“The thing is: A year ago, none of us would say that we would be living in L.A., recording with Joey Waronker and Peter Katis, and touring with Imagine Dragons,” says Moth & the Flame guitarist/vocalist Brandon Robbins, on the phone from Los Angeles. Yet somehow, this is exactly where Provo alt-rock darlings The Moth & the Flame have found themselves.
“We were playing a lot of shows throughout the month anyway,” drummer Andrew Tolman says of the band’s move to the City of Angels in April. “The timing just made sense.” The band also cites the huge number of opportunities available in a larger city with a deeper hold on the mainstream music scene. Already, the band is preparing to release an EP, working on a full-length album and planning a European tour with breakout indie stars Imagine Dragons.
But The Moth & the Flame haven’t forgotten their hometown roots. “We love it here and we love it in Utah,” Tolman says. “In a couple weeks, we’ll be playing at Velour. We’re excited to see our hometown scene.”
The Velour show will celebrate the release of the band’s new EP, which officially comes out Oct. 29. Titled &—yes, just the symbol; it’s pronounced “ampersand”—it’s The Moth & the Flame’s first nationally released record. The album was recorded in Provo and Los Angeles at the home studio of Waronker, a producer and drummer who has worked with acts including Beck and super group Atoms for Peace. After EP release shows in Los Angeles and Provo, the band will go on a brief national tour before taking off for Europe as the opening act for Imagine Dragons.
Tolman and his wife were founding members of Imagine Dragons while living in Las Vegas. The couple split amicably from the group before moving to Utah. “We’re excited that our paths are crossing again for a few months,” Tolman says.
There isn’t even a vague hint of regret in Tolman’s voice when discussing his wildly successful former project, perhaps because The Moth & the Flame has a promising career of its own. “This lineup”—which also includes Mark Garbett on keys—“would not be this lineup without being a Provo band,” Tolman says. The Moth & the Flame also credits the Provo scene with nurturing its growth and creativity.
“In Provo, we were able to do art installations … that’s very important to us in portraying the emotion of the album,” Robbins says. “Being in L.A., we’ve tried to continue that, and it’s nearly impossible.” Instead, the band has started working with video. Tolman says that the goal is always to “present people with a live performance that has great music and that’s also compelling visually.”
If & is any indication, The Moth & the Flame promises to be a compelling band, visually and audibly. The opening track, “Sorry,” hooks the listener with echoing samples and funky, vintage-sounding rhythms, slowly adding melodic layers as the song progresses. Most of the tracks are a variation on this same trick: a gradual build-up to vocals and rich instrumentation, an unexpected interlude. It’s a time-tested structure that established innovators like Radiohead rely on, and it works for the richly arranged EP, particularly on tracks like the math-rocky “WinSome” and driving indie-rock tune “Silver Tongue.”
While there have been challenges in the transition to Los Angeles, The Moth & the Flame are optimistic. They have a full-length album due out early next year, this time produced by another famed producer, Peter Katis, and hope to keep widening their reach.
The secret to success, according to The Moth & the Flame, is in the hard work of making connections and maintaining a creative vision. “The best thing we did while we were in Provo was get connected in the local scene,” Robbins says. “Don’t do what’s being done, do what you want to do. That’s what we did since day one.”
“A bit of luck never hurt,” Tolman adds.
THE MOTH & THE FLAME
w/Strange Family, Swimm
135 N. University Ave., Provo
Saturday, Oct. 26, 8 p.m., $10