Jamtown released their first EP on June 23rd, just two days before their live performance at Arroyo Seco Weekend, where we caught up with them to chat. Though Jamtown as an entity is brand new, the talent encapsulated in the trio is the result of decades of practice. Each member of the trio has had a successful solo career– Donavon Frankenreiter with his easy-listening acoustic surf-rock, Philly native G. Love has been rocking audiences with his bluesy hip-hop tunes, and Cisco Adler has secured songwriting and producing accolades (for bands including Shwayze) along with a solo career melding rock, pop, and reggae sounds.
The three have now joined forces to create a timeless Americana-meets-surf-rock sound, replete with lush vocal harmonies, that signature G.Love harmonica, and three times the acoustic guitar.
Jamtown played their seventh show Sunday at the inaugural Arroyo Seco Weekend in Pasadena to an energetic crowd of all ages. We sat down to discuss the band’s inception and their new self-titled EP.
BLANK: I understand Jamtown came to exist in a pretty serendipitous manner? Tell me about that.
G. Love: That’s the word I keep coming back to – serendipity! This is a perfect example of two things: everything happening for a reason, and also when preparation meets luck you can have great success. We’ve all been plugging away for years and years doing our thing and bringing so much love and joy through music around the world and our different styles. Donovan and I originally had an idea to do a barbecue record. We didn’t really have such a high bar. We just wanted to do some acoustic versions of some of our old tunes. I said, “Cisco, would you produce it?” and then Cisco had a different idea which was a whole new sound– a timeless sound. Everything just started happening. I got up [to Cisco’s Bananabeat Records] 45 minutes late the first day which gave him time to create the music for the first song we wrote, which was called “Strawberry Moon.”
BLANK: So for those of us that are late, the silver lining is that good things can come from not being on time?
G. Love: Yeah, high five on that! Everything happened extremely easily, like it was meant to happen. Like there were puzzle pieces laying around and all the sudden we were like, “Yeah, let’s see if those fit”.
Donavon: Yeah, but it took 20 years of our solo careers to get to that place.
G. Love: So I keep coming back to that word, serendipity, because it’s like this whole thing was meant to happen. It’s like we’ve been a band for 100 years but we’re just on our 7th show.
BLANK: This might be a tough one since you have known each other for years…Do you recall what you thought when you first met one another– first impressions?
Donavon: I do. I think I met G. in in Jack’s studio [Jack Johnson] or maybe surfing or at Blues & Roots.
G. Love: I remember meeting you backstage at Byron Bay Blues. I walked in and was like, “Oh my god, this fucking guy!” [Laughter from Donavon]. The first time I met Cisco- I used to go out a lot to all the clubs in New York and LA and I remember always hearing about him… “this guy Cisco Adler he’s the motherfucking man” and thinking, “Who is this guy?” and then I finally met him at a club and he was like “Yo, I love your shit!” which was awesome.
BLANK: So did Cisco live up to his storied reputation?
Donavon: Yeah, because Cisco was naked when he met G., you know running around a club! [Laughter from all three]
Cisco: Donny and I used to play at The Malibu Inn…in old, old bands. And G. I think the first time we…. Yeah, we crossed paths, all of us have crossed paths so many times so it is kind of tough for me. I don’t remember the first one in the club. I thought we met in Santa Barbara at that reggae festival.
G. Love: Nah, we had met at the club like years before.
Cisco: Well, I don’t try to remember dudes at the club. [Laughter]
G. Love: You know how musicians always say “Let’s do some shit” and you rarely do….
Cisco: I don’t ever fucking say it, unless I want to do it.
G. Love: Yeah me neither. Me too!
Cisco: but I do hate that conversation when people are like “let’s do something…”
Donovan: If we haven’t done it already, then we’re probably not going to be friends…
G. Love: But we did. We’ve been writing over the years together.
BLANK: So after running across each other for a while and working with one another in various capacities, all three of you got together in a formal capacity.
Donavon: We’ve all just been jones-ing to do this. But the timing was right. 10 years ago it wouldn’t have worked. Last year it wouldn’t have worked. It just happened at that perfect moment.
Cisco: Now I’m thinking, damn it’s funny – what were we doing before and what would have been as exciting as this? If this didn’t happen music-wise at this moment?
Donavon: I would have been in Schwayze! [Laughter from all]
BLANK: So, you have a set later today here at the first-ever Arroyo Seco festival…you’ve only done a few shows thus far.
Donavon: We did two at the Belly Up, Malibu, No Name Bar, Monterey Pop Festival, and BRO-AM. So this is lucky number seven…
BLANK: How have the live shows been going so far?
G. Love: Amazing!
Donavon: We’re still trying to learn the songs! [Laughing]
BLANK: Seems like you guys have a pretty organic comfort with one another. I’m sure a lot of that comes from playing so long in your solo careers…
Donavon: It’s a beautiful sort of thing where we’ve all been doing this for so long. We know what we want to get out of it. It’s so killer because we know what we want to do. I’ve never been in a situation after 20 years of doing it where I feel new again. That’s why we’re all excited.
Cisco: Little Donny’s new again! Hey, Donny- you’re a real boy! [Laughter from all]
G. Love: It’s the best thing to be able to play onstage and sing a song, and then pass it over and watch Donny sing a song, then watch Cisco sing a song. That’s amazing.
Cisco: Yeah, we’ve all three been lead singers our whole lives but nobody is the lead singer in Jamtown.
G. Love: And none of us are looking at this like it’s our side project. This is the thing we’ve been waiting for.
Donavon: This is the mothership, goddamnit!
Cisco: We’re the Wu-Tang of folk rock! [Joking and laughter ensues]
BLANK: So you guys all sing, and play guitar…
Cisco: We do, we all sing at the same time, we do a bunch of three-part harmony stuff. That was one of the things we were all very excited to do.
G. Love: We were rappers originally, man!
Donavon: Not me!
BLANK: If you guys had to describe Jamtown– what it is– in a word or phrase, what would it be?
Donavon: Savoya [Sa’booyah? Sabuya? We can’t quite be sure what language Donavon is speaking, but we like it]
Cisco: I think it’s love.
G. Love: A dream come true.
The familial love was overflowing while chatting with these guys, and they brought that same dynamic to the stage a few hours later. Their performance showcased not just their individual musicianship but also how much fun a couple of friends can have on stage when combining their talents. The vibe was egalitarian to the max, Cisco singing lead on some songs, G. on others, and Donavon on still others.
You can listen to Jamtown’s feel-good jams via their EP now, and expect the full-length record of ten songs later this year. You can also experience their sunshine-laden tunes in person at an upcoming show: they’ll be opening for Jack Johnson in July.
July 14, 2017 – Denver, CO @ Fiddlar’s Field w/ Jack Johnson
July 16, 2017 – Los Angeles, CA @ Hollywood Bowl w/ Jack Johnson