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Matt Lowell of Lo Moon on the group's new album and going back to high school

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Musician Matt Lowell feels a lot of nostalgia for his high school, so he returned to rural northeastern Connecticut during the pandemic.

MATT LOWELL: I had this extreme desire to go back to the place that I discovered my voice.

RASCOE: The Pomfret School is a boarding school that's been around since the late 1800s, with some of the original buildings still standing.

LOWELL: When I got into the chapel, I mean, I really just put my phone down and decided that I was going to spend a few hours there and just see what happened and recorded everything. I mean, I recorded anything that I sang or played on the guitar and sent it around to the band, and it definitely - it sparked something.

RASCOE: That spark grew into a new album called "I Wish You Way More Than Luck."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BORROWED HILLS")

LO MOON: (Singing) Boys of the order poison the water. They pass it around. Boys of the order poison the water. They laugh as they drown. I need to get out, get out of this town.

RASCOE: I spoke with Matt Lowell a few days ago. Before we got too deep into talking about his band's new album, though, I had to set the record straight.

I have been to Connecticut and gotten Connecticut pizza. You're someone from New York, but you have these ties to Connecticut. What is the best pizza to you?

LOWELL: I don't know. New York pizza takes it for me.

RASCOE: (Laughter).

LOWELL: It just - it does. It does. In the quiet corner of Connecticut - which is where I went to school, in northeastern Connecticut - the pizza was just really bad.

RASCOE: OK.

LOWELL: Like, really thick dough and so much grease.

RASCOE: OK.

LOWELL: Just way too much grease.

RASCOE: That didn't work for you, so you're going to stick with the New York pizza. What does Connecticut mean to you?

LOWELL: Well, you know, it's a - it was a place for discovery for me. It was where I spent my formative years. You know, it started as a school that I went to because I was recruited to play hockey there. And then all of a sudden, 9/11 happened, and I was living on this campus. My world was just turned upside down. My family was in New York.

And it really inspired me to try and put a poem that I had written called "A City Cries Its Tears" to song, and then I performed it in front of my entire school at that chapel. That was the moment that changed the entire course of my life, and also that song was another song that I wrote December 2020 in the chapel. I just kept singing this line, I hear the voice of my father. And I wrapped the whole song "Connecticut" around that one line.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CONNECTICUT")

LO MOON: (Singing) I hear the voice of my father without a shadow of doubt. There's no more hope in the water. I can't believe we've run out.

RASCOE: With those lines, like, what was that about? What were you trying to convey?

LOWELL: Well, I think I was back in this place to kind of rediscover the wonder that I had when I was at that age, which was about playing music and just - and expressing myself.

RASCOE: The hearing of the voice of your father - I mean, that doesn't have to be your literal father or anything like that, but what did that symbolize for you?

LOWELL: Yeah, I think it just symbolized comfort. And when you're lost, you know - I think we all do this - doesn't matter if it's your actual father, like you said, or figurative. It's like, you're actually looking for somewhere else for answers. And if I hear the voice of my actual father, there's a comfort about that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CONNECTICUT")

LO MOON: (Singing) Now I've got nothing to lose. I've got nothing to prove. I've got nothing to lose 'cause it's just an illusion.

RASCOE: You know, I'm hearing some of the - some influence, maybe, of, like, Peter Gabriel in these tracks. Is that just a synthesizer, or is he one of your influences?

LOWELL: No, he's one of my influences. I absolutely love Peter Gabriel. And I remember the first time my dad played me "So" by Peter Gabriel. It was, like, one of his favorite records when it came out and changed my life. He's a genius.

RASCOE: I know that you like to read. I hear that F. Scott Fitzgerald and J.D. Salinger are some of your favorite authors. The title of your album, "I Wish You Way More Than Luck," that's something that you came up with - from - while you were reading?

LOWELL: So there's a commencement speech given by the author David Foster Wallace, and the transcript of it is called "This Is Water."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAVID FOSTER WALLACE: There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, morning, boys. How's the water? And the two young fish swim on for a bit. And that eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, what the hell is water?

(LAUGHTER)

LOWELL: And it's basically about the education of life, that the - your education does happen in schools, and it does happen when - you know, when your teachers are teaching you about whatever it is you're learning. But the education of life is just living life and making mistakes and learning about what it means to exist in this world.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WALLACE: ...Which has almost nothing to do with knowledge and everything to do with simple awareness - awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over, this is water.

LOWELL: The last line of that speech - he says, I wish you way more than luck. And I've been obsessed with that line since the day I read it, and I'd been trying to write a song with that line. And finally, with "Water," it - I woke up, and I was like, oh, that's the line for this song.

(SOUNDBITE OF LO MOON SONG, "WATER")

LOWELL: And I just loved it as an album title. I just thought it said so much about exactly what I'm trying to express is there was a moment in time in my life where I was in a place like Connecticut for my education. But you learn that your education is a lifelong pursuit, and that's really your education, is living your life.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WATER")

LO MOON: (Singing) Goodbye. I wish you way more than luck. Goodbye. I wish you way more than luck.

RASCOE: That's Matt Lowell of the band Lo Moon. Thank you so much for joining us.

LOWELL: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WATER")

LO MOON: (Singing) I don't need my innocence just so I can lose it again. Soaking in... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.