San Diego

Lo Moon Rising

Lo Moon's Matt Lowell spoke with us about the band's new album, stylistic vision -- and the mystery around it all

The days of mystery in the music world are largely long gone -- the "enigma of the rock star" is dead. Anything you've ever wanted to know about anyone is out there. Every now and then though, there's a little glitch in the matrix.

Such is the case with last year's sudden debut of Lo Moon with their ethereal dream-pop/shoegaze single "Loveless." It was a certified hit across radio stations countrywide -- but listeners were all left in the dark. There was very little info out there about the band. Who the hell is Lo Moon? Where had they come from? While the near-secrecy that enveloped the song and its authors seemed planned, it all turned out to be more happenstance than intentional.

"I wouldn't say we stayed mysterious deliberately," Lo Moon frontman Matt Lowell told me over the phone recently. "But the thing I wanted to make sure came across, was that we were going to lead with the music and we let the music kind of figure out where its audience was. And it just so happened that we led with a song like 'Loveless' and people reacted to it and people were actually going to check it out, and trying to figure it out."

What the band didn't do was almost as important as what they did: "Loveless" wasn't followed by an album, the band didn't take a huge music-press victory lap, or book a headlining tour. According to Lowell, the overnight success had simply unfolded a bit faster than they had anticipated.

"For me, personally, I didn't think it would see the light of day on any radio. [laughs] It kind of all happened pretty fast. We were all like, 'Oh wow, we're on the radio, but we don't even have a profile up yet, we don't really have this, or that' -- we didn't really plan on staying mysterious, it was just that we made a conscious decision to lead with the music, and then from there, we'd figure the next steps out as we were going."

Indeed, Lo Moon had seemingly popped up out of nowhere, dropped a striking, artistic statement (with a gorgeous 7-minute-long video, to boot) -- and no one knew anything about them. Even the song's dreamy, drawn-out style felt new on radio stations mired in the tired muck of old. Lowell admits that he sometimes struggles with that.

"I've realized over time that our music doesn't fit perfectly into the landscape of what most kids or what most people are listening to these days," he said. "And it makes it harder some days. You wake up and go 'F---, why are we doing this? It's so hard!' [laughs]

"But it's also really rewarding when it starts to connect," Lowell continued, "Or when you see 10 people saying something on a weekly basis about the band and, for me, you just have to stay grounded and stay true to what I think moves us as a band. And I think if something's truly in there and it's part of your emotional makeup, and you put it out there in the form of music or art, then I think people will accept it. When it starts to feel forced, I think that's when people turn away. And sometimes those things take a lot of time. You have to be committed to it."

If there's one attribute Lo Moon can claim, it's commitment. What appeared, at first, to be designed ambiguity was all due to the LA-based band's desire to find their identity before music critics, record labels and/or fans decided it for them. Lowell (and his bandmates, multi-instrumentalist Crisanta Baker and drummer Sam Stewart) wanted Lo Moon to arrive with a fully formed sound they had envisioned and curated for themselves -- an ambition the frontman says still evolves with time.

"We came to realize that if we just trusted what we were into and what we like, that it would be unique. For me, 'Loveless' was a song that was written six years ago and it was kind of the beacon that brought us all together. It had a sound, a vibe, a spirit -- and we decided that we'd just keep chasing that and trust each other. I think [our sound] developed and showed itself over time, but with that being said, I think we continually are trying to chase something that can bring a new angle to what we're doing or something more unique, or something more familiar as well.

"I think it's a constant struggle. I don't think you ever kind of settle on one sound and just sit there. But we were aware that with 'Loveless' being the beacon, we had something to shoot toward. We painted the other songs around it," he said.

But things change once the cat is out of the bag, and if there's one thing we can rely on in today's music world: The cat always gets out of the bag. Lo Moon are now doing it all. They're in the midst of their first big, headlining tour (they're at the Casbah on May 2); they've released three singles over the last few months ("Real Love," "Thorns" and "This Is It"); and finally dropped their long-awaited, debut, self-titled album on Feb. 23.

With all that swirling, Lowell's just content to move forward.

"I feel like everything we did last year was kind of promo -- and now the band can start," he said.

Lo Moon headline the Casbah on Wednesday, May 2, with Kraus opening. Tickets are available online here

Dustin Lothspeich books The Merrow and runs the music equipment-worshipping blog Gear and Loathing in San Diego. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.

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