Jubilo Drive Overcome Grief and Loss to Get Back on the Right Road

Jubilo Drive (Rayana Chumthong)

When four Chapman University freshmen got together to form Jubilo Drive back in 2012, there wasn’t much to it beyond being a normal college band. As so many campus-based bands had done before them, concerts came in the form of parties, bars, and whatever other small venues would have them while recording new music generally involved a rough practice session and an open laptop. But when they decided to take a break after graduating, an unexpected twist of fate put their long-term future as a band in jeopardy.

“We played a lot of shows, made a couple little EPs, and did a SoCal tour, and then we put out an album that we Kickstarted after we graduated,” says vocalist and guitarist Jordan H. Kleinman. “We played around for another year or so after that, but then we decided to take a hiatus because it felt like we’d been at it for so long. As that was happening, our drummer, Eric Cruz, passed away in a car accident.”

Cruz’s passing in May of last year left Kleinman, founding guitarist Henry Kuckens, and recently acquired keyboardist Aaron Shadrow, unsure of how to pursue future endeavors. Although they toyed with the idea of starting a new project entirely (Kleinman and Shadrow had worked together outside of Jubilo Drive before), the trio eventually decided that the best way to honor the legacy of their late percussionist would be to continue the band as it was — making Cruz a permanent part of the group’s growing history.

After bringing in a new rhythm section and recording some new material, the now-quintet hit the stage on May 11 for their first show since the initial hiatus. Almost exactly a year after his friend’s passing, Kleinman knew that going forward with playing more shows and releasing new tunes was what Cruz would’ve wanted, but even after all of the discussion over the importance of not changing the band’s name, he still wasn’t expecting to be emotionally impacted by Jubilo Drive’s return to the stage.

“At first, I didn’t think I was going to be anxious about it or anything, but about 30 minutes before we went on it sort of hit me,” Kleinman says, pausing to put his feelings into words. “It’s hard to describe, but it felt like it was the first step forward again after all of these changes. It felt like the first time for the first time, if that makes any sense.”

Of course, the new lineup for Jubilo Drive is significantly more professional and mature than the college kids who initially started making music together. Multiple members have now spent time working in studios and performing with other bands, and they have a better understanding in general of how to avoid the common pitfalls of the music industry. As seen by their release of a new single for just about every month of this year, Kleinman and the band are also enjoying their access to professional recording equipment rather than having to piece things together in a college apartment.

“We definitely take it much more seriously, but not in the way that we take ourselves too seriously,” Kleinman says. “The band has always been a group of multitalented people, but now we have much more reasonable approaches to projects and — especially with us working with major companies — we know how to do some things. Whether it’s using paid advertisements or how we do artwork or mixing, I think we’re much more professional now. Some of us have played in other bands as well, so we’ve seen where a lot of bands have shortcomings and we’ve scrutinized all of those elements over the last two years.”

Jubilo Drive will be at the Wayfarer in Costa Mesa with James Supercave and Sleep State on June 29 at 9 p.m. Tickets start at $12 and are available through Ticketfly and the venue.

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