Gasoline Lollipops’ Clay Rose has beaten his demons, finished the band’s album Resurrection and finally completed the greater ‘Lucky 7’ Album trilogy
KGNU Kabaret | February 7 Hodi’s Half Note | February 10 Fox Theatre | February 14
By Brian F. Johnson
Clay Rose had it all figured out. Back in 2012, when his band The Gasoline Lollipops had just released their EP Dawn, Rose — who had just had a child — was in a place where “things were looking up.” Dawn was to be the first in a trilogy of EPs which he planned to have released by the spring of 2013. But before that ambitious project could come to fruition, Rose, a former addict, took what he thought was a well-deserved trip to the dark side that not only destroyed the timeline of the trilogy’s release, but also nearly cost Rose his life.
Now however, after a full immersion and escape from the grips of addiction, Rose, a year sober, has finally completed the trilogy and this month Gasoline Lollipops will release the closing chapter in the set, Resurrection.
“That original timeline falls under the category of ‘If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plan,’” said Rose, during a recent interview with The Marquee. “Life has a funny way of imitating art, you know? I thought that I could get that shit done in a year. But my life started imitating the art and I actually had to go through a dawn, death and resurrection of my own. I didn’t know my life was going to go that way. That was my dawn, you know? And then I kind of fell off the rails a little bit with my demons and vices and I took a little detour to the dark side, man. And it took a while for that to burn itself out.”
Rose’s original plan was simple enough. Release three, seven song EPs titled Dawn, Death and Resurrection as part of a “Lucky 7” trilogy.
While the schedule had changed, the Gas Pops did manage to follow Dawn with Death in 2014, but Clay admits that record was a bit of a shit show. “We went up to this place near the Peak to Peak Highway and locked ourselves in this barn in the middle of winter for like four or five days. I was just eating acid by the handful and fucking drinking copious amounts of liquor and that’s how we recorded Death. We all set up in the same room together and hit ‘Record’ and it was a psychedelic mess. You can hear that on the record. There’s no overdubs. The whole record was done totally live,” he said. “I had a great time recording it, but I don’t know if anybody wants to ever listen to that record — but it was fun to record.”
Following the release of Death, Rose, quite literally, started to veer directly toward the album’s title. His drinking and cocaine use spiraled out of control and he got to the point where he said it was his intention to commit suicide with liquor. When he told this to a friend though, prior to a gig at the Stage Stop in Rollinsville, his friend jumped into action with a method Rose had utilized in the past, and gave him the slap across the face that he needed. “She took off and I started playing my set,” Rose explained. “She came back halfway through the first set and dropped two gummy bears in my hand and said ‘Eat the candy.’ I was just drunk enough to eat them, and I didn’t know it, but she had put like 3 or 4 drops [of LSD]on each one. She was saying ‘Wake the fuck up’ by giving me such a heavy dose. I’ve never played music tripping so hard. I stopped the set early because I couldn’t see anything. It was just a blur of color and light.”
The friend then thwarted Rose’s attempts to continue drinking that night, and after the tumultuous many hours that followed, Rose came out of the haze with a new perspective. “My heart broke. My heart just fully fucking broke,” Rose said. “My guard was down enough, my ego was down enough and I was on enough LSD to really see myself objectively. There were no qualms about it. There was no fucking pride. There was no arguing. I just looked at the situation and said ‘I’m a fucking drug addict and an alcoholic. I can’t afford to do this. I can’t afford to live this lifestyle. I have a kid. I have a wife, and a life and I don’t want to die.’ And I just saw really clearly the things I had to do. It wasn’t code red. It was very peaceful and that was the last day I did anything — November 7 of 2015.”
Having been through his own Dawn and Death, Rose is now facing Resurrection, which not surprisingly comes off as the most solid, well-rounded album of the trilogy.
Beginning with a solemn strumming, Rose and company — which includes guitarist Donny Ambory, bassist Brad Morse, drummer Adam Perry and fiddler Jeb Bows, who also plays with Gregory Alan Isakov — delicately set a somber tone on the title track “Resurrection,” as his gravelly voice tells a story that draws certain parallels to his final night of drinking. But shortly after the one-minute mark the Gas Pops’ muted start is splintered into annihilation as the band careens toward more explosive territory; a stompy, throaty stew of genres that envelops post-punk, Gothic Americana, and rock and roll, in addition to a slew of other spices. But the Gas Pops never remain in one spot too long and in the third movement of the track, near the four-minute mark, the band hits a frantic acoustic slam that echoes the wild “hobocore” of The Goddamn Gallows and the gypsy parade of Gogol Bordello.
It’s this emotional roller coaster that twists, turns, soars and dips throughout the album. The exuberant “Mary Rose” — which features guest vocalist and regular Gas Pop accompanist Alexandra Schwan — sounds delightfully triumphant despite the song’s tragic subject. The darkly good-humored track “Jesus” references many of the great musicians who passed before their time (Jimi, Janis, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and Elvis) and is irreverently nonsecular with the line “Jesus ain’t dead, he’s asleep on the bed, and Elvis is cooking him eggs.”
The record ends with “Santa Maria,” which begins as a flamenco-textured waltz that gives Bows a vast canvas on which he paints his most beautiful fiddle work.
The 11-track album breaks Rose’s original idea of a three-EP set of seven songs each, but as he found through Resurrection when breathing life back into a corpse, things always come back different than they were before.
“We actually recorded the album in full, not all the same songs as what’s on it now. But we recorded seven songs twice and I threw it all away, because it just wasn’t working. And then at the end of that shit, through the morphing from the dark back into the light, I wrote three of the songs that are on the record now and we went back in the studio and it was an almost effortless recording process this time,” he said.
He went on to explain that the concept of resurrection runs far deeper than he originally thought when he first birthed the idea for the album trilogy, and in fact, it’s been more than an emergence from his dark days, but also a resurrection of his soul’s foundation.
“The most important thing you bring back from the grave is the wisdom of death, and the knowledge of impermanence. Right now, for me, I’m trying to reinstate a lot of beliefs and philosophies and enthusiasm that I had when I was a kid — like a childlike view of love and hope. Those are things that I thought were for children and when I got to a certain calloused age I thought adults don’t have that, if they’re smart. Like, you only have hope if you’re a fucking idiot. And that was the beginning of death for me. I didn’t know that. I thought what I was acquiring was a skill set to get me through this dog-eat-dog world and that it was going to make me hard and tough and more efficient at life, but it actually just fucking ripped the soul out of my body and almost killed me completely. So I have to incorporate the wisdom of death and the dark side into my newfound hope and love because it is childlike. I don’t expect now for the world to reflect my views. I know that it won’t and I choose love and hope anyway because it feels better and it has a better effect on the people around me.”
KGNU Kabaret | February 7
Go If You Dig:
- Slim Cessna’s Auto Club
- The Goddamn Gallows
- Gogol Bordello