Recently, I had the chance to talk with Clay Rose, the frontman of Colorado's alternative country/folk-punk group Gasoline Lollipops. With the help of producer John McVey and Gregory Alan Isakov violinist Jeb Bows, the GasPops have been putting the finishing touches on their upcoming album Resurrection, thus tying together their 777 album set. Clay and I discussed the band name, the intersection of life and death, and how their music speaks to the evolution of the human soul. Read on:
You’re settled in Boulder now, but where are you all from?
All over the map: I grew up between Boulder and Nashville, our guitar player Donny comes from Chicago, and our bass player Brad is from Niceville, FL. Brad’s the nicest guy you’ve ever met. Adam’s from Pittsburgh, and our fiddle player, Jeb, is from Ward, CO.
Gasoline Lollipops has been a functioning musical machine since 2009. How did you all come to be what you are now?
I’m the last original member of the band; Jeb is another original member, but he’s generally on the road a lot with Gregory Alan Isakov or Brandi Carlile. So whenever he’s not on the road, he’s playing with us.
Boulder has an incredibly eclectic music scene, how did you all come to settle there?
There was no conscious decision to do that. Although, when I moved back here from Nashville in 2002, the music scene was pretty happening, with lots of smaller venues and a wide array of musical styles being played. But, like its architecture, Boulder's music scene has become more homogenized. So now I drive a lot, playing in places like Fort Collins and Denver.
You’ve got quite a diverse string lineup, with one of my favorites, the stand up bass. How did you come to choose this lineup?
It’s a very natural process. If you don’t try to sound like anything, you’re going to end up sounding like like what you listen to. It’s an extremely diverse collection, and I never try to control how any of the players of the band sound. If I like their style and what I’m hearing, I bring them into the band. Donny has a country/rockabilly background, Brad is from classical jazz, Adam is very punk rock, and Jeb has bluegrass-gypsy feel. I like all those kinds of music, and I listen to all of it. So when you put it together, you get something vaguely familiar and extremely real.
You’re classified as “dirt floor folk with the energy of rebelliousness of punk”. That’s a very colorful description of your music. Is that a description that you guy came up with?
The “dirt floor” saying comes from the style of playing where the musicians would stomp through the floor down into the dirt. Our sound sets us up for that kind of genre.
If you could categorize Gasoline Lollipops' sound by a meal or type of food, what meal would it be?
Holy crap, well it wouldn’t be anything I’d want to eat. Maybe Tex Mex with a scoop of ice cream and cinnamon schnapps poured all over it. We also came up with an acronym for our genre called PAFC*R (punk alternative folk country rock). So that’s a good way to describe us.
Speaking of food, your band name, Gasoline Lollipops, elicits a very visceral reaction, if you ask me. Where does the name Gasoline Lollipops come from?
It comes from LSD, to be honest with you. Actually, the name came way before the band. It came from eating LSD with a friend back in high school, sitting around coming up with band names. I don’t even think I played guitar at the time. The name came up and it stuck with me, like, “Man, if I ever come up with a band, I’m going to name it Gasoline Lollipops”. I think the band kind of ended up growing into our name. We play things that are sweet and sincere, on one hand, and explosive on the other. It really is lyrical folk punk.
I hear you guys are a fairly superstitious group who dabble in the supernatural from time to time. For example, your “777” album mantra. Would you mind talking more about that?
Yes, superstition rock, which more stems from a gambling addiction. 777 will save your life, you know, when you pawn off the last penny of your chipped college fund. So 777 in that regard, is the same kinda deal as Jesus. Or Elvis, if you’re in Vegas. In Vegas, Elvis and Jesus are the same person. So that’s where all lines intersect, in Vegas.
No, so the 777 deal is that there are 7 songs on each of the 3 albums. So we’re hoping that once Resurrection is released, that will spark the second coming of Jesus or Elvis… or both.
And when will 'Resurrection' be released?
Nothing is set in stone yet. We keep vacillating between Halloween and Valentine’s Day.
How else does your belief in the supernatural play into your music? What other themes pop up in your music?
I definitely sing about damnation a lot. I sing about gambling, devils, angels, and resurrection, but I always have to believe in resurrection, even in the darkest songs. I gotta put in at least a little peppering of that into each song.
Would you consider yourself a religious group at all?
(Laughs) [We’re] absolutely not religious; we’re the most hedonistic band you can think of. It’s just writing about life experiences, but I have to put it in the context the masses can relate to. Many people in this culture think in a dualistic nature. They want to know if you’re talking about light or dark, black or white. So you have to use that language, but I’m really just talking about the evolution of the human soul.
Are there any songs in particular that you would recommend for somebody who is interested in these themes?
Definitely- listen to the songs “Resurrection,” “Devil's in the Ace”, and “Cannonball”.
Do each of these albums tie-in together, concept wise? Or are they completely different?
Not completely different. Like I said, I try to speak in dualities in practice, but I tried to make Dawn the more idealistic album, and Death the more jaded "falling into darkness" album. Resurrection will kick off where Death left off, but will redeem itself back into the light… hopefully.
Are you working on any new music?
Yeah, we are definitely bringing a lot of new music into our live shows that are not even in Resurrection. We’ve probably got half of our next album already written. We can’t stay in one genre for too long, so it’ll be something new.
You just played at Underground Music Showcase this summer, and at an erotic novel convention in Las Vegas. Any other upcoming performances?
We’re playing one huge show at Caribou Room on September 23, and we’re really excited about that. It’s a fairly new venue and they’re really going all out for it.
If you could pick one of your creative idols to sit down with, alive or deceased, who would you choose?
It would be Leonard Cohen. I wouldn’t want to say a word. I would just want to sit in silence and look at him.
Great answer. So lastly, any final sentiments? Anything you’d like the world to know?
Just that the Gasoline Lollipops love you.
Be sure to catch the GasPops next at their Caribou Room (9/23) show in Nederland, Colorado. Other shows they’ve got on the books include Swing Station (10/14) in Fort Collins, Denver’s Hi-Dive (11/10), and the historic Gold Hill Inn in Boulder on New Year’s Eve. And keep up with them on their Facebook.
All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artist featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.