Photo by Matt Everitt
Mt. Joy’s first single “Astrovan” was released on streaming sites in late 2016, and in what had seemed like a snap of a finger to Matt Quinn (vocals, guitar) and his bandmates, the initially unpromoted song propelled them into the spotlight after millions of streams. After spending the last year on tour with bands such as The Shins and hitting major festivals including Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and Made in America, they’re heading out on a headlining tour of their own.
“We’ve sort of been thrown,” he said. “From the moment ‘Astrovan’ was doing really well on Spotify until now, we’ve been tasked with learning what it means to to be in a touring band and what that entails. It’s been a massive learning experience and mostly a good experience.”
Quinn recently took the time to chat with The Alt about the band’s self-titled debut, their year on tour, the influence of the Grateful Dead and speaking out through their music ahead of their gig at The Hollow in Albany.
This will be the band’s second time visiting the city. “We played in a giant egg,” he remembers of their first. “It felt like we were in a giant spaceship.”
ALT: You and Sam Cooper (guitar) grew up together outside of Philadelphia before meeting up in Los Angeles and connecting with the rest of the band (bassist Michael Byrnes, keyboardist Jackie Miclau, drummer Sotiris Eliopoulos). Were you guys into the Philly scene at all?
MQ: I played a few shows, but I was really young so I didn’t tap into it too much, I was certainly aware of it. I’ve always been a fan of the music that was coming out of it.
In Boston, I was in it a little more, I was in bands but I really found an opportunity through these songs once I got to LA. It was really crazy. Obviously it was always a dream to find a way to get people to hear the songs that I felt were good, but it’s so hard to do–whether you’re in the DIY scene or just playing around hoping to gain traction. We feel really fortunate.
ALT: Philly is a big draw, especially for artists around here. What do you think the magic is there?
MQ: It’s a really honest place. It’s a pretty big city, but it’s not as “extra” as some of those big cities…like New York and LA… so it gives people an opportunity to live there on an artist’s budget and live in a place where there’s a really big community that loves its entertainment, sports and music. One that’s happy to get behind the people of their city and support their music, and it shows. There are so many great acts coming to Philly and coming out of Philly.
ALT: Mt. Joy had a quick come-up after “Astrovan,” what was the songwriting process in tackling your debut album as a band?
MQ:We went through old songs we had, in fact ”Silver Linings” is a song I wrote in college that we rewrote a little bit. With new stuff, I’ll come in with a skeleton of lyrics, maybe some chords or something and I’ll bring it to the band. They’ll help arrange it and bring their flavor and different musical stylings. Going forward, as band has gotten to grow a bit, everyone is contributing some different ideas now. It’s a cool creative environment.
We’ve been touring for the past year and we’ve become a pretty close knit group. A lot of it, just in the live show. We’ve been tasked with creating creating this live experience and I think people have contributed different ideas about how to present the songs in different ways.
ALT: You’ve mentioned your appreciation for the Grateful Dead in your songwriting and I know music writers have had a hard time identifying which genre fits the band. Do you think the jam band mindset has had an influence on your sound?
MQ: All of us come from different musical backgrounds and growing up, my dad was a big Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia fan. I still love so many of those records. I think it inspires a lot of what I like to do and with the band, I think the best way to approach our live set–and I wouldn’t call us a jam band–we’re constantly working to extend things and a lot of that comes from my favorite bands being able to create a live experience that doesn’t necessarily just reflect the record.
The record is something that you’re bringing to the live experience and expanding upon. It’s really just a starting point for what you’re doing in a live space.
ALT: Are there songs from the record that you particularly love to play live?
MQ: We have a medley we’ve done for a while where we play “I’m Your Wreck” into “Bigfoot.” We play each of them a little differently than we would on the record, a little longer. It’s really fun to do those two together because the energy gets really good.
ALT: You cover a lot of pertinent topics in your songwriting, addressing the violence in Baltimore in “Sheep” or the struggle with addiction in “Silver Linings,” why did you choose to cover these topics specifically?
MQ: Growing up with the music I listened to, it felt like there was a purpose and story, a consciousness to what was happening in the time period it was created in, that’s something I was always inspired by. I think that’s how I approach making music. If I’m moved in some sort of way about what’s happening or a relationship or whatever it is, I just sort of try to ride that energy and think, at least for this first record, that’s how those topics got discussed. I think it’s important to be aware of what’s happening and, if you feel compelled to say something, to say something.
ALT: What’s the most recently thing, musically, that has really impressed you?
MQ: I really like the new Lake Street Dive record. Yesterday, I watched a live performance of “Musta Been Something.” They’re great and she’s got such a great voice.
ALT: What’s in store for the future of Mt. Joy?
MQ: We’ve definitely written a little bit for the second album but a lot of what we’re doing has been for this album, in trying to grow our live show and create a unique live experience.
In terms of themes for the next album, it all comes down to what we’re experiencing when the sound is created, when the music is created. It floats on from there.
Mt. Joy plays The Hollow Bar + Kitchen in Albany, Wednesday, June 13 at 8 PM
Listen to the band’s debut album here (Cover art by Steve Girard):