The Subtle Difference between DIY and DYI (Doin’ Yourself In)

The Subtle Difference between DIY and DYI (Doin’ Yourself In)

May 16, 2018 Off By Billy Thieme
Gasoline Lollipops (Photo by CNPhotos)

Gasoline Lollipops (Photo by CNPhotos)

A Cautionary Tale, Starring a few Gasoline Lollipops

Gasoline Lollipops is a rising rocket, but losing what could be a big part of its success in Adam Perry, the band’s drummer. Perry’s last show will be the Gas Pops’ headlining gig at the Bluebird Theater in Denver this Friday night, May 18. That show is the band’s most prestigious headlining opportunity to date in Denver (though the group is apparently well-known in international circles), and Perry is one of the biggest reasons for their meteoric ride so far.

“I’m somebody that tries to do way too much, I think. I know you can only give 100% to one thing,” Perry said, recently, as he, frontman Clay Rose and I sat at a Boulder patio to talk. Perry seemed a little nervous and a little morose during the hour or so we spent together, while his bandmate – and obviously close friend – came across as a little sad, thoughtful, and ultimately humble as we talked.

Adam Perry is one of the biggest reasons for Gas Pops’ meteoric ride so far.

There tend to be certain personalities, certain influences in every group, or scene, that seem to act as catalysts for that group – much more than mere participants. These are the people who you see at most shows – in bands or not – thanked on the back of cassette tapes for no apparent reason, and featured in local stories about their individual influence on the scene.

These are the Bob Ferbraches – who recorded so many Denver bands over the years that embodied the “Denver Sound” so popular in the late ‘90s and early aughts, including 16 Horsepower, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, The Denver Gentlemen, and more.

These are the John Moores – who started the Underground Music Festival (The UMS) as a tiny show featuring as many of the top 10 Denver bands he’d listed in his Denver Post article the Sunday before as were in town and ready to play, and which has now grown into a four-day, 350+ band and 20+ venue celebration that rivals SXSW.

These personalities leave indelible marks on the scene of which they’re an intrinsic part and leave it for the better – grown a little (or a lot) because of their talent, vision, and ambition.

Adam Perry is one of these personalities – one of these catalysts.

“Adam’s 50% is equal to most people’s 200%,” Rose says, “so it works out in our favor – in everybody’s favor, except for his.”

Aside from holding a full-time job in Boulder, writing for Westword for the past 10 years, and raising a daughter, Adam has been keeping the beat for Gasoline Lollipops since early 2016, as the band has evolved in both sound and reputation into one of Boulder’s more important, and more popular, bands. They sold out the Fox Theatre twice last year and also played a resoundingly successful slot at Red Rocks. They’ve released two full-length albums, including the latest brilliant Soul Mine. This week, on Friday night, they’re playing a sold-out show in Denver at the Bluebird – the largest Denver show they’ve headlined so far.

“Adam’s 50% is equal to most people’s 200%,” Rose says, “so it works out in our favor – in everybody’s favor, except for his.”

This is the same kind of thing Perry helped get rolling for another major player in Boulder-bred bands – the Yawpers. Perry played with the band before they’d really had a chance to grow into the beast they are now – touring regularly, releasing records and videos to pretty wide critical acclaim, etc. Back then, they were just fine playing in front of small crowds – and look at how they’ve grown. Coincidence? Maybe

It can be argued that a lot of this success is due to Perry’s indefatigable nature, his talent, and his savvy in all things press, media, and promotional. So why is he leaving the Gas Pops, like he left the Yawpers, and why now? That’s what we talked about that afternoon.

“I’ve been writing for Westword for 10 years – which makes me feel really old,” he said. “I bike – a lot. Last year I biked more than 1,000 miles. With how active my life and my mind are, biking is something that makes me feel really still. I have a little girl who’s amazing – she’s 8.”

Perry helped the Yawpers get that started, and the rest is history.

“It’s funny – I gave an interview to Boulder Weekly after I quit my last band, the Yawpers, in a similar situation. It was a band with friends, Nate and Jesse, who had been in a band called Ego vs. Id that was definitely a good band but after 5 years was still playing in front of 20-30 people,” he explained. “They didn’t know how to do the stuff you need to manage, to book, and to promote – which is, unfortunately, a full-time job.”

Perry helped the Yawpers get that started, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“I told the Weekly back then: ‘I’m not gonna do this with my life anymore.’ And then I said, ‘I’m gonna bike around, watch baseball with my daughter.”

“I was very clear about that,” he explained, “that I didn’t wanna go on the road. I’m not going to be doing a lot of this and a lot of that and more – too much more – and not doing well at any of them. And then Clay called me near the end of 2015, and was like, ‘We need a drummer for a show – or a couple shows…’ and I was like, ‘Oh sure! That sounds fun!’ without really thinking about it.”

“This is a hobby of Adam’s,” Rose pointed out. “He helps fledgling bands and then disappears into the night.”

“There’s a fine line,” Rose added, “between D.I.Y. and D.Y.I. – y’know – Do Yourself In.”

“Literally the first show I did,” Perry explained, “I was onstage, thinking ‘What if I wasn’t doing this right now? What if I was just sitting at home, just because I said I didn’t want to do this anymore?’ And it all snowballed from there.”

