by Sean Thielen
On a street corner in downtown Fullerton, dressed like the Statue of Liberty, Hayden Vaughn twirls a sign for a tax company.
He is 21 years old. He dropped out of Chapman last year.
Jordan Kleinman studies PR and Henry Kuckens designs and sells shirts online. Eric Cruz has been studying in Madrid for the past two months.
They are students. They are a bunch of guys in their twenties. They work part-time jobs and go out on weekends and study during the week and worry about car payments and girls and what they’re going to have for dinner.
But ask them what they are, and each will answer without skipping a beat, “I’m a musician.”
Music is who they are, and it’s the underlying reason for everything they do.
Jubilo Drive is the name of their band. It’s a grungy alt-rock sound that has spent the last few months playing small shows around Southern California.
They’re something more than just a band, though. They’ve created a project of combined self-expression that manifests itself in music and lifestyle and gives some higher order to the lives of these current and former Chapman University students from Orange, California.
Most college juniors are worrying about midterms, finding internships, or what they’re going to be doing after they graduate—but for Jubilo Drive, school is an afterthought.
Which, in a world that values employment, stability, and a college diploma far more than the pursuit of art, is a bit of a scary thought.
“Last year, I wasn’t really going to my classes and one day I just decided, ‘I’m not going to keep paying this money,'" said Vaughn, laughing. "I’m actually way happier doing this than I ever was at school. I work two days a week; I can barely pay my rent, but I get to spend a majority of my day working on music."
Jubilo drive is slow and fast and mellow and full of energy. It is a paradoxical combination of different musical influences that comes together to form something unique.
Their sound is the collision of four people with different musical tastes—different background and different stories—who come together with some instruments and amplifiers and microphones—and make those stories into a single sound.
Vaughn, the bassist, grew up in Palm Springs and has been playing the clarinet and the saxophone since fifth grade. He also “produces sick electronic beats,” in the words of fellow bandmate, Eric Cruz.
Cruz, the drummer, listens to progressive metal and electronic dance music.
“I’m going to two EDM festivals next month—one in Amsterdam and one in the UK,” said Cruz, over a dish of paella outside a café in Madrid, where he’s been studying for the past few months.
Despite being thousands of miles and nine timezones away, Cruz seems unaffected—or even unaware—of the distance between him and the rest of the band. His long-distance relationship with Jubilo Drive consists of constant communication over Facebook and such a level of involvement such that he might as well have been sitting on the couch with the rest of the band back at their house in Orange.
On that couch, Kleinman plugs his phone into the speakers and plays “San Francisco” by Foxygen—a mellow, sing-songy indie tune that would not be out of place in an Apple commercial, while Kuckens talks about how much he loves The Strokes.
And yet, Jubilo Drive sounds nothing like any of their disparate tastes in music. Somehow, in the act of coming together, they’ve created something new, something that is entirely unique and fuses their separate musical roots into one sound.
“I feel like we each bring something different to the table, and Jubilo Drive is the result of that,” said Kuckens.
In this new sound lies new experience. In the past few months, the band has gone from playing pay-to-play shows at small venues to booking shows in Los Angeles at venues like the Roxy. They have listeners online from around the world, and are, to use their own word, “stoked.”
“The majority of my conversations with other people are about Jubilo Drive, somehow it always ends up coming back to that,” said Kleinman.
They look like normal guys. On a college campus you wouldn’t be able to pick them out of a crowd. But they have bigger plans than studying for midterms or twirling signs for extra cash. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but one day, they hope to be rock stars.
Listen to Jubilo Drive’s newest EP “At my Best” on Soundcloud now.