New Angels Trump Old Demons In 2019 for Clay Rose and Gasoline Lollipops

New Angels Trump Old Demons In 2019 for Clay Rose and Gasoline Lollipops

January 23, 2019 Off By Billy Thieme
gasoline lollipops
Clay Rose and Gasoline Lollipops are looking at a bright and shiny 2019. (Photo: Arianne Autaubo)

Clay Rose has a lot to be thankful for as this new year begins.

A new member of his family, Seraphine – “…an angel of the highest order,” he calls her, referencing her Hebraic name – was born in early December. His band, Gasoline Lollipops, continues on an upward slope in 2019, in both popularity and legitimacy, with major shows scheduled – like the headlining gig coming up at the Gothic on February 22, and a songwriting workshop in Estes Park with Esme Patterson (featuring an intimate show with the two local stars displaying their craft) – on the heels of wildly successful appearances that wrapped up 2018 with many a bang. And new songs being released – like the December 17 drop of “Broken,” a beautiful anthem that seems to set some of the stage for this transformative time for Rose (listen and download the single below) – and many more to come.

As 2018 wrapped up, I had a chance to speak with Rose about some of the changes and challenges in his recent history, and where he hopes to see the GasPops heading in the future. We started with an endearing, almost wild-west-tinged story about how his angel of a daughter came into the world.

It was like a “wild west” story..

“My son and I helped my wife deliver his sister ourselves, right in the house, in the living room,” Rose explained – still, it seemed, a little breathless with the excitement of the event. “The midwife didn’t have time to get here, things moved so quickly. It was like Wild West story. My son was fascinated; he did great.”

The son – and now experienced delivery doctor – about whom Rose was speaking is Cohen, aptly named after the late great Leonard Cohen, a hero of Rose’s. Like Seraphine, Cohen is also a Hebraic name, chosen deliberately by his parents, and carrying some built-in pedigree that just ads to that which his parents provide – and it seems a well-placed name, to say the least.

“When the placenta came out, he was transfixed, looking at the blood on his hands,” Rose continued. “He keeps saying how he now understands why the Tree of Life is a fixture of so many creation myths. He’s telling everyone, especially after looking at that placenta.”

“The trunk of the umbilical cord, the veins branching out from and around it…. When the light glows through mama’s skin, the child sees a tree branching out. And when she comes outside, she sees more trees, hundreds of them, all around. It’s no wonder trees sit in such an important level in the myths.”

A Father/Son Ballet Ensued in 2018

“Seraphine,” Rose continued, “she’s in the ballet I recently wrote with Cohen’s help.”  

“Wicked Bayou” – a story of the undead told in music and dance and produced at two Denver venues with Wonderbound ballet company in October 2018 – was a father-son project. “The main character, she’s the one who destroys darkness with love and light. She’s the highest order of angel.” And she’s also the angelic blessing Rose and his growing family opened the new year with.

Gasoline Lollipops closed out 2018 with the release of the single, “Broken,” on December 17, and it’s hard to avoid thinking that the song is a sort of elegy to some of Rose’s old demons – at least in the form of tributes to old friends, and farewells to them.

Listen and download Gasoline Lollipops latest single, “Broken,” released December 17.

“All of my friends have pieces missing,” he explained. “They’re all broken. We’re all broken. They all – we all – seem to sometimes live in the hungry ghost realm from a place of great emptiness, hunger, and constant grasping in the Buddhist traditions. We seem to be obsessed with filling that void with whatever we can to the point that it’s killing us.”

In “Broken,” Rose is realizing the futility of that quest, lamenting mournfully over a gothic country melody and heavy, heartbroken guitars mingling with powerful organ. You can almost hear Clay’s heart breaking as it sinks into a self-guided loneliness he’s forced to choose to keep his sanity.

“We seem to be obsessed with filling that void with whatever we can to the point that it’s killing us.”

– Clay Rose

“That void can’t be filled with drugs, alcohol, people, sex, relationships – though God knows we try,” he continued. “That void can only be filled with spirit – spirit of some sort.”

“Each of my friends – a few are listed by name in the song – are still broken, still searching. And I miss them,” he lamented. “Looking back on our friendships – more than a few of which are still strong – the distance between us is deeply heartbreaking, lonely.”

And yet, in typical Clay Rose fashion, he immediately rebounded with a positive turn on that very sorrow, invoking his son’s namesake. “We are all broken, but that may be for good reason. If there are no cracks, no light can get in – like Leonard Cohen said in one of my all-time favorite lines.”

New Angels Trump the Old Demons

Alongside the new child and new music, Rose has been taking on life in huge gulps as he and the GasPops – and other projects – continue to make progress. His pace resulted in a bout with illness shortly after his daughter’s birth, which ended up pulling yet more gauze from the eyes of the enlightening musician

“After the delivery of my daughter, I immediately got a serious case of strep,” Rose said. “I was obsessed with listening to my inner self, telling me what a new mouth to feed means: ‘you need to provide, you need to work, and fret.’ It would howl at me.”

“This voice reigned, rather than my doctor – both inner and outer – who told me ‘you need to sleep, you need to eat soup, rest, just lay down!’ I finally began writing down my ‘gratefuls,” my thoughts of gratitude,’” he pointed out, “listing things I’m lucky to have, and happy for – my life, just breathing, my family, my music, the GasPops.”

