Some things are built on teenage dreams, and sometimes those dreams come to fruition. As the members of Mt. Joy — Matt Quinn (vocals, guitar), Sam Cooper (guitar), Michael Byrnes (bass), Sotiris Eliopoulos (drums), and Jackie Miclau (keyboard) — slowly came together, following the almost immediate positive response to their first Spotify releases, those dreams were realized. Hopping on tours, festival dates, and the release of their self-titled debut album — a dynamic unification of indie folk magic — Mt. Joy are on a ride that seems to only go up. As they prep for their upcoming tour dates, Matt and Sam take some time to discuss the madness of their evolution.
In just two years, the band has gone from releasing music on Spotify, to gaining attention from outlets such as NPR and Rolling Stone. What moment sticks out to you most?
Matt: I think the moment that sticks out most for me was the start of our first headlining tour after we put out the album. We’ve all worked really hard — and at times wondered what the impact was — but to sell out those shows and have everyone singing in the crowd, it was kind of a dream come true I think for all of us.
Mt. Joy has spoken in the past (and in song) about how this coming together stemmed from teenage aspirations. As you’ve come to face large-scale performances and the recording of your debut record, was it ever daunting? Was there any fear of the possibility that there may not be the same enthusiastic reception that the initial release of songs received?
Sam: There have been some daunting times. I think our fourth show ever as a band was opening for The Head and the Heart at a 2,000 seat auditorium in Massachusetts, which was a bit nerve-wracking. We were all just trying not to pass out or shit ourselves.
They say it takes 50 shows as a band to really get your bearings and begin to feel comfortable in front of an audience, but we got thrown into everything pretty quick. It’s a great problem to have in music. But our philosophy in this band since day one has been to just take things one day at a time, don’t skip steps, and don’t expect anything in particular because things change so quickly in this industry. So far the reception has been positive, which is great, but there was never really a fear of anything because it’s all been so silly to begin with.
As you’ve interacted with fans and performed, how do you feel the reception has been of your self-titled album?
Sam: It’s been incredible. We toured for over a year with just three or four songs on Spotify, so no one knew the majority of the set we played on a nightly basis. Our first show after the album release in March was at the Moroccan Lounge in Los Angeles, and we opened with the song “I’m Your Wreck” — a song we’d been playing for a year but no one ever sang along with because we’d never released a recording of it. Hearing the whole crowd singing that song back to us to start the show was surreal. I remember looking at Matt after the song and just being like, “Well this is different!”
There’s an accessibility within your lyrics, that takes some specific fears and emotions, and makes them relatable on a larger scale. What influences your writing?
Matt: At least for this record I think the writing process was a lot of trying to translate my fears or certain situations into song. A lot of times it starts with a line that I think is thought-provoking or powerful in some way, and then I try to build a story around it that supports the theme and/or the feeling of the music.
You can also sense a bit of nostalgia for youth and those teenage dreams that drew the band together in the first place. What do you miss most about your own, perceived youth?
Matt: There’s a lot of things I don’t miss about my youth, but I do think there’s an invincibility complex that young people have that makes young people happier in a sense. When you’re young, you try everything. Most of the consequences are mitigated by adults; you don’t owe a landlord anything. So, you think less and act on all those exploratory impulses. I miss that.
As the band continues to move forward, what continues to drive you? Or are you all still reveling in the moment a bit?
Sam: It’s a weird time for sure and it deserves some reveling, but we still have a long way to go to be where we want to be. We’re always trying to better our live show, using bands we admire, like My Morning Jacket, as guides of what’s possible. We want people to come to the shows and leave thinking, “Shit, I need to tell my friends about these guys!”
See Mt. Joy live, performing at Rough Trade NYC in Brooklyn on May 3, and at The Foundry in Philadelphia on May 19.