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Labor of Love: Lost at CME - Cowboy Jesus & The Sugar Bums
Max Jenkins, Will Robinson from Netflix's Lost in Space re-boot, and his band Cowboy Jesus & The Sugar Bums stopped by Chicago Music Exchange to play their tune, "Salty Joe." We asked the boys what got them started in music and what keeps them going in this episode of Labor of Love.
How did you get your start making music?
Max: I started playing the violin when I was three. I loved it, but when I was 7 years old, I joined an ensemble class at The Old Town School of Folk Music, and I was super jealous of the guitar players, so I switched to Mandolin because it was the same tuning. I met Caden and Sam in that class and we bonded over Bey Blades. We decided to start a band and I told them my very oldest and best friend (Chase) was a drummer. So we all came over to my house and that’s how Cowboy Jesus started.
Caden: I was around a lot of bands because of my parents. I used to play air guitar to Justin Roberts, who has even come to our shows. I went to Old Town School of Folk Music, and at 5 started with guitar lessons with Jonas Friddle. Then when I was about 4 I went on stage with Umphrey’s McGee at the Aragon Ballroom, and I loved it. To this day I remember the feeling of being on stage with all the lights and people screaming, and knew that’s what I wanted to do.
Devin: My older brother Caden was already playing guitar. I went to all kinds of concerts with my parents and family, including folk shows, rock shows, and loved it. I have never missed Lollapalooza or Riotfest. I started at Old Town School of Folk Music, and started guitar at 5, and like my brother was lucky to have Jonas Friddle as my teacher. My brother and I used to fight trying to play guitar together, because he was older and could do more. I liked bass better. And Jonas thought it was a good idea to switch to bass because he said I had natural rhythm (and so we didn’t drive our parents crazy arguing).
Chase: I Pretty much started drumming as soon as I could walk. I got my first drum kit when I was 4 and that was that!
Sam: I started making music in kindergarten when my mom signed me up for guitar lessons. I met most of the Cowboy Jesus band members in an ensemble class at the Old Town School and I've been playing guitar at my public school and at Old Town ever since.
Who are your influences?
Max: My first influence was definitely Wayne Kramer. He’s a good friend of my folks and I remember him giving me advice about practicing! When I bought my first amp he told me to turn it up to 11. My musical influences are all over the map. I am also really into the singer song writers. I have mad respect for Pete Seeger (We share a birthday) I love The Eagles, ELO, Tom Petty, Richard Fortus. I really like Joni Mitchell, but I also love Queen. I like The Tragically Hip and anything involving Tom Morello…. I especially love Audioslave. Local talents that I really like include Mars Williams of Liquid Soul, and Ike Reilly, and of course Jonas Friddle who has been especially very helpful with my song writing.
Caden: Ezra Furman, Bleachers/Jack Antonoff, Frank Turner, Jonas Friddle.
Devin: Red Hot Chili Peppers and Flea. He’s amazing and nuts. Royal Blood, Green Day, Ezra Furman, Jonas Friddle.
Chase: Red Hot Chili Peppers (Chad Smith), My 2 Uncles (Drew Kavanaugh and Charlie Hall (War on Drugs) who are both really amazing drummers. I grew up listening to a ton of different music ever since I was born. Bands like Tinariwen, Lots of R & B and Rap, The Eagles, Hall & Oates, The Commodores, JayZ, Kendrick Lamar. Right now I am listening to Greta Van Fleet, Green Day, and Khrungabin.
Sam: My favorite musicians right now are The Black Keys, Foo Fighters and Green Day.
What were your first instruments?
Max: My first instrument was a violin.
Caden: Red Mini Gibson Maestro Flying V. Then a Mini-Squier. Acoustic I played a baby Taylor. Then I graduated to a red Fender Stratocaster. Marshall mini stack.
Devin: An acoustic guitar. Then I asked for a bass for Christmas, and Santa brought me a blue ¾ Ibanez bass. I still play that to this day.
Chase: I used to build drum kits out of tinker toys and stacks of books and chairs until I got my first kit.
Sam: My current instruments are guitar, bass, drums and ukulele. I made a xylophone in a woodworking class and have been playing that as well. I started out on guitar, though, and that's still my main instrument.
Max: I currently play an Eastman acoustic electric. I have also recently picked up guitar and Richard Fortus helped me pick out an amazing Gretsch Electromatic Semi hollow body. I’m obsessed.
Caden: I am playing a Gretsch Electromatic, a Taylor acoustic, and PRS amps (thank you and compliments of CME and Drew Kavanaugh for pointing me to all those).
Devin: I still play the blue Ibanez. I was just given a 5 String Fender bass by my old social studies teacher Mr. White (Thank you Mr. White). I have GK head and amplifier.(Thanks Drew Kavanaugh and CME!)
Chase: Right now I am playing a Pearl Export Kit. I have it set up with a Yamaha Marching Snare which is cool to use when I play. I love my high hat. I just got the Meinl Byzance high hats from CME for Christmas and I love them.
Sam: I am getting more and more interested in different effects, so my favorite piece of gear right now is probably my amp, especially with the drive and delay pedals I got to go with it because it is like 300 effects all in one amp.
Any gear you can't live without?
Max:I love my Fishman amp. When I play the mandolin, it makes the tone sound really rich. I also can’t live without my Gretsch guitar. I have named it “Jupiter”
Caden: My Gretsch, my Scarlett i8i for recording.
Devin: My GK amp and head, my Ibanez bass, our Scarlett i8i.
Chase: Vader Whips are my favorite to play with. I also have a new Fender Bass that I am teaching myself to play.
What does the band have coming up? Recording? Playing any shows?
Max: I just got back from shooting Season 2 of Lost in Space for Netflix and I am most excited to continue writing music. I am working on a song for the band about our generation and how we see the the world we are inheriting. It’s called “Ready to Drop” and I’ve been working on it with Bill Mumy (The original Will Robinson in the original series of Lost in Space) I would also love for Cowboy Jesus to record the song I wrote about Pete Seeger called ‘This Machine”. It’s always fun playing gigs and I am hoping that after we create some more original tunes, we could play some gigs to introduce them.
Caden: We are looking forward to releasing our original song and video recorded at CME. We are working on writing three new songs as a band, we practice every Wednesday with our teacher/coach Jonas, and have one pretty much done. My brother Devin, our bass player and I have been recording at home. We are also writing new songs as a band, and have three down, and are almost completely done with one. We are working out some lyrics now. Now that Max is back, we are going to be booking a show in the upcoming month or so. Stay tuned!
Devin: I cannot wait until our original song gets released on video. My brother Caden and I are recording at home, we have a small studio in our attic (thanks dad). Now that Max is back from outer space, we are ready to get back out and playing some live shows. We have a couple of opportunities to play, and will announce those soon!
Chase: Now that Max is back in town, I am looking forward to playing some more gigs! Sam: Now that Max is back, hopefully we can play a gig soon. I just got a red Ibanez Artcore from Chicago Music Exchange and want to try it out