Philly-Bred Indie Folk Act Mt. Joy On Breakthrough Year, Bonnaroo & Newport Folk Debut

Mt. Joy
Eliza Soros

Mt. Joy

Meet Mt. Joy. The rising Philly-bred, Los Angeles-based act -- led by Sam Cooper and Matt Quinn - arrived last year with the viral, indie folk gem "Astrovan" which has earned over 3.6 million spins on Spotify to date and has enabled the burgeoning act to quit their day jobs to pursue the band full-time.

Having first met during high school in Philadelphia, the duo had more-or-less given up on music being a likely career path, when Sam went to grad school and Matt left to pursue a career in music management. But once "Astrovan" started gaining momentum, the duo decided to focus solely on their music, adding Michael Byrnes (bass), Sotiris Eliopoulos (drums) and Andrew Butler (keys) to expand the duo to a five-piece.

This year, on the heels of follow-up singles "Sheep" and "Cardinal" and dates supporting The Head and the Heart, Mt. Joy are readying their mainstream breakthrough, after announcing a headlining tour that begins with their first ever festival sets at Bonnaroo and Newport Folk. 

Billboard caught up with the founding duo to discuss their origin, fast rise, touring essentials, love of Wawa and more. 

What did you first connect on musically that made you want to work together?

Matt: Sam's brother had this cool old 8 track recorder and Sam was the only person I'd ever seen play slide and lap guitar. So, we spent a lot of time just trying to learn how to record songs with cool instruments and connected over trying to make folk songs with cool sounds. 

Matt, how did your experience in music management affect how you see the industry?

Matt: Working in management gave me some perspective as to how much goes on behind the scenes to maximize an artist's potential and the importance of building a team that really believes in your project. The most important thing I learned in terms of Mt. Joy is that it's really all about the songs. Great songs give everyone behind the scenes a chance to make a difference. So, we are always working towards that and trying to improve our craft. 

How did you guys come up with the band name Mt. Joy?

Sam: There are two mountains in Valley Forge, PA where we grew up: Mt. Misery and Mt. Joy. My house was located on Mt. Misery, but Mt. Joy has a slightly more positive ring to it. The name definitely took some vetting, but eventually it stuck.

You guys were both heavy into other careers when "Astrovan" hit online. When did you first think 'maybe we've got something here?'

Sam: It has definitely been a strange few months. I was working in Philadelphia and Matt was in grad school in L.A. when we first put Astrovan on Spotify. We were both pretty engulfed in our work/schooling and really weren’t trying to accomplish anything with uploading Astrovan online. Then seemingly overnight it turned into something that neither of us could really ignore. I left work and Matt left school because when else do people get opportunities like this? We recognized that this could be something special.

"Sheep" was your second ever release - tell me about the writing process of that one.

Matt: Yeah, Sheep was a song that evolved over the course of a year or two. I had written the first verse and chorus one night after hearing about Freddie Gray and just feeling incredibly disappointed in America. But, at the time i wasn't playing in a band so the song kinda got stashed until I started working with Sam again about a year or so ago. Obviously, by that time things had changed for the worse in terms of not only police brutality, but the election process had really started to bring out the worst in America. So, the song kind of evolved into a more general plea for people with a platform to take a meaningful stand against the incredibly ignorant racism/hatred that so many people seem to blindly champion.

Living in Los Angeles via Philly, what do you miss most?

Matt: L.A. has better weather, Philly has better people and Wawa. The music communities are pretty different. Philly definitely has more of a DIY/ grassroots type scene, and just has so many amazing acts coming out of there right now. Whereas, L.A. is so big and has every type of music happening here imaginable. So, L.A. feels a bit more all over the place, but at the same time there are so many amazing resources here as a result. Both are great but super different. 

Sam: Wawa.

You just dropped your latest single "Cardinal" - tell me about the inspiration behind that song and what it means to you?

Matt: Cardinal is one that definitely has a lot of personal meaning. It is kind of a shout out to a crew of people that we grew up around. Every Eagles home game since I was a kid, a couple generations worth of close family friends pile into a jointly-owned old school bus that we painted green and head down to a warehouse parking lot to tailgate. We dance to amazing music that my dad curates, everything from extended Grateful Dead jams to hip-hop. So, Cardinal to me was just about watching all of these people, who are all so different, grow up and have success and just realizing there's no right way to live except the way that makes you truly happy. 

Kicking off a tour with Bonnaroo next month - have you ever played a festival before? What are you guys doing to prepare & what are you most excited about?

Sam: We’ve never played a festival before, so it's very exciting for us. We did a run of shows with the Head and the Heart in March which was an enormously educational experience for us watching them and seeing just how great of a live band they are. Since then we've just been playing shows and practicing whenever we can, and I think we’ll be ready when we finally get down to Bonnaroo. We’re most excited about playing our set but also really looking forward to hanging out on the farm and watching some of our favorite bands.

Bonnaroo seems like a perfect fit to your sound & aesthetic, have you been before as fans?

Sam: I’ve only been to Bonnaroo once as a fan, and that was in 2006 when Radiohead put on the most amazing show I’ve ever seen and blew everyone’s minds. Bonnaroo stands out in the crowded festival market because it historically has been all about the music. It’s a festival in the middle of nowhere Tennessee on a farm. It isn’t a destination festival like so many others: there are no beautiful mountains, no city lights, no glitz, no nothing. Just music. To have the opportunity to go as an artist is a dream come true.

You're touring through the summer. What are your on the road essentials?

Matt: That's tough cause we travel pretty light, but diet is huge when you spend that much time in a van. So, last run i mostly survived on a huge bag of almonds. Other than that, lots of music and a good neck pillow. Pro tip: spend the 40 bucks for that nice one in the airport.

Sam: Apple Cider Vinegar and Kind Bars.

What's next for you music wise? Album/EP on the way?

Matt: We are finishing up recording our first full length album, which we are really excited about. It really feels like we are making the best music of our lives right now, and it's a good feeling. 

Catch Mt. Joy on tour this summer.

Upcoming Tour Dates:
6/8-6/11 - Manchester, TN - Bonnaroo
7/14: Toronto, ON @ Drake Underground
7/15: Guelph, ON @ Hillside Festival
7/17: Detroit, MI @ Marble Bar
7/18: Chicago, IL @ Schuba's
7/19: St. Louis, MO @ Duck Room
7/20: Nashville, TN @ The Basement
7/23: Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Tavern
7/24: Pittsburgh, PA @ Club Cafe
7/25: Washington, DC @ DC9
7/26: Brooklyn, NY @ Baby's All Right
7/27: Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda's
7/29: Newport, RI @ Newport Folk Festival
8/2: Cincinnati, OH @ MOTR Pub
8/3: Indianapolis, IN @ Hi-Fi
8/4: Milwaukee, WI @ Colectivo Back Room