There’s a reason why a band gains momentum. Sometimes people connect through the language of music, and what comes of it, well, it’s undeniable. That’s kind of the story of Gasoline Lollipops, a band escaping genre confinement as they set every show ablaze with heart-forward, stomping, growling tunes.
Jeb Bows, an exceptional fiddler from the tiny town of Ward, CO, talked about this language of music with me recently, in an interview about his role in the Gas Pops.
“I was four years old when my eye caught a violin posted on the wall of the cabin I was born in.” Jeb told me, taking me back to the start of his music career.
“I learned to play music as someone would learn to speak their native language.” Jeb said, “It’s called the Suzuki Method, invented by Shinichi Suzuki, a Japanese violinist. The premise of the method is listening to sounds and figuring out how to produce the sounds you’re hearing, not unlike a baby learns to speak from watching and mimicking its parents… Music’s been my life path since.”
Jeb plays the fiddle with the Gas Pops, but he also dabbles in other music projects.
As he says, “I stay really busy, but rarely do I say no,” when it comes to playing with other musicians and singer-songwriters. You’ll see him playing a sold out Red Rocks shows with Gregory Alan Isakov or in a local coffee shop swooning a small crowd with his violin alongside other, lesser known, but no less talented musicians. Bows has a keen ability to sync with anybody he plays with, a gift and a privilege he is very well aware of having.
But not all of Jeb’s life was as smooth as the vibrations he creates on that fiddle of his. He spent a chunk of time in Los Angeles walking down a dark, dead-end road and lost himself in the process. He stopped playing music for a while. It took a few years of meandering in the dark for fate to finally come knocking. And she gave him a choice, “What’s it gonna be, Jeb Bows, music or death?”
Right around the time Jeb was figuring out his way back to sobriety, Clay Rose, the frontman of the Gas Pops was fighting his own demons and self-destructive behavior. Clay grew up in the South, always an outsider bullied by other kids for being different. He was a rebel without a cause, maybe, but he was definitely someone who wanted to make himself stand tall… but not before hitting rock bottom first. As fate would have it, when Jeb moved from L.A. back to Boulder, and Clay moved to Boulder from Nashville, Clay started the Gas Pops and Jeb joined very shortly afterward, the two having met through a mutual friend.
When I asked Clay about his inspiration for Gas Pops he told me, “If you put a tin can over my chest and listen you would hear this… The [Gas Pops] songs are extremely personal. It’s where I come to play, to confess, for redemption, and where I flog myself.”
Music for Clay is a way of coping with feelings that have no place in this world; it’s what saved him and gave him a purpose. Though his start in the language of music was admittedly a little different. One of his earliest musical influences was a random cassette tape he found in his mother’s closet with Leonard Cohen on one side, and Tim Buckley on the other.
“That’s when I started writing poetry, because I realized Cohen was writing about things I didn’t know you could talk about. I didn’t know there was language for it. He validated that these things exist and that they can be expressed.”
Clay went on, “There’s a lot of songs I write that I won't play for anyone for months, because I think, man, I can’t be that transparent. But, eventually, I’ll present it to the band and they’ll urge me to play it at our shows. So, I’ll play it and cringe for months.Then the people from the crowd will come up to me and affirm that that song means alot to them, and I start to feel better about it. And that’s when I remember the reason I’m doing this in the first place. My function, my validation as a musician, is to validate the lonely and suffering.”
And Jeb’s musical mission isn’t far from Clay’s.
“I’ve dedicated my life to sharing in the light and love and connecting with everyone who wants to play and listen, because, in the end, we’re all better for it.” Bows smiled.
The truth is, if you get the Gas Pops in a room, the whole crowd will undoubtedly perk their ears and pay attention. The band taps into something others can relate to, whether through the language of hardship or love, and they prove time and again that their music is something to get down and dance to no matter your life experiences.
Gasoline Lollipops’ music has been called alt country, gypsy folk, and punk rock among others. Even the guys themselves can’t quite tell you what genre they sound like. But really, who cares? If we can connect through the language of music itself without having to confine it to genre, then I think times are ripe with progress. These days you’re a good musician if you can pluck from the tree of knowledge and make it into something totally your own. Sometimes it takes a group of people to create a special work of art, and sometimes trials and tribulations to show you the way. That’s the Gas Pops.
The Gasoline Lollipops just finished their new album Resurrection, the final piece of their Lucky 7 Trilogy, and are celebrating this Valentine’s Day with a CD Release Party at the Fox Theatre in Boulder, Colorado. Foxfeather and Kid Reverie will share the stage. Explore the Gas Pops’ language of music for yourself on a night where we could all use light and love- get your tickets here!
All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artist featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.