The dust has barely settled on Coachella, but Jam in the Van is ready to take on the desert again. Touted as the world’s first solar-powered mobile music studio and discovery platform, the vehicle travels the country to scout talent.
Jam in the Van recorded music at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival during the last two weekends and will be back in Indio for the Stagecoach Festival come Friday.
Also a performance session platform, the van hosted more than 15 live acts (some via satellite) during Weekend Two of Coachella alone. All those sets will be available on YouTube and the Jam in the Van site, where new sessions are uploaded every weekday as part of a video series.
What started in 2011 as a means to getting to the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Tennessee, turned into a full-blown business venture for Jake Cotler, Dave Bell and Louis Peek. Gary Clark Jr., George Clinton, Matisyahu, Sublime, Robert DeLong, Milo Greene, Blues Traveler, Portugal. The Man, Cody Simpson and The Strumbellas are among the 500-plus artists who have jammed in the van.
Clark’s recording — a highlight for Cotler and Bell — was almost ruined when a drunk festival goer at Telluride making a scene outside had to be tazed by police, who were ready to storm into the van to shut down the operation.
The van also ventured to the famous Rancho De La Luna recording studio in Joshua Tree last year for an especially memorable session with Eagles of Death Metal.
The trio’s plan to buy an RV to host their favorite bands quickly evolved into the creation of a music studio.
“It just started because we loved going to see live music,” Bell said. “The goal was to create something that bands we loved going to see would want to be a part of. I think we achieved that.”
The latest van (the previous two broke down) has travelled 10,000 to 15,000 miles across the country since last summer, including stops at the music festivals South by Southwest, Outside Lands and BottleRock.
“I think we both kind of thought we’d do it and immediately Bob Dylan would be playing in our backyard,” Cotler said about the van, which was initially parked in his backyard. “It was a lot tougher than either of us ever anticipated.”
Bell and Cotler almost lost hope when their first van broke down after its brake line snapped on their inaugural trip to SXSW. The two managed to return home safely, but the abandoned van is still sitting in Fort Stockton, Texas.
“When the first van broke down, we were kind of stranded outside the road with our heads down saying, ‘We had some fun, we had some parties in the backyard. We could call it quits now and just go back to our boring day jobs or we could go home and crowdfund and figure this thing out’ and we decided let’s go home and crowdfund,” Cotler said.
They ended up raising more than $10,000 on Indiegogo and purchased a new RV (a 1992 model versus a 1982 one, Bell joked).
This year at Coachella, van 3.0 was set up at Base Camp, a new RV/tent camping and art compound a few miles away from festival grounds. Thurz, Josh Stevens, Coyote Electric and Slipping Into Darkness were some of bands that performed at the van on Weekend Two.
“Since our studio is mobile and also solar powered and could go anywhere, we bring the same high quality everywhere we go,” Bell said. “We don’t have to figure out a new set or a new location or anything like that. … We just bring that consistency everywhere we go and I think that’s why both bands and brands trust us so much at this point.”
Now headquartered in Los Angeles, Cotler and Bell also manage a couple of bands — Valley Queen, and Love and the Zealous — as their music venture continues to blossom.
Watch other Jam in the Van sessions:
(Pictured: Cosmos and Creature)