In a year where the folk-rock ensemble Mt. Joy released its self-titled debut album, is traveling the country playing up to five shows a week and is landing gigs playing in some of the nation’s biggest music festivals, the band members’ attitude and level of excitement is strongly resembling the band’s moniker.
“Pleasantly, consistently surprised is the state of Mt. Joy right now,” said the band’s singer, songwriter and guitarist Matt Quinn. “The more good news we can get, we’ll take it.”
The band is currently on tour in support of its first full-length release and will be coming to Lexington to perform at The Burl on Wednesday. But Mt. Joy started grabbing the attention of listeners before it had even released a proper album.
The group has its roots in Philadelphia — the name Mt. Joy is actually in reference to a mountain in Pennsylvania's Valley Forge National Historical Park — when high school friends Quinn and guitarist Sam Cooper rekindled their shared love of music in Los Angeles. The two met multi-instrumentalist Michael Byrnes via Craigslist and then recorded and released three songs. Among these was “Astrovan,” a laid back, windows-down joy ride about pursuing your dreams that envisioned a road-tripping, weed-smoking Jesus. The song struck online streaming gold, racking up millions of Spotify listens and leading to putting together a full band with the help of Jackie Miclau on keyboard and Sotiris Eliopoulos on drums.
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On the strength of those initial songs, Mt. Joy would open for others in the folk-rock genre like The Head and The Heart and The Lone Bellow while landing on the lineups for Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. Quinn said this “trial by fire” led to the band crafting new material that crowds appreciated but didn’t neatly fit under a particular genre.
“I think, for us, it really was just never any intention to make a folk-rock record or a stomping Americana record or make a super indie record,” Quinn said. “Sometimes, the danger of it is it puts you in a box to use certain guitar pedals and use certain atmospherics sounds. For us, the record unfolded the way it did because we chose the songs we did.”
Mt. Joy’s debut album certainly has elements of the aforementioned genres, and maybe even some Allman Brothers-esque guitar in spots. But it’s the band’s stand-out musicianship, harmonies and the way those sounds are manipulated and amplified that has garnered positive reviews and acclaim from NPR, Rolling Stone and Billboard Magazine. You can find it in the thick, ethereal instrumentation of “Bigfoot” or in the dynamics of “Silver Lining,” which Quinn said started as a “Grateful Dead guitar jam” that finds new life through lyrics on drug addiction and the contrast of a shout-along chorus.
Quinn’s soulful, raw vocals are complemented by lyrics that helps make Mt. Joy a distinctive musical experience, whether he is speaking on drug addiction, existential crisis, love or tackling the social struggles of modern-day America on the guitar groove-centric “Sheep.”
“If you nail the lyrics, it sort of leaves you at a point that you can’t totally fail,” he said. “It’s a big part of the genre space that we do find ourselves in, but anytime that we do sit down and create thoughtful lyrics, you get the opportunity in just that aspect of the song to make the song interesting alone.”
Mt. Joy has been a band that found success before it officially found its sound or its chemistry. Now that the group’s unexpected journey into music has brought all of those elements together, it feels like they are in the perfect position to continue to climb to what appears to be a promising peak.
IF YOU GO
Opening: Isle of Eight
When: 8 p.m. June 20
Where: The Burl, 375 Thompson Road
Tickets: $12 advance, $15 day of show