Los Angeles-based three-piece band, Moontower is making waves both on their campus of USC and most recently at “Anchor Splash” a Loyola Marymount University event, where we got the chance to sit down and speak to them about their music, friendship, and future.
ALTANGELES: How did you meet?
TOM CARPENTER: So Dev and I met the first week when we both came in as freshman at USC, and we were both in the music program. I’m a music production major and he is a music industry major. We both produced music and became homies the first week and we haven’t stopped making music since. Jacob was a spring admit at USC. Dev and I were producing for an artist, and Jacob was writing for the same guy and we kinda all met through that. As time progressed we started working on more and more of the same stuff until we had music that was good and that we didn’t want to give away. There wasn’t really a turning point where we were like “we should start a band and make our own music,” it was just something we had already been doing.
JACOB CULVER: The closest thing to a turning point would be when you got the Gateway apartment, at least for me because almost every night they would be producing music. So sophomore year when they got their apartment, I was living somewhere else since I was a spring admit and it wasn’t the most inspiring place to live, so I defacto moved into their apartment. And every single night we were working on music there, to the point where our significant others would ask if we do anything else with our time and we said no.
What are each of your roles in the band?
TOM: Dev and I produce music and Jacob writes a lot of the music. I take care of more of the electronic sounds, “in the box” is the term. Dev is an absolute mastermind on the analog sounds. He’s the kind of guy that can hear a song once and play it back on the piano. It’s annoying as fuck. Jacob is the one that makes you cry your eyes out, makes you miss your old girlfriend from high school.
Who are your main musical inspirations?
DEVAN WELSH: The 1975, Bilderbuch, Daft Punk, anything French House, Talking Heads, DEVO, stuff that’s like a little bit weird, but has a groove to it.
JACOB: On the live side of things, it’s like we’re a band in the fact that we’re all on stage but we all do different things. Tom is handling the drums and the bass and the rhythm sections and then I kinda run around like an idiot and sing. But we all kinda try to switch around and do different things. There really are no roles in this project.
DEV: The best idea wins. We do what we gotta do.
How did you choose the name “Moontower”?
TOM: There’s a movie called Dazed and Confused, it’s a Richard Linklater film from the nineties. It’s set in the summer of 1976 and it all happens in one day and doesn’t really have a plot. In that movies there’s all these disjointed vignette plots that all come together in one place and it’s called “Moon Tower”. In the movie, the moontower is the place where all the plots intertwine, with the beer kegs and the kids making out in the woods and the fights and the nerdy kids and the pot smoking. So when we were starting this project and for the first 8 months, we really only did live shows and didn’t release music, and our main focus was trying to cultivate that atmosphere. That party-without-a-host, that place you can go when everything is shut down, an ultra-inclusive space where our music is the soundtrack to a night that can go in a thousand different directions.
JACOB: LA is really exclusive, you have to know somebody to get in, and we wanted to be the exact opposite of that, we wanted to create something with the same production value as these events that everybody tries to get into. We wanted to make a space where literally anybody could come see something that they don’t normally get to see. We wanna continue to push the boundaries of what we can do with live music, we want to offer people one production level higher than the venue they’re seeing us in, and it keeps things really exciting for us.
If you were a cover band, what band would you be covering and what would you call yourselves?
TOM: Because we’re a three-piece we’d have to be a Rush cover band.
JACOB & DEV: Oh God, no.
JACOB: I guess it has to be a three-piece. We would be a Green Day cover band and we would be called “When September Ends,” but we only play the moody stuff, not the punk shit. Just “Wake Me Up When September Ends” and “Good Riddance”.
TOM: We could play the first 45 seconds of “Basket Case” but not go into it.
JACOB: Actually, we should be a Green Day cover band called Jesus of Suburbia but only play “Jesus of Suburbia.” Like we play it once and encore with it again and that’s the show.
Since this is your last year at USC, what are your plans for after graduation?
JACOB: We just had some exciting things happen so we’ll be touring very heavily until someone tells us to stop. We love being on the road more than anything, what we love most is playing live. We want to make the world feel really small and it’s an amazing feeling when you go to a new city and you don’t feel like an outsider because people want to share their lives with you and where they grew up and where their favorite place to eat is. It makes the world feel amazing.
What does your songwriting process look like?
