It’s hard not to believe in fate when you hear stories like the one about Mt. Joy, an Americana-flavored Indie Rock group founded by guitarists/songwriters Sam Cooper and Matt Quinn.
The musicians were high school friends in the Philadelphia area, but their music-making kinship ended when they graduated and went to different East Coast colleges. About two years ago, the men both coincidentally ended up living in Los Angeles and decided to get together and jam. Finding a third collaborator through Craigslist — bassist Michael Byrnes — the trio called themselves Mt. Joy after a landmark at Pensylvania’s Valley Forge National Park, a Revolutionary War site that also includes a Mount Misery. (Considering they weren’t an Elliott Smith tribute band or making Goth music, the musicians picked the better of the two “Mount” options.)
The threesome recorded three songs shortly after convening; Cooper (who was working as a lawyer during Mt. Joy’s initial play dates) told upstate New York’s The Daily Gazette it was a casual “ fun side -thing for our parents to listen to.” Without any intentions or ambitions, they also uploaded the song “Astrovan” to Spotify. That decision was a game-changer. Described by Quinn as a song “about being stuck in a life and wanting to have the opportunity to pursue a dream” and featuring imagery of a pot-smoking, van-driving Jesus, “Astrovan” unexpectedly became a Spotify hit, earning a million streams in just a few weeks. The laissez-faire attitude shifted quickly — Mt. Joy was no longer a side-project, but a full-time gig.
The band — rounded out by Sotiris Eliopoulos on drums and Jackie Miclau on keyboards — hit the road for much of 2017, doing shows with the likes of The Head and the Heart and The Lone Bellow, while also playing big festivals like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. Dualtone Records, the respected independent label known for releasing albums by acts like The Lumineers, Shovels & Rope and Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors, caught wind of Mt. Joy’s buzz and signed the group. Released in March, Mt. Joy’s self-titled album was received with a chorus of acclaim from Rolling Stone, NPR, Billboard, HuffPost and many other outlets.
Mt. Joy went from hobbyists to makers of a widely celebrated debut album in less than a year and a half. And it was all sparked by a song about wanting to follow one’s true passions.