Colorado College is often described as a bubble.
Despite the potential negative connotations of this term, many students discover the perks a bubble provides: protection and support to foster talent. After thriving for four years within this supportive community, musicians John Christie, Cara Greene, Jon Stein, Gordon Matthewson, and Ian Heyse, more commonly known as Jo(h)nband, managed to break the bubble.
This past summer, Jo(h)nband toured the East Coast, playing 13 shows in just six weeks. Venues included a clothing-optional inn and campground, the Beehive Design Collective’s annual Blackfly Ball, and The Fire in Philadelphia, where musical group Maroon 5 gained initial fame.
Recipients of the Transitions Fellowship, Jo(h)nband was subsidized to tour and to produce original t-shirts and hand-block printed copies of their EP, “Medusa Laughs,” to sell at each gig.
“You think, ‘What?’ Your school is giving you money to bum around and play rock and roll music?” lead guitarist and senior Christie said. “But the whole goal of the tour was to take what we learned in this community and apply it without the CC safety net.”
The band emerged on the scene in the fall of 2008 as guitarist Christie, vocalist Greene, bassist Stein and drummer Matthewson joined forces for the annual Battle of the Bands competition.
The band won fifth place, performing their first original piece about living on the fourth floor of Mathias.
“Considering the caliber of the other bands in the competition, we weren’t expecting to place as well as we did, but the results and positive feedback from other student musicians inspired us to continue playing,” Greene said.
Success escalated over the next three years for Jo(h)nband, including gigs at Jamnesty, Brewfest, and Llamapalooza.
“Back when it wasn’t policed like a war zone, we played shows for our friends at the Carriage House,” Greene said. Christie too acknowledges the Carriage House as “where we got most of our young band experience.”
Despite dealing with continuous logistical issues such as the name of the band, musicians studying abroad, and adding and losing members, Greene attributes their success to “the fact that we stayed together all four years of college.”
The members of Jo(h)nband were secured in early spring of 2012 with the recording of their breakout EP. The album consists of six original tracks, composed collaboratively by the five musicians.
Christie described the process as “nebulous. Someone will bring an idea to the table and we will all build on it until it turns into something or we beat it to death.”
This collaborative effort of Jo(h)nband members was vital to the success of the tour as well. Executing the logistics without a manager demanded cooperation and shared responsibility.
“It required us to be adults about organizing and running this business,” Christie said. “The non-hierarchal structure meant each of us had one-fifth of the responsibility. We learned a lot along the way.”
Previous connections formed by band members provided initial gigs, while others were impromptu line-ups created on the road. With the help of social media, Jo(h)nband was able to quickly spread word of upcoming shows and venues.
“It was really uplifting to show up to a place and to have other people show up that we weren’t expecting, because they had read about it on Facebook,” Christie said.
The support of the CC community continued away from campus, often with up to 30 students and alumni showing up for shows. Although the band members are now all over the country, pursuing personal studies and careers, Jo(h)nband holds big plans for the future.
“We’re currently recording a full-length album that we hope to release before the fall of 2013. We’re also hoping to go on another tour this upcoming summer, but in the meantime, we’re looking for a few gigs during the winter and spring,” Greene said.
Encouraged by the support of the Colorado College bubble, Jo(h)nband demonstrates the potential for projects developed during college to continue after the shock of graduation. Their financial success on the tour in admission, EP, and t-shirt sales has given the band confidence in the possibility of future ventures on their own.
To current student bands with similar ambitions, Greene advised to “stay together for as long as you can in order to develop your sound and reputation. Have faith in your music. Listen to your band mates when they voice concerns, so that they will listen to you. It’s cliché, but have fun, or else it’s not worth it.”