience has fallen completely silent. Anticipation hangs in the air, and only a few trickle in and out of the room to grab drinks – people are here tonight for the music.
The band opens with ‘Thorns’, their most recent single, a song about failed romance. The lyrics are yearning and poetic (“we learn to outgrow the thorns on the rose”), Matt’s vocals floating over the syncopated chord changes that have garnered comparisons to Talk Talk. But different from Talk Talk, these chord progressions are reinforced by a steady bassline rather than one that weaves in and out of the other instrumentals, creating a less groovy, moodier sound. A mix of unreleased tracks follows, with the standout being ‘Real Love’. Lyrically, it’s similar to ‘Thorns’ as a lamentation of a romance gone wrong, but musically it has more edge in the chorus- the addition of cymbals changes the texture of the song, and those syncopated chord changes become robust from reinforcement by both Sam and Matt on electric guitar.
They finish with an encore of their debut single, ‘Loveless’, which remained the sole release of the band for almost nine months before being followed up by the band’s second single, ‘This is It’. ‘Loveless’, at seven minutes long, lies somewhere between song and rock-synth symphony, a track that begins lightly and gains momentum with each passing chorus.
Lo Moon’s debut album will be out in early 2018, with one more single and at least one video to come between now and then.
“I can’t say anything about the album, but I promise it has more than three songs on it,” Matt assures me.
It’s been over a year since Lo Moon debuted, and they have yet to release a song under 5 minutes. Time holds a different meaning for this band, but things are about to pick up speed.
Words and images by Abigail Raymaker
Words by HQ