Almost exactly two years ago, I sat with Matt Lowell and Sam Stewart, Lo Moon’s vocalist/songwriter and guitarist, on the deck of the former’s home in Los Angeles to talk about their second album, A Modern Life. At the time, Lowell had gone through a life shift which is reflected on Lo Moon’s upcoming album, I Wish You Way More Than Luck, but he kept that transformation close to his chest—at least from me.
Six months ahead of I Wish You Way More Than Luck, last October, Lo Moon did a series of well-attended residencies in their hometown of Los Angeles. At the last LA gig, Curt Smith of Tears for Fears joined them to perform “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” Smith was the third special guest to join Lo Moon, who also welcomed CHVRCHES’ Lauren Mayberry, War on Drugs’ Adam Granduciel, and Bartees Strange to their stage. Songs from I Wish You Way More Than Luck were teased, including “Evidence,” which they released just before beginning a three-night New York run.
The follow-ups to “Evidence” arrive today, ramping up to I Wish You Way More Than Luck’s release, which is set for April 5. It’s not one, but two singles: “Water” and “Connecticut,” which Lowell refers to as “A- and B-side.”
When we connect over Zoom to talk about “Water,” he’s finally ready to reveal everything that led up to, and resulted in the evolution he experienced. “I wrote the whole record about this coming-of-age adolescent moment from high school,” he begins.
The COVID-19 Pandemic and 9/11 Correlation
The pandemic time felt very similar to 9/11, another time where everyone was confused and asking questions, “Where do we go from here?” 9/11 was the last time that everyone was wondering, “What’s going on? Why are we here? What did we do?” The entire paradigm in the world shifted.
During 9/11, I was living at Pomfret School in Connecticut. My family was in New York. I tried to get in touch with them and I couldn’t. My world was completely shattered. There was a memorial concert on TV with a bunch of artists. Bruce Springsteen played “The Rising.” Something about this song, somebody reacting to this moment and expressing themselves in that way, just a guy with his acoustic guitar, it really shocked me. I’d never felt music like that. I was very into music, but I wasn’t into expressing myself through music. That song got me right through my heart. My relationship with music completely changed that day. My roommate was playing guitar at the time. I basically stole his acoustic guitar, learned three chords and I wrote a song. When I think back on it, the song was really quite bad.
Take Me to Church
There’s an idyllic chapel that sits on this hill at Pomfret School, Clark Memorial Chapel. Every Friday the school met at the chapel, and somebody from the student body had to share something. I had played the song I had written for my teacher and they convinced me that I should play it in front of the school at the chapel when we did our 9/11 memorial service. I was like, “There’s absolutely no way in hell I’m going to do that.” But they forced me to do it. It was the first time I sang in front of anybody and something just changed. I played this song in front of people and I listened to the way my voice was reverberating in this chapel. I can guarantee it wasn’t very good, but there was something in me that went, “This is how I can express myself,” and it made me feel better.
In 2020, I called Sam and I was like, “I’m going to go to the school. I haven’t been back there in so many years. I’m going to go to the chapel. I’m going to try to write in the chapel and connect to a moment that I was doing it purely for the music.” I went there on December 29, 2020
I was trying to connect to something that made me feel better. Going back to the birthplace of being excited by expressing myself musically, I felt that might do the trick, and it did. It shifted the corner musically and artistically for the band too. The record is not about the pandemic at all. It just helped. It was very, very cathartic for me.
The Chapel Sessions
I put my phone down, wrote these songs, basic ideas, and I sent them around to the band. Usually, they don’t really respond to me. Give it three days and they’ll be like, “Yeah, this is cool. We should work on this.” Immediately they were like, “Whoa, dude! You’ve tapped into a new thing. You’re writing something that feels unique to you.”
I became obsessed with what happens when you go through this huge discovery, or when you graduate [from] places and people give a speech. I started reading all of these commencement speeches. I was very into David Foster Wallace during the pandemic. I found he had given a commencement speech to Kenyon College in 2005 entitled, “This is Water.” The last line of that speech was, “I wish you way more than luck.” I was like, “That’s a song.”
Isaac Brock’s Guitar Collection
We decided to go to Portland and record in Modest Mouse’s studio because our friend Mike Davis had worked there before and is close friends with Isaac. Isaac had this acoustic guitar. I think it was a Collings. I was obsessed with this guitar. I really wanted to play this guitar while we’re in the studio because I love the idea of leaving all your shit at home—especially if you’re going into someone’s space who’s got all these amazing instruments and weird stuff. You pick something up and it inspires you to do something different.
We were tracking “Connecticut.” In between every take of “Connecticut,” I was in this weird tuning, and I kept playing this riff. Usually what happens is, I’ll play a riff and if anybody in the band cares, they’ll jump in and we’ll start jamming and we’re off. No one was paying attention to me. Everyone was thinking about “Connecticut.” I sat next to Mike and I just started playing the riff. I wouldn’t stop playing it. And he’s like, “What’s that?” And I’m like, “Yeah! Finally!” When we were making the record, Mike always kept the tape rolling. We did another take of “Connecticut,” and I started the riff and Mike was like, “Keep going.” and Sterling [Laws, drummer] and Sam just jumped in. Weirdly, Sam was playing piano. He was never really on piano. It just fell in our lap.
We spent the next five hours in the studio tracking live. I could not get the riff and the idea of this thing out of my head. It reminded me of Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill.” It reminded me of something I would play in high school. The next day I woke up at 6:00 a.m. and I told Sam, “The song’s called, ‘I Wish You Way More Than Luck.’ We need to work on it all day until it’s done.” They were on the same page. It was the first time in the history of the band that we wrote something in the studio and stuck with it until it was done.
“I Wish You Way More Than Luck”
It ended up being called “Water” because I wanted to call the album I Wish You Way More Than Luck. You want to daydream about what you think the song is about. Something about the song felt oceanic to me. The song felt like water.