Local Tracks: Tenth Mountain Division headlines show at Fox Theatre, Aug. 25
Special to the Daily
When 2012 Battle Mountain High School graduates Winston Heuga and MJ Ouimette coined the term “ski rock” with the three other members of their band, Tenth Mountain Division, they wanted to create fun music that embodied the joy and playfulness of the mountains.
Then they started sharing it. Then people wanted more of it. Now the band will headline a show at the Fox Theatre in Boulder today.
“It’s a term we coined for ourselves,” Ouimette said. “It’s a sort of mix between bluegrass and the rock songs you might hear in a Warren Miller movie. We figured it would be easier to invent a genre than try to create music that fits with something that isn’t what we love to make.”
The genre and their music, which is designed to “embody the wild spirit of mountain towns,” is the result of an evolution in the writing styles of Heuga, who plays mandolin; Ouimette, guitar; and East Coast keyboardist Campbell Thomas, who also sings. The band has two more members: Connor Dunn on bass and Tyler Gwynn on drums.
“We all have really different influences, and that is probably what also makes our music different,” Heuga said. “Our keyboard guy has a classical and jazz background. Our drummer grew up on punk. MJ and I had a lot of bluegrass influences growing up in the mountains. It’s all culminated in this awesome electrified rock sound.”
Sticking to their roots and embracing new sounds, such as Heuga playing mandolin in an electric rock band, has allowed for a genuine love for the music they make. Both Heuga and Ouimette cite these reasons for their recent success.
The duo began playing music together in high school and played small acoustic gigs at places like The Bookworm of Edwards. They always imagined playing with a five-member band, but it wasn’t until they enrolled at the University of Colorado Boulder that the talent provided itself.
“We started jamming with anyone and everyone we could find,” Ouimette said. “We suddenly had gathered this group of musicians who shared that same passion for Colorado and the mountains and wanted to apply that to music.”
The group has since released its first album, “Cracks in the Sky,” which can be streamed on Spotify or iTunes and is available for a free download on the band’s website, http://www.tenthmountaindivisionmusic.com. The album centers on a theme of growing up in the mountains, with lyrics that cite Camp Hale, backcountry skiing and summers spent by the creeks and waterfalls.
They spent the summer touring on the East Coast but re-centered their schedule on the Summer Camp music festival in Illinois when they won a contest for stage time there. The festival also featured names such as Tom Petty, Big Gigantic, Thievery Corporation, The Roots and more.
“It’s kind of funny, we actually got into that festival because we won a competition playing at the Fox Theatre in Boulder,” Heuga said. “It’s been like six months, and we are coming back to headline there.”
While juggling opportunities to play bigger shows and make more music, the band’s moniker grows ever more important to them. They decided on “Tenth Mountain Division” as homage to their mountain roots, which has helped immensely in differentiating their music from a saturated market of bluegrass and rock ’n’ roll tunes.
“As we grow, our name seems to take on more and more meaning,” Heuga said. “We grew up on stories of the Tenth Mountain Division, what they did for the mountains and our hometown. It is a reminder of our music and a symbol of mountain-town living and the life that comes with it.”
Local Tracks is a new twice-monthly series highlighting Eagle County musicians and bands. Want to see your band featured in the High Life section? Email arts and entertainment editor Krista Driscoll at email@example.com for more information.