Mt. Desolation’s Debut Album Delivers Rich and Melodic Alt-Country from Keane Members
With their three albums selling over a million copies each, Keane has been the British band to watch for over the past decade. Jesse Quin and Tim Rice-Oxley of Keane will be releasing a new album under the name Mt. Desolation, on October 19th through Interscope Records. The band has been receiving a flurry of attention since news broke of their formation earlier this year. Anticipation of this project is bolstered by the addition of members of The Killers (Ronnie Vannucci), Mumford & Sons (Winston Marshall), The Long Winters (John Roderick) and Noah and the Whale (Tom Hobden), who joined Quin and Oxley in studio. For their upcoming North American tour, they are joined by Jessica Staveley (of the group of sisters The Staves) on gorgeous backing vocals, and a full band of bass, guitar, fiddle, drums and piano.
This album takes Quin and Oxley in an alternative-country direction, including stripped down and experimental songs, and a bluesy track as well. Those versed in the works of Jack Kerouac may recognize the band name as the fictional mountain discussed in The Dharma Bums, his 1956 beat-generation adventure novel. The band just finished up their tour of the UK, and are about to kick off an American tour beginning in LA on the 18th. The band gives Quin a chance to flaunt his songwriting talents to wider American audiences. He plays bass for Keane, but primarily has written songs for the lesser known British band Jesse Quin and the Mets.
A stand-out track from their new album is “State of Our Affairs”, written by Quin. He is quite proud of the song, and explains that although it is, “More serious than other songs on the album, it has a great sound, and creates a good feeling for album.”
Another highlight for Quin is the song “Bridal Gown” written by Oxley, “It’s a beautiful song. I also love ‘Coming Home’. Tim wrote a new song called ‘Your Kind of Life’, which I really enjoy as well.”
The band recorded a gorgeous video for “State of Our Affairs” at an old theater venue in London, “We recorded the video for our song ‘Bitter Pill’ on same day,” Quin explained. “We wanted to do simple performance videos. The venue had a particular magic to it, with weird paintings that went with the tone of the songs.”
Another especially memorable track is “Departure”, a jaunty, foot-stomping tune that convinces the listener of the great appeal of moving on. The video features a shot of the countryside slowing changing in the seasons, while Polaroids of the band performing are held in different collage styles in front of the landscape. It is both simple and original, a perfect nostalgic memento of singing the memories of travel. “Tom Palliser, a good friend of Keane’s, approached us about directing the video. He is a really nice guy. He said, ‘I’ve got this great idea—we’ll use Polaroids.’ I responded saying it sounded cool, but I didn’t really understand what he meant,” Quin laughed. “Then he sent us the first minute, and we thought it was brilliant.”
The group has had so much fun working together, that they imagine it would be hard to not get together for another album. Quin describes being a musician as, “A nice way to live. You never feel like you’ve reached top. If you have a job filing or making burgers in McDonalds, you can feel like you’ve reached point where it can’t get better. Every day at work in music you are making yourself better. It’s great that there is always room for improvement.”
After reading On the Road, Quin and Oxley were further inspired by Kerouac’s third novel, The Dharma Bums. “The travel aspect, and soul searching theme of the book suits this album,” Quin explained. Among the album’s ten tracks, the song “Midnight Ghost” takes direct inspiration from the narration of wandering and social displacement in Kerouac’s novel. The obsession with Kerouac’s life and work is a definite trend among alternative rock musicians today, with lauded artists such as Ben Gibbard taking part in both Death Cab for Cutie’s latest album, and in a documentary soundtrack with Jay Farrar.
This project certainly gives Quin a chance to become more confident onstage, as he takes a leading role with Oxley, “I like creating music and performing with instruments, just not singing live. There is a lot of pressure, and I am not very comfortable with it. It is hard work, and a challenge for me. It’s something to conquer, but I do find it draining, and stressful. This is helping me become more comfortable.”
Quin first played with Keane for the War Child Benefit show in 2007, but says he finds political involvement, “A difficult subject—your job is to be an entertainer. People pay you their hard earned money for you to give them relief, comfort, sanctuary and enjoyment in life, to have fun. It can be dangerous, since it is not your job to be politically involved, and if you don’t know what you are talking about, it is even more dangerous. With success as a musician though, you can be a good influence. You should use your position to encourage people to do good things. Politically it is not too good, but for charity, it is almost a responsibility and duty.”
Fan appreciation is very important to both Oxley and Quin, and that is what Quin loves most about performing, “It doesn’t matter where venue is, what country, it’s all about whether the crowd is enjoying it. We have played at some really nice places—but what makes it is the audience. You can make it as great as possible depending on who is there. It’s just as fun to play small gigs. Playing in the Highlands [at the Loopallu festival] in Scotland was just as exciting and fun as playing the bigger venues. If you love music and playing, doesn’t matter where it is.”
If you are not able to catch the Mt. D gang on their tour, check out an amazing performance of their song “Bitter Pill” in a Dublin park for Bandwidth Sessions. “It was quite fun,” Quin recalled. “It was a grey, miserable day. We filmed in Victoria Iveagh Gardens, which is a famous park, and we used this beautiful old bandstand. We found a good spot down the street, a quieter area of the park that had this cool maze.”
As far as what Quin is listening to these days, he raves, “I’m really invested in the Arcade Fire album, and I haven’t stopped listening to the Jayhawks album since I got it. It’s absolutely amazing.”
If you are looking for a quick sample of the band, be sure to watch their “Bitter Pill” performance for Bandwidth—the video feels so fresh and natural, and the song is too catchy and emotional to pass up.