Q&A with Jam in the Van

Touring musicians are known to get quite familiar with the van transporting them from city to city. Long days on the road mean lots of hours spent in cramped, bumpy, old Winnebagos in the service of entertaining audiences across the country. Who would want to spend more time in one of those than they had to? Jam in the Van is who.

In 2011, music entrepreneurs Jake Cotler, Dave Bell, and Louis Peek built their first version of a music studio on wheels. Now it’s a full-blown solar-powered mobile recording studio, complete with its own YouTube channel documenting all of the badass musicians that climb aboard. The guys have filmed and recorded more than 1,000 bands just about everywhere: SXSW, Coachella, all over the country – and now, Angel City Brewery.

For our newest summer festival on April 28th, Sunbather Summer, we teamed up with Jam in the Van to host a recording session and live performance with eight bands throughout the day. Set times for recording can be found here.

We asked the Jam in the Van team some questions about their crazy experiences out on the road and in the van:

Keith McEly, Angel City Marketing and Events Manager: Ok, so what kind of “van” is it?

Jake Cotler, Founder: The current Jam Van (version 3.0) has been serving us faithfully since mid-2015.  It’s a 2004 Holiday Rambler Admiral RV. The interior was stripped (no more bathroom or kitchen stuff) and converted into a customized studio space. The exterior paint job was designed and realized by California artist MEAR ONE. It’s not exactly a “van” but “Jam in the RV” simply isn’t as catchy!

KM: Was it always this specific van or are there many iterations?

JC: This Jam Van is our third iteration—the most fully realized vision yet; the first two served us for stints but ultimately bit the bullet one way or another…

KM: When, where and how did it all begin?

JC: Jake and Dave had the idea while planning a trip to Bonnaroo. They bought the first Jam Van in the valley and almost crashed it on the way back to Jake’s apartment, where they hosted the first Jam Van Sessions in the back lot.

KM: Have you any of you ever slept in the van? 

JC: Yeah, it sucked every time.

KM: What’s the farthest you’ve taken it?

JC: The Jam Van(s) and crew have traveled as far as Cleveland and Asheville in the Summer of 2016 and elsewhere to Tennessee, New Orleans Telluride, CO, Vegas and Austin TX several times. It’s certainly done laps up and around California too!

KM: What’s the weirdest place you’ve taken it?

JC: We used to do some weird shit back when we started… there was one spot called Freak City LA where we parked in the back alley of this weird venue/store during a party.  We got blocked in and we didn’t want to leave all our gear in a sketch alley in Hollywood, so that was one of the sucky times we slept in the van. Also outside a bar called Stixx in Ft. Stockton, TX was also a strange place, because Ft. Stockton is a super strange place.

KM: Do people recognize the van out and about?

JC: Yeah, we’ve gotten some good road sightings. We get tagged a lot more on social media when we hit the road now, but we’ve had waiters and bartenders want to run out and take pics of the van because they were fans of the videos.

KM: Did you expect this to turn into a full on business when you started the project?

JC: We expected it to be something… it wasn’t exactly a cheap hobby so we had to evolve it from that into something.  It’s still evolving all the time.

KM: Who’s the most surprising guest you’ve had?

JC: Phil Lesh and Wyclef were pretty cool ’cause I listened to them a lot when I was younger, but I wouldn’t say we were surprised.


KM: Who’s a dream guest that you’d love to have on sometime?

JC: Dave’s a huge Bono fan so it’d be a dream for him to sit in the van for that one!

Be sure to come out to the brewery on April 28th for Sunbather Summer starting at noon, and see the whole process for yourself!