› What: Neko Case with Mt. Joy
› Where: Walker Theatre inside Memorial Auditorium, 399 McCallie Ave.
› When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 25
› Admission: $30 plus fees
› For more information: 423-757-5580
Only four weeks into January, and 2018 is already shaping up to be a stellar year for Mt. Joy.
The Pennsylvania-based band has its first album coming out in March, is booked for SXSW and is currently touring with singer Neko Case. That tour stops in Chattanooga tonight for a show in Memorial Auditorium's Walker Theatre.
Mt. Joy — a nod to the mountain in Valley Forge, Penn., near where vocalist Matt Quinn and guitarist Sam Cooper first played music together in high school — is rooted in the high-school dreams and ambitions of those two classmates. Quinn and Cooper played music in high school, went to college, then reunited in Los Angeles about five years later.
Neko Case played and toured with bands for a decade before she realized it was her job.
Case said in an interview that even though she knew music was her obsession, she “didn’t feel worthy of calling myself a ‘musician.’ It was just too sacred.”
The American singer-songwriter is best known for her solo career and as the singer with Canadian indie rock group The New Pornographers. She’s currently headlining her own tour, which stops in Chattanooga tonight, Jan. 25.
She has released eight albums, two of which reached No. 1 on U.S. indie charts: 2009’s “Middle Cyclone” and 2013’s “The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You.”
Now more than 20 years into her calling, she has released a vinyl box set of her solo discography on Anti label. All eight titles are remastered from their original analog tape and made available on 180 gram black vinyl, some for the first time in years, or ever. The set also includes an 80-page, limited-edition, full-color book of photography, designed and curated by Case herself.
“The release of this set gives listeners an excuse to appreciate the scope of one of the most individual and passionate artists making music today,” says Anti label head Andy Kaulkin. “When you take it all in, Neko’s journey from punk/country torchbearer to avant pop icon has been staggering. This box makes a strong case for her fierceness of vision, pristine musical craft, unflinching lyrics and of course … that voice!”
By that time Cooper had a law degree and Quinn had gone to law school but dropped out when the guys decided to pursue music full-time.
"Our parents were totally and completely understanding of our decision to pursue music — this is an opportunity a lot of people never get, so we felt it would've been absolutely insane to just ignore it," says Cooper.
Joining them to round out Mt. Joy was Michael Byrnes, bass; Sotiris Eliopoulous, drums; and Jackie Miclau, keyboards.
"Believe it or not, we found Michael on Craigslist, who then directed us to his roommate, Caleb Nelson, to record some demos for us. Michael played bass and drums on those demos. But when we realized we might need to play live, Michael recruited Sotiris to drum, and we later found Jackie through a mutual friend to form a five-piece band," Cooper details.
That was late 2016 and Mt. Joy played its first show in early 2017. In just over a year, the band has surpassed 10 million streams on Spotify, played Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza and toured with The Shins, Whitney, The Head and the Heart and The Lone Bellow.
"I think our sound started as just us trying to emulate our favorite artists because we didn't know what else to do, and over a very long period of time we somehow accidentally developed our own sound from that," Cooper recalls. "A lot of our stuff we played in high school sounded a lot like artists we loved — Neil Young, Allman Brothers, My Morning Jacket — and eventually from there, after years of writing and playing, we naturally gained our own voice."
Their self-titled debut album will be released March 2. "Mt. Joy" features 13 original songs that take on addiction, politics and mental health.
Eliopoulous says Quinn would bring "the skeleton of a song to the table, then the rest of us would take that and add parts here and there until it was something we are all happy with."
"I think our goal was to make the best, most meaningful recordings we could make," says Quinn. "In terms of expectations, I think we try to limit those just because it's such an unpredictable space. In terms of theme, I think there's a common thread of navigating a complex world with love and learning to lean on and stick up for each other and what's right."
"There is a lot for Mt. Joy to be excited about in 2018," Quinn adds.
"We all know it's very hard for a band to be out playing for an entire year, so the main goal would be keeping a consistent work ethic, always finding what we can improve, and making sure to not lose sight of having fun. If we can do that, then the other goal of seeing opportunities through will hopefully be in reach."
Contact Susan Pierce at email@example.com or 423-757-6284.