JACOB: Super collaborative. They’ll start a beat or sometimes I’ll come in with part of a song and we’ll put it together and there will be a song there. Dev is a night owl, he’s up until 4 am working and he’ll end up making a beautiful track. It’s like how we said there really are no roles, it’s the same here. Nothing in this project is ever finished until all three of us have put our hands on it.
What is your favorite lyric that you have written?
TOM: Mine is “Why fight off the dragon if you’re not in the balcony.”
JACOB: Mine is in the second verse of the same song, “I can have all I ever wanted, four walls and food to eat, momma made sure I’d want for nothing, but still there’s nothing here for me.”
DEV: Mine is the line in William, “You say you want her in your house, you want to wake up to her coffee, but she don’t care for your missed spots, better learn to clean your pots.” It’s about commitment.
How has the Thornton School of Music at USC helped you as a group both creatively and in a business sense?
TOM: I’d say it’s less about the curriculum and what the professors have taught us in class, and more of the out of class thing. You’re surrounded by a group of people that you’re both intimidated by because of how amazingly talented and amazingly ambitious they are, but at the same time you have a drive to blow them out of the water.
DEV: It’s healthy competition.
TOM: It’s a safe spot to be inside of the industry without actually being inside of the industry. You’re getting your feet wet.
What was it like opening for Bad Suns?
TOM: It was a big turning point for us because before that it hadn’t really felt as real. It was definitely the biggest crowd we played for and it was our first time playing for all new faces. It was a different city and a giant awesome stage.
JACOB: There’s something very safe about playing around LA and at USC and expanding to UCLA and stuff. When you go to a new city and play for 1,000 people you feel very naked. It’s not like people can say “They’re okay, but it’s Jacob, I love Jacob.” People will say “if you guys suck, you suck.” But it was an amazing night.
If you could tour with any band, which band would you choose?
DEV: The 1975.
JACOB: Tom would definitely say Daft Punk, but more realistically The 1975. They’re pushing the boundaries with music, and we hope we’re doing the same.
What has been your favorite venue to play?
JACOB: We just sold out the Moroccan Lounge a few weeks ago. It was crazy. We were just up in Portland and Seattle with other bands and coming home to that was amazing. Our only regret is I think all of us felt like the night went by in 10 minutes total. It was just an emotion dump and we said it was the best night of our lives and then it was over. I think it’s a lesson in living in the moment and giving yourself time to breathe but it was an incredible night.
What is the biggest roadblock you face as artists?
TOM: Probably School.
DEV: Yeah, we have a love-hate relationship with school. But we’re very close to being done.
TOM: It’s getting harder every second to even care at all. Senioritis is a serious affliction.
JACOB: Finding time for everything is really hard. We’re lucky we all love each other and like to spend time together, but it’s hard for us to not see and talk to our families and friends as much. But when this gets serious, it deserves to be taken as such.
What artist would you love to collaborate with?
ALL: Brian Eno would be incredible, Rick Rubin, Julia Michaels, the guys from Justice, Julian Casablancas.
What do you think is your biggest asset as a band? What puts you apart from other artists of your genre?
TOM: Our live show is our biggest asset. We love our recorded music but the most enjoyable part about the live show is to completely change some parts around, act like idiots on stage, reach out to the farthest audience member in the room. It’s just a whole nother perspective of the project that’s so refreshing to us.
Do you have any upcoming show dates?
JACOB: We’re playing on November 6th at The Mint with The Greeting Committee. Vote first and then come to the show. There might be some fun incentives if you wear your “I Voted” sticker to the show. Vote for a gun-sense candidate, let’s get firearms off the streets and let’s stop kids from dying at concerts. Guns should be a bipartisan issue.
Is there anything big in the works?
TOM: We have a friend of ours named William Hollywood, he’s one of our roommates and he’s the guy that the first song we released is about. All the songs are in a sense about him. We will be releasing an album and we have a sitcom in the works to follow the album in an episodic format, all around the life of this guy, our friend William Hollywood. It’s bonkers.
JACOB: In the same way that we want to push the boundaries on the live side of things, we also believe that there is more than one way that people can consume music and bands have an obligation to tell stories through the art that they put into the world. We’re choosing to do this through our amazing friend to tell this suburban love story. We’re excited to share this narrative, it’s gonna be really fun for everyone to get to know William as well as we know him.
Check out Moontower on streaming services, and make sure to keep an eye out for new show dates and music releases!
Photos by Donna Borges