The Autos is comprised of Ian Gastl, Nick Wimer, Taylor Kaufman and Pancho Tranmer. Mixed by Ian Gastl, and mastered by Danny Kalb, the single was produced and recorded at The Autos’ headquarters Turbo Snail Studios in the mile high city, Denver, CO.
American reggae trailblazers John’s Brown Body may be on indefinite hiatus, but then, who isn’t right now? Nevertheless, when the band made that announcement during the summer of 2016, many fans of modern reggae music winced at the news.
Thankfully, band members have been continuing to put out great music with other projects. Guitarist/singer Jay Spaker recently released his second awesome album as Double Tiger. Bass player Dan Africano has been laying down the low notes with jam band Ghost Light while continuing to bless us with reggae basslines as Death By Dub. Likewise, drummer Tommy Benedetti has been holding down the beat with Dub Apocalypse and Organically Good Trio. Keyboard player Jon Petronzio has his Road Man solo project while performing around his home base of Ithaca with funkmasters The Comb Down alongside trombone player TJ Schaper, who also has been playing with world music collective Nahko and Medicine for the People.
Last but not least, of course, JBB visionary and vocalist Elliot Martin recently collaborated with Iya Terra guitarist Nick Sefakis on a full-length album, and will be among the first reggae artists to put out new music in 2021 with his single, “Trespass,” dropping on New Year’s Day. However, reggae fans can hear the song today, right here, right now.
Martin’s song will be the first release by The Autos, a Denver-based production group including former Tatanka vocalist/guitar player, Ian Gastl, Nick Wimer of local reggae rockers Project 432, former Tatanka guitar tech Pancho Tranmer and Taylor Kaufman, both of whom will be putting out music later this year as part of a new reggae outfit produced by Gastl called Massif.
“The Autos started as a way to create music with no boundaries, focused on collaboration culture and capturing moments in a studio atmosphere,” Gastl described. “Not a band, but more so a production environment that is open to working with all types of artists and players.” Asked why they decided to create music as a production team rather than as a band, Gastl said that they didn’t want to pigeonhole themselves creatively and also wanted to give the group the opportunity to work with artists all over the world.
2020 has been a doozy for most people, but few more than Gastl, who, at the onset of the pandemic, was diagnosed with cancer.
“I was touring in Tatanka when I started experiencing pains above my stomach. Really, I chalked it up to bad lifestyle choices,” Gastl said.
The pains got so bad while touring over the last three years that at times he could barely move. He would drink and party to dull the pain, but that just made things worse, causing friction with his band and of course, further damaging his health. Eventually, the demands of the band became too much given his compromised well being, so he decided to quit to focus on production work. He had aimed to get to the bottom of his symptoms, but put off seeking help because he was very scared of what the doctor was going to say. He continued to drink to numb his pains while producing a string of rap records, but he finally forced himself to go in for a scope after a trip to the mountains during which he could barely ski due to perpetual exhaustion, and having noticed that his skin was starting to turn yellow.
The doctor knew immediately that he had cancer. He was rushed into emergency surgery that Monday. He spent a week in the hospital, a stay that was cut in half due to Covid.
Now, nine months post surgery, he has only recently begun to feel “kind of normal again.”
“When I was diagnosed it did not feel real at all. My world stopped,” Gastl related. “Nothing really mattered anymore except health, family and music.”
He immediately told himself that his lifestyle had to change if he wanted to live to have kids or experience grandchildren one day. “Family is super important to me, so I also stressed about how much they were hurting, knowing what I was going through.”
The hardest part about all this was coming to terms with the fact that he has an incurable disease called Lynch Syndrome. “I’ll be in and out of hospitals for the rest of my life, but if that means no more cancer, I’m fine with that.”
For others going through similar challenges, Gastl recommends moving at whatever pace works for each individual, whether that means day by day or even minute by minute. “Rest when you need to rest, grind when you need to grind,” he advised.
He also vouches for the power of positive thinking and said it helped to put his ordeal in perspective by considering the plights of others. “There is ALWAYS someone who is worse off than you. Know that we are on our own paths for a reason,” he said.
With the worst of this frightening tribulation behind him, Gastl expressed his gratitude. “I feel so blessed to be alive and to work on records with my best friends and mentors like Elliot Martin. So lucky to take breath after breath.”
Speaking of Martin, his tune premiering today as The Autos first single evokes the work of post-Kevin Kinsella John Brown’s Body in a big way. This comes as no surprise, given the fact that Martin’s unmistakable voice was at the forefront of their signature sound. While the tune is strongly reminiscent of his longtime band’s output, notable differences include the addition of synthesizer to enhance bass tones, and the absence of the signature JBB horn section. Nevertheless, this bona-fide banger should please the JBB massive and fans of progressive reggae through and through, while propelling The Autos out of the gate with a burst and setting the tone for what promises to be an exciting 2021.
Lyrically, Martin uses his unique wordplay to call out the widespread greed and corruption plaguing our society today while at the same time bigging up reggae music as a voice of the people and a tool of rebellion, a classic characteristic of the genre that makes it even more endearing.
Gastl commented, “I think the lyrics are very relative to today’s struggles. The United States is in a very fragile state. These are classic Elliot lyrics in my opinion. Speaking on uplifting and coming together but also not backing down to the people who are considered oppressors. We need unity while we also need action.”
For their part, The Autos intend to put that action in motion by donating portions of proceeds from all releases to a charity in Denver that helps fund music education in Colorado public schools. Additionally, Gastl has dedicated all of their 2021 releases to two people who had been very influential to him over the years that recently passed: Drew Keys of Haze St. Studios and Common Kings and Dan Sherill, the well regarded South Dakota musician who garnered a lot of fans, friends and admirers in the American reggae rock community.