Tenth Mountain Division: Ski Rock for Your Summer

By: Hannah Oreskovich

Tenth Mountain Division dropped their debut album recently, and it's taking off like a skier on fresh powder.

Ski Rock. That’s the sound Boulder’s Tenth Mountain Division have coined for themselves, and it fits. With rock, jam, and bluegrass influences, the five-piece have been picking up notable steam  in the local mountain scene and beyond. Just this spring, the band released their debut album, Cracks In The Sky, which quickly earned them critical acclaim, a summer tour, and a spot on Illinois’ Summer Camp Music Festival. Before this rockin’ crew hits the road, we decided to sit down with co-founder MJ Ouimette to get the full scoop on TMD’s formation, their record, and more! The boys play a hometown gig at The Lazy Dog tomorrow for Cinco de Mayo, which you should definitely check out. Read on:

Boulder's Tenth Mountain Division. 

Boulder's Tenth Mountain Division. 

So MJ- how did Tenth Mountain Division get started, and how long you have been playing together as a band?

Winston Heuga and I originally met in highschool in our hometown of Vail, CO. After practicing together for a year or so, and writing our first original tunes, we decided to legitimize our music from the ground up; from Winston’s Mom’s basement to the stage. We had the idea to perform as a bluegrass band, since our main influences included Sam Bush and Leftover Salmon. Eventually, we evolved into an electric adaptation of our prior selves, and our “ski rock” sound was fully realized at CU, where we met Connor Dunn, Tyler Gwynn and Campbell Thomas. In total, TMD has been a project for a year and a half.

Wow! That’s sweet that you guys were able to put out your debut album within essentially a year’s time. Where was Cracks in the Sky recorded? Did you work with a producer, and if so, who?

Cracks In the Sky was recorded at KMG Life Inc. Studios. The album is self produced, but has largely been successful thanks to our sound engineer Cameron Mannix. He worked with us tirelessly and off the clock to help us achieve what we desired. Mannix had actually been working with us for the year leading up to our recording process on projects, and because he had that knowledge of our sound coming in, his work really contributed to the authenticity of Cracks In The Sky.

Awesome. What’s behind the name of the album?

“Cracks In the Sky”, the album’s title track, is the first song Winston and I wrote together. For the most part, he wrote it and I helped arranged the music and the middle verse. But the title, in short, is the easiest explanation of everything we’ve done up to this point.

Cool. Talk to us about the other tracks on the album. How did you choose what to record?

The songs we decided on put on the album are mostly an amalgamation of the diverse talents in the group. Be it my own “Morning Drive” and “Fine Print”, Winston’s “By the Riverside” and “Matryoshka Mountains” or Campbell’s “Conspiracy”, there is a diverse yet coherent congruency from song to song that demonstrates both our varied backgrounds and influences, and the intersections between them all that make us Tenth Mountain Division.

Awesome. Does everyone in the band write?

Winston has written many of the basic outlines and lyrics for the group; he is a great lyricist. Although I have a few songs lyrically that I’ve written as well, the basic formula is Winston presenting a sketch that I solidify musically with arrangements. There is always constant interaction and influence between all of us in the band though.

Listen to TMD’s Cracks In The Sky:

LP versus EP is always a tough question. How did you guys decide on releasing a full length?

Ultimately, we decided that it’s far too common to release an EP as a first recording effort, and we had too much material that we wanted to exhibit. When I look at my biggest influences, I don’t think about their first EP, I think about their first album. We collectively wanted to create an all-encompassing piece of art rather than just a fraction of it.

Fair enough. What are Tenth Mountain Division’s plans for the summer?

“Eskimo”, one of my favorite tracks on the album, will have a music video that will be released in the very near future. Beyond that, we’re touring the Midwest and East Coast, along with our appearance at Summer Camp Music Festival.

We saw you were on that fest lineup- tell us more about that!

We won Summer Camp’s “On the Road” competition series at the Fox Theatre in January, which allowed us the opportunity to perform at the event. It is both humbling and exciting to have won the event and to perform among the heavy hitters of the vast and talented genre of “jam” music.

Make sure to catch Tenth Mountain Division jamming at The Lazy Dog tomorrow night! Join the Facebook event here. And keep with this talented ski rock outfit here.

-Hannah

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All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured. This interview was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.