Editor’s note: Here’s an exclusive look at an interview Dog Shoes did for BIRP.fm with Matt Quinn, singer and guitarist in the band Mt. Joy. These guys are a group of sophomore songsters from Philadelphia, with their two-released tracks showing the potential for what they are capable of. An EP is expected to be released this month, and they are currently at work on their debut full-length in Los Angeles.
Catch them in Austin this Wednesday, March 15 at Stubbs and Friday, March 17 at Lambert’s with a SXSW wristband or badge.
So I guess to start it all off, who am I/will I be speaking to?
This is Matt Quinn I play guitar and sing (in Mt. Joy). Sam is also in the apartment, the other founding member, so I’ll let you know if he chimes in with something. He also plays guitar, the rest of the band is sadly not here but it is Michael Byrne on bass, Andrew Butler on Keys and Sotiri on drums.
I had read you and a long time friend began the band but wasn’t sure if there was a full band on the EP or not. Awesome to see a full time keys member.
Matt: Yeah so Sam and I started this project last year and as we started to record it the band sort of came together organically. We needed a bassist to record the tunes and found Michael, then the drummer, Sotiri, was his friend and then we just recently brought on Andrew.
It’s crazy to see such impressive singles and popularity for such a brand new project.
Matt: I graduated high school in 2009 to give you a sense of the timeline. So the band Mt. Joy really has only been together for a few months as a band.
So I guess Mt. Joy is you and Sam writing the songs?
Matt: Sam and I started making music together in high school but kinda gave up on the dream until we got back together last year sometime and worked out 4 songs just to make for fun really as a last ditch effort to record something. We recorded Astrovan, Sheep, and two others which are coming out soon, with Caleb Nelson in his living room. We met Caleb through the bassist Michael, who we found on craigslist.
What kind of plans do you have for the band? Is it an every day might be the last day thing or do you plan to continue recording and touring?
Matt: So right now we are in the studio working on a full length album and are super excited about the new songs. We are getting ready to hit the road pretty heavily and hoping to make a career out of it. Obviously, the music industry is pretty hard to predict, so I think every band sort of exists in that sort of limbo where every tour/show/album could be your last, but we feel really confident about the writing and live show, so we are pretty excited.
That’s awesome to hear. Josh, the editor of BIRP, sent me Sheep and said this was a band he expected to blow up.
Matt: Awesome! Well we really appreciate all the support.
And that’s pretty huge, already opening a run for The Head And The Heart.
Matt: Yeah, we are excited to open for those guys. We got a chance to see them live in NYC and its a pretty special show they put on
The recorded tracks already have such a live loose feel, I can only imagine how well a full band will translate the tunes in a venue.
Matt: Yeah, that was important for us. It kind of comes from our influences like the Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers, My Morning Jacket kind of live type feel but we also really just wanted to be able to do it all live make it feel real kinda thing
I was just about to note the seeming Grateful Dead influence. A song like Astrovan just has that burnt out 70s rock trip that you can rarely find yourself taking anymore
Matt: Yeah, I grew up on the Grateful Dead. My dad was a big fan and it was kinda passed down to me. I have always just been in awe of the vibe they created while also maintaining really thoughtful lyrics. Robert Hunter who wrote the lyrics to a lot of my favorite Dead tunes is one of my biggest lyrical heroes
Did you write the words to Astrovan and Sheep?
Matt: So as of now I write the lyrics and kind of bring the songs to Sam and we work out arrangements and sort of prep the tunes for recording. But Sam is a great songwriter as well and helps to shape the tunes as we head into recording.
What inspires the imagery of something like Astrovan? Those first few lines drew me in heavily. It’s a romantic, trippy image to introduce the band, really. Jesus driving an astrovan…That’s an image that isn’t easily forgotten.
Matt: Thanks, yeah I mean I really like to write songs in a cinematic way, the hope being to really establish a sense of place so that people can see/feel what I’m saying. Astrovan in particular came just out of having just moved to LA and reacting to so many people chasing dreams in the entertainment industry. There is this shallow nature to it, but at the same time it takes so much courage to really chase your dreams and battle everything that is secondary to a pursuit that usually leaves you pretty poor in such a glamorous city.
Wow man, that’s one hell of a way to look at it. Based on that….I can only imagine the thought process behind Sheep, which I understand was written over a long period.
Matt: Sheep was something I started after the incidents surrounding the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. But I really wasn’t a musician so I was just sort of writing to try to organize my thoughts. I think as that issue became an epidemic that impacted the entire country it kind of coincided with me and Sam starting to put together some tunes to record. The song itself is really just about people in the majority having a responsibility to do everything in their power to support people who are being oppressed. The scope of the song definitely started getting more broad though as the election came into focus and we changed some lyrics around to try to make it more in general about what I feel is just kind of a sheep like blind following of racist, xenophobic tendencies that I don’t think people come to rationally.
