Four college degrees in music — that is typically four more than most rock bands have among their members, yet that’s the pedigree of Boulder, Colorado-based Gasoline Lollipops.
Frontman Clay Rose, the only one without formal training, appreciates what guitarist Don Ambory, keyboardist Scott Coulter, bassist Bradley Morse and drummer Kevin Matthews bring to the table.
“Everything they’re playing is Greek to me,” Rose says with a laugh. “I write songs with four or five chords, and they turn them into something fancy.”
Rose also credits his bandmates for doing a good job of “keeping themselves grounded” and prioritizing the material.
“If they want to be showing off their chops, they could be in a math-rock band or a jazz band,” he says. “But they understand the importance of the song, the lyric and the message — and they understand the importance of each other, so they do a really good job of not playing over each other. When they do take solos, I advise them to be really melodic. … It’s taken many years to find guys that are this agreeable, humble and modest.”
The latest Gasoline Lollipops album is All the Misery Money Can Buy, which was released Sept. 11. Among its 11 songs are two Rose co-wrote with his mother, Donna Farar, whose composing credits include “Last Thing I Needed First Thing This Morning,” which was a hit for Willie Nelson and has also been recorded by Chris Stapleton.
“My mom, she doesn’t write music: She writes lyrics,” Rose explains. “While I’m trying to figure out chords, all of sudden she says, ‘OK, I got the first verse.’ And I go, ‘What are you talking about? I haven’t even figured out what the chords are yet.’ She says, ‘The chords you played 20 minutes ago. That’s what I wrote this to.’
“[Our writing process] was kind of like that, and it’s good for me because as I get older, I get more and more anal with the writing, so this was very helpful to pry me out of my rut and get me moving. A song is better than no song.”
When it came to recording the new album, Rose says the band was determined to use a facility “somewhere down South” because their material was written “with the idea of Muscle Shoals in the late ’60s and early ’70s — that’s the flavor we wanted.”
They considered Alabama’s Muscle Shoals Sound Studio as well as FAME, along with Ardent Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, before deciding on Dockside Studio in Louisiana.
“It has this giant old barn that was converted into a recording studio downstairs, and upstairs there are all of these lofts to stay in with a kitchen,” Rose says. “It looked like heaven, with the cypress trees and the Spanish moss. … The setup seemed way more relaxed and conducive to writing; we hadn’t fully hammered out all of these songs yet, and we wanted to let the location and the vibe of the studio put the finishing touches on the songs.”
More recently, Rose has spent a lot of time putting the finishing touches on filling out forms and waivers required for his band to play two shows on Sept. 14 at the Red Rocks amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado.
“I think it’s probably just run-of-the-mill red tape at Red Rocks, but that is definitely a different animal for us from booking theater gigs,” he says. “It’s owned by [the City and County of Denver], so there’s so many hands in the pie — and then on top of all that, the COVID regulations that are in place. It was a tight squeeze to get through.”
With capacity maxed at 175 tickets for both shows, Rose anticipates the experience to feel as though “we’re just hanging out with our friends at Red Rocks for the night.”
— By Chris M. Junior