    It’s looking like some robust health is going to be needed, as 2019 is starting off with even more good things for Rose and the Gasoline Lollipops. For one, Rose is appearing as part of a writing retreat – the Upstream Songwriter’s Mountain Retreat taking place from February 1-3 in Estes Park – along with local artists Esme Patterson, Arthur Lee Land, and Carol Lee. Besides workshops, instructor performances and opportunities for student performances, the retreat also features an intimate performance on the second night (Saturday, February 2) with Patterson and Rose together.

    And then there’s the GasPops’ annual visit to San Pedro, Belize (happening as this goes to press), and what should be a huge headlining gig at the Gothic Theatre in Denver on Friday, February 22. And that’s just the beginning. The band keeps evolving, and lineups keep tweaking – with every permutation getting better

“We’ve got new drummer – Kevin Matthews,” said Rose, “and our organist, Scott Coulter (who now lives in Philly) will be moving out here next summer. Brad [Morse], our bassist – probably the busiest musician in the front range, always running in at least four bands – found our drummer for us.”

“Along with our guitarist Donny [Ambory], the GasPops are enjoying a strong lineup,” he continued. “They’re my primary musical focus, and we’re in the most comfortable place we’ve ever been.”

Gasoline lollipops
Live, Gasoline Lollipops are an enduring force of lightness and depth, offering a sonic embrace that’s both heartbreaking and soothing. (Photo: Backstage Flash)

New Singles, or a New Album?

As to whether or when a new album or EP is on the horizon, Rose can’t rightly say. “We’ve got a bunch of tracks around – not sure whether we’ll put together a whole LP or a few more EPs.” But there seems to be plenty of music to use, to say nothing of the effluence of creative energy.

We enjoyed a short discussion, too, about the preference of releasing a single or EP over a whole album. ”Is there more value to one over the other? I ain’t sure,” he explained. “Old-schoolers like you and me, we love albums – but do the young kids today have any idea? Do they even really know what an album is, really?”

In this day of singles being dropped overnight online, as well as whole records, and bands birthing, living, and dying on YouTube or Bandcamp, do they? Is there really a concept of an album they can understand? Is there something – a collection of tracks, thoughts, poems, images, bits of life – that you listen to in the order then band laid them out, from first to last, in their – and its – entirety? And what does that even mean? And what about liner notes, album art, the ubiquitous (and often even more hilarious) “Thank You” listings?

“When I was a kid,” Rose remembered, as I nodded emphatically along, “I’d memorize all the lyrics in the sleeve/jacket, and scour the listings of ‘thank yous,’ imagining that one day I’d be there, alongside so many other hidden and otherwise unsung heroes.”

Gasoline Lollipops Are on A Mission

Neither of us had an answer that afternoon – and I’m not sure we will anytime soon. But that’s not the most important question – not by a long shot. Rose has a mission, and his Gasoline Lollipops are the vehicle for its success. The Pops want to help other Colorado bands in coming up. They want to use their already strong (and still growing) local pedigree – as well as their history and rapidly growing popularity – to help bring other Front Range bands up the way they’ve been able to.

“I feel like it’s a mission – maybe more than that,” he explained. “I feel a kind of obligation – like we owe the scene here at least that much. We have to make this moment for other bands as magical as it is for us. We want to put the Front Range on the American Musical Map. There’s a strong musical history here in Colorado – not just in Boulder and Denver, but all over the Front Range – that everyone deserves to know about.”

One could speculate that part of Rose’s ambition could arise out of the passionate creativity that comes with experiencing the beginning of a new life, a new member of the family. But it’s nothing new for Clay. Rose has been a member – and active – in the wildly permutating scenes in and along the Front Range, from punk-rock shows to multi-day festivals, and he’s seen its beauty first hand.

“Now I look at where I am: I get to ‘pull up’ bands. The New Year’s Eve show at the Fox in Boulder, where we covered Tom Petty’s Wildflowers, was kind of a local showcase. We were joined by two local bands [Grant Farm and River Arkansas] that I really, really like. And I got to show them off.”

“So many bands have come from Denver and made it,’ he continued, “and not all of them have looked back. They – we – all got loads of help from the local scenesters, media, all that. But so many of those bands and performers just move on and never seem to look back. Not all of them, for sure, but too many.”

“That’s why I feel this is almost a ‘Mission Statement,’ to pull up all the talent in the Front Range, to help magnify the scene, and show the world the pedigree of Colorado music. And also to help keep up the vigor and passion for all of this, for all of us.”

If Clay Rose and Gasoline Lollipops have anything to say about it, this will be a mission well and rightfully accomplished. They have the pedigree, the talent, the ambition, and the will to do it. And they definitely have the passion. Maybe welcoming the new angels of 2019 – and bidding a farewell, as heartbreaking and painful as it may be, to demons of the past – will form the perfect launchpad and foundation for its success.


  • Billy Thieme

    Aging punk rocker with a deep of all things musical and artistic, enough to remain constantly young and perpetually mystified. Billy has journalistic dreams, but of a decidedly pastoral, Scottish nature.