It definitely tries to help make sense of things for a large population of people who feel outcasted by the herd of today’s society. I thought the Change Is Gonna Come reference was a great touch
Matt: Yeah, thanks man we appreciate it and hopefully it will. Obviously that is a bit of a hat tip to Sam Cooke as well.
Is writing about politics something that interests you? Or was Sheep just a part of you that had to vent?
Matt: Yeah, I dont know. I mean I think I always want to write things that mean something to me. I don’t know if we are going to be a “political” band. But I just have to write about the things that I’m feeling and seeing, and things are getting going in a pretty bad way, so maybe it will turn out that way it’s really hard to say. I wouldn’t say that I particularly enjoy writing politically charged songs, for me it is more about expressing something real and trying to say something worth saying.
Just like in past musical eras when the societal climate was so absurd, there’s almost no way to NOT comment on it. Almost all the classic rock bands have a political track of some type.
Matt: Yeah exactly. We also want to take creative angles at things and don’t want to be too heavy. Astrovan is a great example of that. I think that’s what we are after and we don’t want people to be super bummed out whenever they listen to a Mt. Joy song haha, so i think it is about finding a balance but always trying to be thoughtful
I know you’ve mentioned a massive Grateful Dead influence, along with The Allman Brothers Band and My Morning Jacket but are there any other notable influences?
Matt: Yeah I am a big fan of a lot of old stuff and new stuff. Love Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Nick Drake, Van Morrison. I am a big Alabama Shakes fan, as well as Fleet Foxes, The Shins, Vampire Weekend, and lots more. We are definitely big music fans too which makes this fun.
What about literary or film influences?
Matt: Hmm yeah, well Sam is a much bigger movie buff than I am but I think I had just finished Freedom by Jonathan Franzen right around when I wrote a lot of the tunes that just came out. His books are pretty impactful in the way he creates such vivid characters and imagery. And I think I should note that one movie I feel like I always want to make a piece of art similar to is Big Fish. That movie is just so creative and is the kind of art we want to make.
I’m the kind of fan who loves hearing about those influences, so that’s awesome to hear so many sources went into the shaping of the songs. Can we expect some of those musical influences to bleed through and let some jamming into the live shows?
Matt: Yeah, I think we definitely want to get to that point tastefully. We are such a young band so I wouldn’t say we are where we want to be with that yet, but are already thinking of ways we can grow the songs live to make that experience different than the studio.
Well the songs as they are definitely stand out. But you know us classic rock nerds, the live experience is a whole other entity to us.
Matt: For sure, we totally agree
What kind of tunes can we expect from the other two on the forthcoming EP?
Matt: The other two songs are kind of along the same vein. Without giving too much away i would say they are more sound wise closer to Astrovan than Sheep but I think they all exist pretty nicely together.
I have to ask. The artwork is wonderful. It ties with the music so well. Who’s responsible for that?
Matt: Sam’s friend, Steve Girard, who he went to NYU with is an amazing artist and he has been just an incredible resource.
Before even hearing the music, the images drew me in
Matt: We owe him so much in terms of aesthetic which is really important to us. He does really crazy totally out there art you can check out more of here http://stevieeatsworms.tumblr.com/
Will he do the full EP artwork on the physical?
Matt: I don’t know exactly how we are gonna deliver the art for the EP. I think we are still figuring out the best way to do it. I know there will be a new piece of art for the next song though which we are pumped on.
Matt: Just fyi I gotta run in like 5 minutes to get my laundry haha
Okay we’ll wrap it up, sorry for the long chat
Matt: No worries at all, it’s been great talking to ya
We’ll do 2 cliche enders for ya. First, dream tour. Second, top 5 favorite albums
Matt: Jeeze thats tough…I think if we are saying live bands around now, dream tour would probably be someone like My Morning Jacket. They are just so incredible live, I think we could learn so much from them.
Agreed. Okonokos is a religious experience
Matt: and hmm top 5 albums is tough, hold on…Yeah, I’ll put Okonokos in there. White Album, Europe 72 (by) Grateful Dead, Allman Bros Live at Fillmore East 1971, Astral Weeks. But that’s tough man.
I know it is haha. I love and hate lists but that’s a hell of a list. But thank you for your time man! Hope your laundry is so fresh and so clean. And hope to see and hear more of you guys’ amazing stuff.
Matt: Thanks man we really appreciate you taking the time as well. Hope to see ya sometime soon on the road!