Rose attracts people to him like a magnet – putting out the message to the universe that a guitarist is needed, for instance, and all of a sudden he’s got twenty to choose from, and they’re all good and ready to go. That’s the definition of star power, and both seem to have it. It’s obvious that Perry has something that helps bring bands to another level – just by being part of them. He also has a deep desire to be doing just that.

That’s the definition of star power, and both seem to have it.

“It’s hard to do both, though, you know?” he said. “I mean, even if I didn’t have a full-time job, and a daughter, and a part-time job as a writer on the side – being a drummer in a band and working as the manager and promoter – it’s like, you gotta pick one.”

“He’s really been, a full management company,” said Rose. “He’s been doing everything a management company does. Even boutique management agencies – the smallest even have like four employees, and Adam’s done everything they do, despite having a full-time job.”

“I feel like I’m a carpenter and Adam coming into the Gas Pops is like me coming onto a job site with a bunch of people who’ve never picked up a saw before,” added Rose. “And I’m watching them try to build this thing – it’s not my responsibility to build it for them, and at the same time it’s extremely painful for me to watch them, you know, measure from the wrong ends of a tape, or nearly cut their thumbs off – and he comes in and is like ‘Here – why don’t you just step aside and let me do this for you?’”

Perry sees some possibilities and a direction, and he applies his natural skills.

“One story that occurs to me,” Perry added, “was when Jesse [Parmet] from the Yawpers stopped by my office a few years ago and asked if I was playing drums again. And I felt that I’d really have liked to be playing, but I didn’t want to play with someone that I didn’t have faith in, that I wasn’t a fan of. At the same time, I felt like I also really didn’t want to play with someone who was like that, because I knew it was going to take over my life.”

“Jesse said, ‘Well, just don’t do any of that stuff, that other stuff that you did for us, and it won’t go anywhere.’”

“I knew it was going to take over my life.”

Does he really think this is the last time? That he’ll be able to make this stick? Perry does.

“I don’t,” said Rose.

“I do,” Perry countered. “I mean, Tommy Ramone quit the Ramones because he was unhealthy physically and mentally, didn’t want to tour – and that’s the driving thing. The only way for this to go further is for the band to go on the road, a lot. And I’m just not going to do that.”

“I feel like Adam joining a band is like dumping a bucket of Legos in front of a kid,” Rose said, “and telling them ‘Don’t build anything! Don’t stick any of those pieces together, whatever you do. And then just leaving them in the room.”

“Yeah – so much of it is not thinking about what the end result would be, or why I’m doing it. It’s like you said, I have to do it,” Perry added. “So for someone who is obsessive, and who has an active mind, that’s what makes you feel comfortable.”

When, then, does the work overcome the love? When is it not fun, anymore?

“We had so many experiences being in Europe – you know, wonderful experiences, sad experiences, boring experiences, terrible experiences – so many things, and that was when I began to feel like I couldn’t keep doing so many things and do any of them well.”

“…as we all know, it’s the imperfections that make it good.”

“It also stops being fun when the bandleader stops having fun,” Rose added. “If I’m stressed about the outcome, the future, instead of just showing up for the sake of the song, then it’s no fun for anybody – and I know I’ve been guilty of that. My ego – my identity – gets too tied up in it, and I don’t allow for any imperfection anywhere,” he added, “because I feel like it’s a blemish on myself. Whereas, as we all know, it’s the imperfections that make it good.”

“Like [Bob Dylan’s] Blonde on Blonde,” added Perry.

“Exactly! Like all of my favorites – all my favorite records. That’s what makes them good – it’s the spontaneity and the humanness of it, and – yeah – I’ve been guilty of mindfucking the whole thing,” Rose added.

“I’ll get into these places of fear, meaning the opposite of faith, and believing that things will unfold as they should unfold and I don’t really need to be steering the ship,” he added, “I just need to show up and be grateful for the ride.”

“Things seem to be progressing for us in a good way – getting better and better,” Rose said. “And I don’t want to fuck things up by going ‘Oh look what I did!’ I don’t feel like that’s why things got better. I feel like things got better because I started caring less and less and less about the outcome and more and more and more about the process.”

“I just need to show up and be grateful for the ride.”

“That’s the main thing that Adam taught me,” said Rose. “Before I met him, before he joined the band, I would pick a goal, like, say, The Fox Theatre, and I would put all my eggs in one basket and I would work my ass off, and then, maybe, I would have a great show – maybe come close to selling it out – and I would have nothing lined up after that. And then I’d go ‘Yay! I did it!’ and I’d sit around and wait for my record deal to come, and then I’d be like ‘Hey! What’s going on?’”

“And then within six months, everyone’s forgotten who I was, and I’ve got no shows lined up,” he said. “And Adam’s always thinking, like, at least a year – more like 18 months out. Everything is planned – and I never thought like that before, and I’m still working on it.”

Gasoline Lollipops has stayed true to the Punk Rock ethos, the ideal, D.I.Y., etc. – except that Perry came along and did the Malcolm McClaren part, or the Tommy Ramone part, as well as playing drums.

Remember what Rose said earlier: “There’s a fine line between D.I.Y. and D.Y.I. – Do Yourself In.”

And that, basically, is why Perry insists on leaving.


  • 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.