Jasper Bones: Cruising on Chicano Wavy Soul

Photo by Max Flick

Mastering the wave.

When Jasper Bones’ manager informed me that on a previous tour run he returned home to Los Angeles “raving” about his stop in Chicago, I knew this was a conversation I was eager to have. At Tropicália Fest (and after his set), I asked Jasper about his visit to the Windy City. “... I loved it. The downtown area was really cool. We played at Subterranean - that place was nice.” He went on to explain that before his set, he walked outside of Sub T looking for a snack. A donut shop (later identified to be Stan’s Donuts) grabbed his attention. “I remember walking in there and I was like ‘oh cool I can't wait to try something that’s unique to Chicago.’” Ironically, like Jasper, Stan’s donuts is California-bred, a fact which Jasper didn’t realize until his order was already placed and he spotted a mural with text that read: “Originated in LA”.

Photo by Alondra Buccio

Photo by Alondra Buccio

Jasper has been musically active in Los Angeles, playing a number of shows in the city’s buzzing scene. His music continues to gain him support from both listeners and artists from around the country, including other Chicano names such as Cuco (Omar Banos), Omar Apollo, and VICTOR!. Fusing vocal influences from R&B and Soul, and instrumental inspiration from Blues and Jazz, Jasper Bones’ admiration for these models leads him to be a standout artist who’s pushing the boundaries of genre. With his upcoming Project Cruise Control scheduled to release November 30th, Jasper is looking to make an even larger imprint in the music community with his trademark style “Chicano Wavy-Soul”.

The beginning of Jasper Bones’ journey starts with the guitar, the first detail of his performance at Long Beach’s Tropicália Fest that struck my attention. Lifting the guitar high, he strummed it’s chords in a flashy manner, carefully moving the guitar behind his head and proceeding to play the instrument. When I asked Jasper about playing the guitar that way, he instantly smiled: “[laughs] That’s something that I’ve learned over the past few years...”. Playing since he was 9 years old, Bones admits his relationship with the guitar lacked consistency in his early encounters with the instrument, informing me that he took breaks in between his now 11 years of playing. It’s nearly impossible to have guessed he hasn’t always known how to play the guitar behind his head, nonetheless ever been separated from one.

His Gibson SG is only one element that supports the instrumental characteristic of his “Chicano Wavy-Soul” sound. Jasper also plays with a live band, and works with other musicians and producers on the production aspect of his recorded songs. Collaborating and being around other musicians was how Jasper started in music, having been a part of two bands before he broke off into a solo career. Although he didn’t feel in sync with either band’s style, he still looks back at starting with those groups as pivotal moments in his journey. “I learned so much from [those bands]... [they] helped me come out of my comfort zone and my shell, to the point where now I can do stuff like [play Tropicália].”

Jasper took the Chavela Stage for his 30 minute set with confidence. When his set was over and we met for our conversation, he radiated a friendly and easy going nature. With how comfortable he was conversing with me, I wouldn't have ever made the assumption that he used to be shy. We continued to talk about his musical background with the two bands. Jasper left the first to join the second and, while in that second group, he recognized something was missing. “We didn’t have a singer”, he said. “So I was like, okay, I can try it - even though I was super shy and had never done it before. But... I just really love music”. Bones taught himself vocals by listening to Soul stars like Amy Winehouse, Otis Redding, and Marvin Gaye, all of whom helped him identify his personal style of vocals. In a fresh twist of genre, Jasper infuses bilingual lyrics with Motown, Oldies Soul, and R&B. “I always loved [Soul and R&B] cause thats what my parents played growing up around the house… but i don't think i really tried to captivate that myself until this last full on year, where i really fine tuned my sound.”

Photo by Alondra Buccio

Photo by Alondra Buccio

For most of the year, Jasper has only had three tracks to support his individualistic sound.  In his fourth and most recent release “Someone Like You” (released November 16th), Jasper’s vocal capabilities stand out just as his guitar instrumentation does. “I Can’t Stay” and “What’s Your Secret” take listeners through (what seem to be) specific sentiments of love. While the lyrics of each track clearly tell a story of walking away from love or admiring a crush, each song’s tempo aligns perfectly with the emotions he's portraying. In “Oscuridad”, a faster tempo accompanies what I interpret to be feelings of frustration. The song discusses not finding a lover and staying in a phase of darkness, where his second verse (completely in Spanish) addresses an unrequited crush. The topic of romance, be it love lost or love gained, is a familiar subject in Jasper’s music, which he notes will be a consistent theme on his debut project Cruise Control.

“The EP is one cohesive story… from the first song to the very last song… it portrays different emotions, mainly about coming across someone you like, and that you want to try to get to like you back. [Then] moving on from there.” Three of his four released singles are on the tracklist he teased mid-November and it will be interesting to see how they fit into the overall storyline. “Soulkeeper”, “This True Feeling”, and “Be Around” fill the remaining slots of the project’s tracklist. The release has been a moment Jasper has eagerly anticipated. “If you really think about it, having [a few] songs out is nice and all, but I wanna have a legit project out… I’ve been working on it the past year... I wanna close that chapter… and start working on other stuff.”

The next time Jasper Bones plays a show, not only will Cruise Control be released, but his set will contain more songs to perform, an aspect of the future he most looks forward to. My last question to Jasper was if he’d want to come back to play Chicago again, possibly even at Subterranean. That same smile he had earlier in our conversation (when I commented about playing his guitar behind his head) appeared across his face. “I would love to… They had some sketchy ass stairs going down on stage, that shit had me terrified... But I would love to [play there] again. Chicago’s a beautiful city, I would love to go back.”