Indy: You were pretty seriously pursuing a career as an author and working on a novel when, during a single week, you broke up with a longtime girlfriend, found out your mother had pancreatic cancer and learned you had an autoimmune condition. How did this awful week play a role in your switch to music?
MJ: Two weeks into [writing the novel], that whole week happened and I couldn't write. So I started picking up this old guitar I had been playing and started sitting down every day and writing songs. Six months went by, and I had barely touched the novel ... I just knew I wanted to be in a rock band. I guess it was just more fun.
Indy: Airborne Toxic Event got a reputation as a pretty wild live band when you played a residency at Spaceland in [Los Angeles'] Silver Lake, before you really started touring nationally. What was it like?
MJ: We'd always heard that the Silver Lake crowd in particular was so detached or whatever, but our show got this reputation. People would come up and would tell us that they cried at the show, and people would be dancing and jumping. It was fun for us. And more than fun, we were trying to create this real sense of this kind of collective spirit ... On a good night, you'd pull it off.
Indy: Your band is now starting to take off nationally. You have a Top 10 modern rock hit, "Sometime Around Midnight," off your self-titled debut, Do you feel the momentum?
MJ: The way it works when you're a young band is, it feels like a train that comes and picks you up, and it's like getting on the subway. You don't know if you're going to go three stops down to the corner deli or you're going to go to Iceland. You just ride for as long as you can.
Denver's Bluebird Theater Feb. 23 show is sold out.
Look for tickets at or around the venue.