Artist In Focus: Jubilo Drive

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Photo Credit: Kurt Vaughn

Forming a band in college presents an awkward challenge. If you’re a high school band, you can spend a few years jamming after graduation while you figure the whole adulthood thing out. If you went to college, there’s generally an expectation that all your parents’ money went towards something substantial and that you’ll be getting a “real job” soon. No matter how good you and your band were back in the dorm days, there’s a high likelihood you’ll all split off into separate careers and only get the band back together for weddings.

This is what makes Chapman University’s own Jubilo Drive and their new album, TAQUERIA, all the more impressive. Rather than caving to the pressures of “getting a real job” in post-grad life, the band doubled down to crowd-fund and self-produce an album. “The whole transition [after college] has made everything feel more real. It forced us to coordinate schedules, plan ahead, and be concise in how we approach our long-term goals,” says the band’s drummer, Eric Cruz. It’s a surprising level of forethought and maturity from a group that started out as a college jam band. It also speaks volumes to their devoted fanbase around the Chapman campus and beyond. “It was like ‘oh shit does anyone actually give a fuck about this music? I sure hope so…’ Turns out people did, and we raised 4k,” says guitarist Jordan H. Kleinman.

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Photo Credit: Paul Hill

That may be because they’ve never really seen themselves as just a jam band. As bassist and lead singer Hayden Vaughn puts it, “TAQUERIA represents everything we experienced during the years we lived in Orange, but it stands for more than college, Orange County, or being in our 20’s. I personally aim to tell universal, human stories with every song.” The band’s collection of influences has expanded well beyond Southern California garage rock and incorporates elements of psyche and funk. “We rely less on strict riffing and repetitive chord progressions [now],” says Hayden.

Lyrically, the band has taken on greater depths as well; for instance, the track “Rosa” sounds like a love song but is really about a guitar that belongs to Hayden. “My uncle gave it to me – it was my cousin’s in the 80’s before he died in an awful motorcycle crash.  It always commanded my imagination just like a beautiful and intriguing woman would, so I wrote the lyrics that you hear today.”

However, TAQUERIA never forgets its roots. Hayden produced most of the album and “wanted more than anything to capture the ‘live vibe’ we worked so hard to develop.” They achieved this by primarily recording at the house Eric and Jordan shared, really the only way to properly record a band that formed in college. The nitty-gritty of the recording process consisted of “a sweaty garage and anxious old Hayden tapping his foot until you nailed your part,” as Henry Kuckens, the other half of Jubilo Drive’s guitar duo, puts it. That focus to get things just right and the overall DIY ethos seeps into the sound of the whole record.

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Photo Credit: Kody Riewthong

The college fans who were devoted enough to donate to the record certainly don’t seem disappointed in the album. The band unanimously agrees that their album release party at Echoes Under Sunset is one of the highlights of their career. Even as they expand beyond their campus beginnings, it’s impressive to see how much of their original core remains devoted.

While they don’t have definitive plans to tour yet, Jubilo Drive’s relentless live schedule (they’re on their way to hitting 100 shows this year) suggests that they could easily find the motivation to hurl themselves across the United States in a van. Hopefully, particularly if stations like KCRW pick up TAQUERIA, the band could play SXSW next year and see where the music takes them from there. For now, you can catch them primarily in Los Angeles. As Jordan puts it, “Come to our shows, they’re a good time. You can watch me turn a shirt into a slightly darker shade of its original color… from all the sweat.” TAQUERIA is available on Spotify, Soundcloud, and Bandcamp.

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Carter Moon grew up in the desolate Evangelic capital of the world and responded by developing a taste in counter culture, which eventually bloomed into a love for filmmaking and screenwriting. Carter has average opinions on most things, but will defend them adamantly and loudly until no one else wants to bother speaking up. He runs Crossfader's podcast, IN THE CROSSHAIRS.

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