Deep Inside The Cosmos Factory
Jupiter Coyote Jams
by Scott Greene
In our neverending quest to bring you the best the music world has to offer, we are always looking for new and fresh acts to feature. When a reader wrote (thanks, Philip) and asked if we had done anything on Jupiter Coyote, I had to admit that we had missed the boat and not taken the time to hear what turns out to be the best band to come our way in a long time. I set out to find out all I could about this smoking mountain band and, in this feature interview, I hope to turn some of you on their brand of strong, "because we can" Southern Jam mountain music. After having caught this band show a few weeks ago here in Greenville, I was so caught up in their music that I listened to nothing else for a week. I felt well prepared for my conversation with band co-founder, John Felty. You'll be as impressed as I was with JC's determination to stay true to the music even when it means giving up a major label deal.
Hey, John, thanks for sharing the music with me and for the great time at the show the other night.
Anytime, Scott. Enjoyed our chat, always good to meet a new fan.
I am that for sure, man. Y'all are one killer band!
Thanks. We try real hard and enjoy what we do.
Tell me how the band got started and how you came to play music.
Matt and I grew up together and went to school together and kind of learned about music together. We played some as kids together and when we got out of college we had the chance to move to Macon and live rent-free and try our hand at the music business full time. For us, it was a good excuse not to go to work at a nine to five deal and go for our dream. The band at that time consisted of Matt Mayes, Matt Trevitt, Ned Grubb and myself. We were doing cover music and going by the name "The Rockefellers". The band was playing a show in Chattanooga and we had these people come up to see the show - only one problem: they came to see another band with that name! We decided it was time to drop the cover band stuff and go full time with our music and change our name. So we had to come up with a good name and no one could agree, so we had this soundman named John Myer who wrote a song called Jupiter Coyote. We were looking for something with no meaning so (that) the sound and the music we created would define the name. We took it and come to find out in studying it that Jupiter is the planet of luck and we are really lucky to be playing the music we love and making a living to support our families. The coyote is the ultimate survivor and the trickster in Native American lore and they sing together so the name that meant nothing when we started fell right in and fits this band perfectly.
Tell me about your personal early musical influences.
I grew up listening to bands with that twin guitar sound like the Allmans, Little Feat, Marshall Tucker and all the great bluegrass pickers from the south and that's still a part of our sound and we have allowed it to grow with us and what has been created is music that we have birthed and it's a part of us.
Tell me about the changes in the band's line up.
Matt Mayes and I are the only two left from the original band In 1992, Matt Trevitt and Ned Grubb left the band to pursue other interests. I'm glad to inform that both of them are happily married and doing well. Matt and (his) wife Holly live in Macon and have two little boys. Ned and (his) wife Kate live in Macon and also have a little boy. At this time we got a drummer named Gene Bass and a bass player named Sanders Brightwell whom we met in Athens, Ga. He was attending the University of Georgia. And playing bass in a funk/blues outfit called "Blue Groove". Sanders was a perfect fit as he was so well suited for what we were doing and the amount of time we spent on the road. His playing fits this jamming band and he is the backbone to our music. In 1993, we added a conga player named David Stevens or, as the world knows him, "The Great Rapa" and he was with us till, in 1997, he decided to give the road a rest and spend more time with his son. He still sits in with us when we are in his area and we wish him the best of luck. Robert Soto was pretty much the handpicked replacement for Rapa by Rapa and he played in the band for almost two years. Robert was just recently married and I am sorry to say is no longer with the group. Then, in ‘97 or so, we found the thing that brings our music to the front and sets us apart from others and that someone is Steve Trismen. He is the finest fiddle player a band could ask for and his vocals and feel for the music we create has been something special to watch. In April of 2000, Gene and his wife became parents of triplets and, as much as it hurt to see him go, he has, as you can imagine, a new set of priorities. We wish him the best always. This leads to the latest member to join us - that is Noel Felty. He is the nephew of John and grew up with us in Brevard, N.C. With one short tour with JC under his belt three years ago, and a built-in familiarity with the music, Noel was the only choice to replace Gene. If you have not seen Noel with JC you need to! His talent behind the kit is simply world-class. He also plays guitar and writes.
Is this the best line up in the band history?
Well, I never want to take away from what the others who helped us start this and make some great music, but this line up now is so in tune with what each other is doing that the music we are making now is the best we ever have.
Tell me about the song writing in this band - who and how?
Matt writes the bulk of the lyrics. I do a little but he is just amazing to see. He can spit words out in such a way to tell a story or touch peoples' lives and he shares that gift with the world through his songs. He has gift to share words that can reach so many people and it's amazing that what means one thing to me can mean something so different to someone else and that's the beauty of music and its ability to touch people in different ways. We are lucky that Matt, Noel or I will have a song and have the rough draft and we don't dictate parts. . . we allow each person to add their own flavor to it and it creates the body of work that we call our own.
Tell me about the off-time stuff ya'll do. I was blown away to be watching you and think I knew where a song was going and have you change the time of it in midstream and then back again with so much ease and style.
We do it for two reasons - to make our music different and because we can. It changes the feel of the song and it keeps it so fresh and makes people take a second look and we have been able incorporate it in a way to be smooth and free flowing.
Tell me who some of the biggest places you have played and who some of the bands you have opened for.
We did several Allman brother shows and those are huge and a lot of fun to do. One of our favorite people to have sit in is Barry Richmond and he is awesome and we love when he can join us on stage. We also have had several members of "Leftover Salmon" and even Derek Trucks has sat in with us on several shows and it's just a lot of fun.
Tell me why you think a major label has not picked you up, after seven CDs and so many years on the road?
We refuse to compromise our music and ourselves. Point blank: the major labels are interested in selling CDs and not art and we refuse to mold our music to fit what they want so we will keep on plugging away and do our own thing and in the end have something we are proud of and can sleep at night. Our last offer was from a label but they wanted us in Bolo ties and big hats and we passed. We do this for art and for our music and that's why we are independent. The only stations that play our music are the smaller, independent stations and now and then maybe a regional show from some stations but no major airplay. But our one rule is "If we like it, we play it" and we are about playing music.
How many dates do you do a year?
We were doing over 280 dates a year but we have been blessed and been able to cut back just a little to maybe 200 a year or so and it's been much nicer to be able to have time at home and to write and create great music.
What does the future hold for this band?
We will keep on playing our music and making records but, if and when it stops being fun, we will stop. We also have a European tour coming if we can get all the details worked out and we look forward to that.
Anything you want to say to your fans or anyone who this is their first exposure to you and your music?
To the fans, thanks for your support and love. We feel it each time we play and without you we could not keep going. To new folks, give us a try, take a chance, join our mailing list and get our music. It's out there and you can get it. We do CD burns for different shows and post them on our list and we love to share the music.