Measure the figurative miles between Lexington and the Moon, and the distance isn't as great as you might think. Well, at least it wasn't back in 2006, when the Nashville pop and progressive troupe Moon Taxi began making our fair city a regular stop on its tour schedule.
"I think we played one show in Nashville and then started to travel," said Moon Taxi guitarist, co-songwriter and Bowling Green native Spencer Thomson. "We started playing Lexington really early on when (the long defunct Euclid Avenue music club) The Fishtank was still around. We've just continued to play around there."
This weekend, Moon Taxi is back in the Lexington area. Or you could say the Moon will be playing the Moon as the quintet will be the headline act of the inaugural MoonTower Music Festival at Equus Run Vineyard in Midway.
The appearance caps another period of marked growth for the band that began with the release of its sophomore album, Cabaret, in February 2012. That record shattered the band's jam band image and edged it toward a more progressive-based pop sound that emerged fully on last year's follow-up, Mountains Beaches Cities.
"It was really important to us to keep the momentum going," Thomson said. "So while we didn't want to rush putting out Mountains Beaches Cities, we wanted things moving. We wanted to get another record out quickly, so it was kind of a challenge to be touring as much as we were and making a record and preparing for all that at the same time. But looking back on it now, we're all really happy with the way it came out and where it has gotten us in terms of recognition and building our careers in the right direction.
"We're even starting to write for the next one, so we're always thinking ahead for what's going to come next."
Mountains Beaches Cities builds upon the bolder pop strides of Cabaret. But its sound is larger with a greater keyboard and drum presence punching up the generous melodic hooks of The New Black, the lush ambience of Beaches and the kaleidoscopic dance-pop of Struck Me Down.
The album reflects the assorted inspirations of the various Moon Taxi members: Thomson, vocalist/guitarist Trevor Terndrup, keyboardist Wes Bailey, bassist Tommy Putnam and drummer Tyler Ritter. Thomson is especially involved in the band's overall sound, having co-produced Cabaret, He served as the sole producer on Mountains Beaches Cities.
"Sometimes the hardest thing about producing is just making decisions," he said. "A song can go in a million different directions. How you're first writing it and putting it together, how you decide to go about recording it, what instruments you decide to use, what feeling you want for it, that will really have a big impact on the song. All of these things can either make or ruin a song. Of course, sooner or later you just have to go with something and make the song sound as good as possible.
"We have definitely gone down some roads where we have totally scrapped what we've done and started over. But figuring out exactly what the right style of production is for each song is the really tricky part since there are so many ways to do everything."
So where did Thomson pick up the kind of studio know-how to become a producer? Try the hippest recording spot available to him in Bowling Green: his parents' garage.
"There are a lot of people in Bowling Green — and maybe in Kentucky, in general — that are just avid music fans, and they're fans of a lot of different stuff," Thomson said. "But there really wasn't much of a band scene. So I worked a lot on individual solo recordings — just experimental four track stuff in our garage. As far as wanting to produce records is concerned, that's what planted the seed in my head."