Colorado’s Tenth Mountain Division on Putting it All Together for New LP, Butte La Rose [Interview]
If you’re one for jam bands, you likely keep a close eye on Colorado. If you look even closer, you’ll find the treasure that is the Tenth Mountain Division—a young band that has one rule: if they’re going to play it live, it’s got to be a banger.
Much like their namesake—the US Army 10th Mountain Division that trained in the Colorado Rockies before fighting in WWII—the band cut their teeth in the hotbed of jam music that is Colorado. Started by guitarist MJ Ouimette and mandolinist Winston Huega in their sophomore year at CU Boulder, the pair brought on drummer Tyler Gwynn and keyboardist Campbell Thomas. Bassist Andrew Cooney would join the band in 2016, after he agreed last minute to sing the soundtrack from Boogie Nights for a Halloween party that the band had booked, and the five piece has been boogeying ever since.
The band has taken progressive bluegrass roots and weaved in a host of other inspirations like southern rock, psychedelic rock, and a hint of blues; an evolving identity that the group has forged in pursuit of their dream genre of “party music.” With their latest album, Butte La Rose, the band have delved even deeper into their eclectic musical tastes; embracing each of their own unique perspectives with open minds and fast fingers. Of the different sounds found on the upcoming album, bassist Andrew Cooney told MP3 MAG, “We like that there’s no rules. We all have different influences, and within that, each of us has our own diverse taste. We like to play all kinds of weird stuff.”
On Butte La Rose, the band worked with a producer for the first time, Railroad Earth member Tim Carbone. Carbone approached the band in 2018, and the group would eventually get into the studio for a session in 2019 before COVID would put things on hold for a while. The group loved the attitude Carbone brought to the studio, adding in his own expertise while also proposing new ideas without any pressure. “He pushed us to explore our own limits.” Add into the equation engineer Todd Divel and his Silo Sound Studios, with an expanded repertoire of tools and instruments, and the band came out with an intriguing slate of sounds and songs that would become their third album.
The band delved into the world of synths for this album, opening up new avenues for their music and their live shows. Hinting at some of the new sounds from the album was the first single, “Sad Summer,” an indie pop, surf rock bop filled with soaring synths and twinkling strings that fans of the band might not have been expecting.
Not only did they evolve musically, the band also tackled some deeper subjects on their new album. Introspectively reflecting on questions such as self-doubt, depression, and death, the band demonstrate versatility and growth in their songwriting. Winston Huega pays tribute in song to his mentor and hero, Yonder Mountain Strings Band mandolinist, Jeff Austin, who recently took his life. Balancing those deeper reflections with hip shakers and head bangers, Butte La Rose has something for everyone. As it weaves its way through a variety of sonic stylings, the album tells a story. One that is unapologetically the rockin’ Tenth Mountain Division sound.
With four of the five members penning songs as well as taking on lead vocal duties, listeners will get an idea of just how much talent and inspiration this band is working with, and a glimpse at how far they could go. From Thomas’s nuanced vocal range to Cooney’s soulful and bluesy voice, the band is able to cover the broad spectrum of sounds that they come up with on their instruments and bring a unique flair to each song.
The band pondered over the question of not having a lead singer and how that might furrow some brows, but it’s clear that they’ve got a grip on what’s important: honest music that sounds good and feels good. Though the classical notion of a lead singer may still linger for commercial bands, the guys feel little connection to that idea, especially having grown up seeing bands like Yonder Mountain Strings Band and String Cheese Incident pass the mic around. To TMD, having lyrics that are written and sung by the author “makes the songs feel more heartfelt.” Equipped with those heartfelt songs, loveable personalities, and passion for what they do, Tenth Mountain Division are surely set to win the hearts of music fans from all over as they jam through the States.
With their third album on the way on June 18, tons of fun new covers in store, and a group that’s itching to hit the road and jam out, the band’s upcoming album release party at the famed Mishawaka Amphitheater on the album’s release day is sure to be a wild one.
“We’re excited about getting back to playing live shows and finding that strong musical bond where we can communicate with our eyes closed. That’s something we’ve missed during the pandemic.”
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