CLASSIC GTC: JAM IN THE VAN Is Sound Cruisin’ (Jake Cotler/Dave Bell interview)

Jam In The Van is available @ YouTube.

jam in the van

by Walter Price

[24 March 2014]

Sounds like a great idea, take your love for music and the open road and combine the two into one of the best decisions in music discovery. Well, that is exactly what buddies Dave Bell and Jake Cotler did. Culminating into one of the most DYN-O-MITE web-based music outlets called, easily enough, Jam In The Van.

My first encounter with JITV name was from The Blank Tapes’ Matt Adams in a posting or few that mentioned they would be ‘Jamming in the van…” (or something to that effect). It seemed like they were always jamming someplace and it was always thousands of miles from Germany so I sorta forgot about it.

I finally caught on when TBT’s session hit the net and my envy love for Jam In The Van’s simply clever and ‘why didn’t I think of this’ concept was cemented. Since then I have discovered many a great act featured on this innovative stage in a reconstituted 92 Winnebago Holiday Rambler. Great names like MinerThe Devil Makes ThreeCurtis HardingFrench Horn RebellionTara Fox and so on and on. 

My curious nature took hold (again) and I caught up with Dave and Jake fresh off their SXSW jaunt and asked them some this and thats about what makes Jam In The Van run.

How was SXSW? Did you discover anyone or anything new? 

Jake: SXSW was awesome.  The first time we went three years ago was possibly one of the worst trips/experiences of my life so just the fact that we made it there without any van breakdowns made this time a better trip.  Throw in the fact that we filmed 31 bands in five days, partied on Willie Nelson’s Ranch, and got P. Diddy into the van, and yeah, it was pretty awesome. 

I can’t say we discovered anything new because we went into it knowing the bands we were going to record, but I will say that I got better acquainted with a lot of great up and coming bands that I will be keeping an eye on.  To name a few: The Strypes, Mr. Wives, American Aquarium, The Black Cadillacs, Insects vs. Robots, Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real, The Wild Feathers, and our first ever Jam in the Van SXSW contest winner, The Rich Hands.

JITV is one of the coolest ideas to come down the music highway in some time. What’s the story/history behind it all? 

Jake: About three years ago Dave and I were both working at jobs that we weren’t super thrilled about.  I was at a law firm and he was at a TV production office.  We were shooting the shit over instant messenger on the computer one day, planning for our annual trip to Bonnaroo.  Mind you this was like six months before Bonnaroo, we were big-time music fans and loved going to festivals.  In our dream preparations, we were sending back craigslist ads for older model RV’s that were pretty cost efficient and talking jokingly about buying one instead of spending a lot of money to rent one to take to the festival.  I believe at the time we were also watching The Black Cab Sessions, and so combining those two things lead Dave to say, hey what if we do this, and I said, yeah, I like that, and we both were like damn, this could be our thing.

A month later I had an old ass RV in my back yard and we were doing the damn thing.

How many are on the JITV team? 

Jake: There’s Dave and I and our friend Louie aka The Perfect Hippie who started it.  Then we have a DP (Dave Yeaman) a sound engineer (Jacob LaCally), a driver/interview talent (Spud), and then we use 2 other camera guys (right now Chris Shashaty and Joel Moody are our camera team, but we have other guys if they are unavailable), and then a team of editors (Dave Yeaman, Joel Moody, Adam Weiss, Nick Noyes) and an intern, Jack, oh and my dog RZA, he rolls with us a lot too.

How has the concept’s perception changed from start to now? 

Jake: It’s always been about finding great music and sharing it with the world, so it hasn’t really changed much at all.  We’ve gotten better at showcasing it, we’ve added more cameras and more fun stuff into our videos, but the idea is still the same.  In addition, we’ve started some new types of content in the music real, including our interview series “Cuz’s Corner,” and in the near future, we’ll be expanding the types of content that we produce.  It will always be about music, but it’s not always going to be in a van.

From this side of the computer, the artists seem to really take to the whole thing. Have you had any adverse reaction once someone got into the session? 

Jake: We’ve had some issues with the van being too hot in the past but only one guy couldn’t hack it and had to quit.  We have a nice AC system now and haven’t had that problem again.  Then we had this dude Frank Fairfield who was pretty nasty to our crew for seemingly no reason and seemed to mock what we were doing while he was there and he later asked that we not put out the session.  We told him that the feeling was mutual and left it at that.

There is no way that an experience/business like this hasn’t created some difficulties. What has been the team’s biggest challenges? 

Jake: There have been a lot of challenges starting with the van and its engine itself.  I think to sum it all up rather than listing it all, the biggest thing that we’ve learned is to never take no for an answer.  Whenever a door was shut in our face we found another way in.  Whenever something didn’t work we found a way to make it work.  It’s all about learning and working hard and we’re starting to really get the hang of that and creating something really special.

Do you plan to go nationwide or franchise JITV? Like an RV on both coasts etc…Europe?

Jake: Sure, why not?  We are “nationwide” already, we film all over the country and have viewers all over the world.  Eventually we’ll have multiple vans so we can be filming in more than one place at a time, and hopefully one of those places will be outside of the USA, it’ll happen.

What do you want to see come out of this mobile studio? TV show, music festival, record label…

Dave: Since it’s conception, we’ve looked at Jam in the Van as a multi-platform production and entertainment company. Now that the Jam in the Van series is taking off, it’s a good time for us to get our feet wet in other areas. Television, artist management, other forms of digital content and live events are all endeavors we’re starting to focus on.

Who has been the biggest surprise talent(s) you’ve discovered so far?

Dave: Like Jake said, 90% of the time we know the bands and have them all booked for sessions before we go to an event, so we’re not surprised by who we are filming very often. There are some bands that we film that strike a chord and become one of those bands that we listen to on a regular basis after we’ve filmed them. Personally, the Rusty Maples who we filmed at Life is Beautiful, and American Aquarium, who we just shot at SXSW, are two of those bands.

What are the plans for the website? Are you guys building a new social media network for bands?

Dave: Just like the music world we cover, our entire platform, including our website, is always evolving. We have a pretty large project we’re working on that we can’t divulge yet, but it will turn our website into one of the most popular, interactive music destinations for fans all over the world. The scope of the project and the people involved are bigger than anything we’ve done to date.

Will the sessions always be free to view?

Dave: It’s hard to make a statement like that because the internet, and monetizing content on the internet, is constantly changing. That being said, we pride ourselves on the fact that our entire catalogue is free, and it will remain that way for the foreseeable future.

What should the world know about Jam In The Van and the team behind it?

Dave: I think this comes across in the content we put out and in Jake’s writing, but it’s important to us that people know we’re not music industry guys. We’re music fans. We created this really cool thing that is taking off due to its authenticity. We’re just a couple of guys who like to have fun and listen to good music. We came up with a crazy idea that was completely outside of both of our comfort zones, and now we’re being invited to bring Jam in the Van to festivals all over the country to film bands from all over the world. We pinch ourselves every day.

Is there any genre of music or any artist you’d turn down?

Dave: Jake and I have to like a band’s music. That’s the only parameter we set. When we come across something that is enjoyable and/or interesting to us, we film it. There is no genre that we dismiss, however, in every genre, there are bands that we find interesting and bands that just don’t do it for us.

[videos have been updated from original article]

“What started in 2011 as a means of 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. Since then, Jam in the Van has filmed over 1,000 bands in remote locations across the United States. With new sessions everyday of the week M-F, Jam in the Van is the leading taste maker when it comes to music discovery. ”

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