(The Gasoline Lollipops, aka the GasPops, at Oskar Blues in Lyons, CO.)
TipJar: Who all is in the GasPops?
Adam Perry: Don Ambory plays lead guitar; Clay Rose writes the songs, sings and plays rhythm guitar; Brad Morse plays upright bass; and I play drums. The incredibly talented Jeb Bows plays fiddle in Gasoline Lollipops as well as Gregory Alan Isakov’s band. Alexandra Schwan sings some great harmonies with Clay sometimes too. Hopefully more in the near future.
How’d the band come together?
Clay Rose, who I met in a Naropa University music class, has been singing, playing guitar and writing songs since he was a kid, growing up in Colorado and the South. The Gasoline Lollipops actually started as a kind of psychobilly or punk-rock country band, whatever you want to call it, but right now it leans closer to alt-country with a little punk rock edge. I filled in on drums for a few shows last fall and officially joined just a couple months ago when longtime GasPops drummer Jonny Mouser, whose drumming I really admire, moved on.
Where’d the name come from?
Via carrier pigeon, scrawled in gold Sharpie on an 8×10 promotional photograph of Jesus Christ during his Viva Las Vegas phase, when he had those big sideburns and a gigantic pompadour.
Are you all from Colorado?
Clay would call himself a Colorado native, and Jeb is from a little mountain town above Boulder called Ward, but the rest of us are from far-flung parts of the U.S.
How would you describe your sound?
I wouldn’t say Gasoline Lollipops is a country band, but it seems much of the spirit of Clay’s songs is inspired by Johnny Cash, Townes Van Zandt and Hank Williams as much as Leonard Cohen, who is probably his biggest influence. I love that Clay’s songs have the sincerity of the best of what might be called Americana but often also the energy of a classic California punk band like Operation Ivy. Our upcoming EP, Resurrection, is going to have a bunch of different feels on it, from a mellow two-step to a border-town film-noir piece, but everything has Clay’s sort of American-highway stamp on it.
How do you know Al Laughlin from Highway 50?
Al is a mutual friend of the bassist Tony Soto, who is a great guy. I’ve played drums for a few shows with Highway 50. It’s always fun being around Al and experience his unpredictable musicianship and performance style. You need a seatbelt to play with that guy. He was a musical keystone of that signature Samples sound and should be more appreciated around here for helping put Boulder on the map in the ’90s.
Do you have big plans for the band?
We’re looking to keep improving as performers and recording artists, keep growing our audience and keep honoring Clay’s songwriting.
Can you tell me about some of the shows you guys have lined up this summer?
I’m excited about UMS and the Westword Showcase, because Denver is really one of the best American cities for rock music right now and it’s an honor to not only get to perform at those festivals but hear all the great bands we have time to check out. The Divide Festival is going to be fun; Deborah Harry is definitely a legend with all the CBGB’s history Blondie has, and it will be interesting to see what Edward Sharpe sounds like without Jade. I’m looking forward to playing Ophelia’s on June 23, too. It’s a unique venue, and it’s always fun to share a bill with Patti Fiasco. She kicks ass and dresses like a superhero.
Will you tour out of state?
Do you identify with other bands in terms of your sound or attitude – which ones?
I don’t think there is one band that Gasoline Lollipops identifies with specifically, and that’s a good thing. Hopefully we take what’s powerful and engaging from all kinds of music we all love – whether it’s the Stones, Willie Nelson or the Cramps – and put it behind Clay’s songs. Personally my biggest influences are probably Elvin Jones and Topper Headon, their explosiveness and crispness and versatility. I also learned a lot as a kid from Keith Moon and Lars Ulrich, specifically that crashes don’t have to happen where common sense says they should. Greg Saunier of Deerhoof is another guy who taught me that energy, and responding to and supporting what’s happening around you, is paramount. But for this music I want to focus on becoming steadier and more reliable like Jim Keltner.
Is there a particular song or two that you guys are really tearing up live at the moment?
“The Wire” is this really great, fast-paced, boot-stomping song that starts out slow and quiet with an improvisational section captained by Brad Morse, who is just a monster musician, a great listener and anchor as well as a soloist. Brad is amazing at having the restraint to focus on making the song sound good rather than just himself – so people walk away going “What a great song!” rather than “What a great musician that one guy was!” – and then playing something mesmerizing when the time comes to unleash a solo. On “The Wire” he gets to start the song by essentially telling whatever story he wants to express at that moment, and when Jeb Bows is with us the two of them tell an extraordinary story together, before the rest of the band jumps in on the fun and builds this kind of monolith that becomes “The Wire.” There is a littlevideo of it online right now that someone in the audience took, and what we do there is a big part of what I’m excited about doing on stage this summer.