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Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

In 2006, guitarist and songwriter Jamie Hafler left Ohio and headed to Los Angeles via Twentynine Palms to visit his brother Jeff, a singer/songwriter. Back then, Jeff had just hired a then-recent desert transplant as a nanny for his son, Cash: artist and singer/songwriter Cristie Carter.

Cristie is a native of San Francisco with deep roots in the Bay Area metal scene of the mid ’80s. She moved to Los Angeles and got into the punk-rock music scene of the mid-’90s, most notably as the manager for the all girl teenage punk band The Grown Ups. There, she formed a close relationship with artist Zaina Alwan (now married to desert-rock icon Brant Bjork). The two women came to Joshua Tree with artist Paul Hadley, known to some as “Bing.” In 2006, Cristie fell for Wonder Valley, and Zaina fell for her “dream house” in Twentynine Palms.

Jeff then introduced Jamie and Cristie. The rest, as they say, is high-desert rock history.

Jamie Hafler and Cristie Carter had a musical love affair in front of audiences with their goth/rock duo Gilded Flicker for several years. With Jamie on guitar and vocals, and Cristie on bass and vocals, they presented dark, raw, heavy music that won them a measure of respect and an intimate fan base.

This year, they shifted gears and began creating new sounds with a brand-new project called DRUG. For this group, Cristie put down the bass guitar and focused all of her attention on vocals and lyrics. They added drummer Theo Smith, and the band has been out playing shows with new material. In fact, they unveiled two songs on the online music program Jam in the Van in April, which was filmed at Brant Bjork’s studio in Joshua Tree. (See it at jaminthevan.com/drug.)

DRUG is the culmination of Jamie’s mad-professor ingenuity and Cristie’s dark, dramatic imagination. Jamie has crafted a beautiful double-necked Telecaster that acts as a guitar and a bass. He has dialed his guitar sound in to obtain those sweet reverberated surf tones, and he crafts psychedelic landscapes for Cristie’s dark and dramatic vocals. Theo Smith fits the group like a glove—he’s steady, understated and committed to the song.

“The new sound of DRUG was inspired solely on the basis of change,” Jamie said. “We wanted something new, and it was created out of necessity. Cristie wanted to be free of an instrument so she could fulfill her dream as a lead vocalist. I wanted to be more involved with the writing process and the challenge of performing rather than singing.”

Jamie touted Cristie’s vocals.

“Cristie is the main lyricist of DRUG,” he said. “Her lyrics deal with the paranormal and astral projections. She feeds off lost spirits of the night. Her vocalist influences are Jim Morrison, Mike Patton, Billie Holiday, Grace Slick and Julie London.

“We wouldn’t be a band without Theo Smith. His commitment and enthusiasm toward the band, and our music, is paramount. He gets what we’re trying to do and is totally into it.”

DRUG is working on a new YouTube channel to use as a medium for collaborations with artists and live performances of songs in the studio. The group is also working on a 7-inch record scheduled for release in November: red vinyl boasting two fresh tracks, “Blackfall” and “Sex After Prom,” recorded live, straight to tape, with no overdubs.

Alter your consciousness with DRUG, the high desert’s experimental surf-punk band.

For more information on DRUG, visit www.facebook.com/pages/DRUG/1564266073801382. Read more from Robin Linn, including an expanded version of this story, at www.desertrockchronicles.com.

Jam in the Van is an Internet music program that’s taking the music world by storm. It is quickly becoming as recognizable as the giant music festivals to which it travels. What MTV was to music videos in the early ‘80s, Jam in the Van is to music festivals and independent artists today.

The van is a moving piece of art, covered with colorful portraits of rock legends and wallpapered in memorabilia from shows gone by. It is also a solar-powered recording studio that travels to the hottest music festivals. Parked outside of Bonnaroo, High Sierra, SXSW and Bottle Rocket, JITV entrepreneur Jake Cotler and his crew invite performing artists inside for a three-song set, documented with state-of-the-art recording gear by pros who are passionate about capturing the magic.

The concept was born in 2011 in the expanded consciousness of Jake Cotler. In a psychedelic haze at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tenn., beneath the starry sky on top of their rented RV, Jake and his and partners, Dave Bell and Louis Peek, thought, “What if we could bring the music to us?” The young festies had been attending Bonnaroo since 2002, and each year, they rented an RV to the tune of a couple of grand. They began contemplating what would happen if they bought an old RV, loaded it with recording gear, and got the bands they were traveling to see to record live sets inside the van. They bought the first jam-van off craigslist for $800, parked it in the alley behind Cotler’s Venice Beach home, and began inviting bands to come play.

Cotler remembers the first time they were invited to park the van backstage at Bonnaroo in 2012.

“Everything but the engine is powered by the sun,” he said. “The studio is fully solar-powered, amps and all. We use four-domestic sized solar panels on the roof of the van to run everything. That’s why we can pull up literally anywhere and film our sessions.

“… The first Bonnaroo we worked at was pretty surreal for us. That was probably the last year that Bonnaroo was really awesome, 2012. Just three months prior, we’d been on the side of the road in Fort Stockton, Texas, broken down in a 1984 Jam Van that died on us on the way back from SXSW. We had to sell the van to a sheriff on the side of the road who was going to use it for storage and to let his nephew sleep in. We packed everything up in a U-Haul and drove back to L.A. with two choices on our minds: Throw in the towel and say it was fun while it lasted, or crowd-fund a new van, and make shit happen. We went with option B, because we don’t quit shit, and we succeeded.

“In the midst of our crowd-funding venture, we signed a deal with Bonnaroo to be part of the festival and film bands backstage. So that first time we … got to be backstage at the festival that started it all. That was really a good feeling.”

The show has picked up sponsors and has filmed hundreds of live music segments. The crew visits major music meccas and music festivals. In April, the crew visited our high desert for a two-day shoot before making their way down to Coachella to record some of this year’s best acts, wrapping things up with desert-based War Drum.

Day one took place outside the van at desert rock icon Brant Bjork’s Low Desert Punk studio in Joshua Tree. The shoot started off with several songs by Brant’s band Low Desert Punk, fresh off this year’s Coachella stage. They included a track from his recent release, Black Flower Power. Next up was DRUG, a surf-punk trio featuring Jamie Hafler on guitar and bass (using a custom built double-neck guitar, allowing him to pull off the feat), and the dramatic impassioned vocals of frontwoman Cristie Carter. A last-minute addition to the lineup was Gram Rabbit songstress Jesika von Rabbit, who took the intimate route with her vocals and guitar. The grand finale featured The Atomic Sherpas.

Day two occurred inside the van at the world renowned Rancho De La Luna Recording Studio in Joshua Tree, where the cream of the desert rock crop gave the crew a taste of what our underground music scene is all about. Guitarist Bobby Nichols (Inner Planetary Monks), drummer Rob Peterson (The Pedestrians) and bassist Armando Flores (The Pedestrians, Blasting Echo) recorded as Sundrug Experiment. They set the mood for the day with fiery psychedelic jams. Next up was Americana indie-band Gene Jr. and The Family, making Joshua Tree proud with its polished pop-infused rock. Waxy then delivered an authentic set of desert stoner rock; Fatso Jetson made the trek from L.A. and blew EVERYONE away with a flawless set of pounding compositions. The evening ended with punk-laden power pop by desert bad-boys, Eagles of Death Metal. Dave Catching and Bingo Richey were going over new tunes that are part of their latest project, the Mojave Lords, predicted to be the desert’s new supergroup.

Visit Jam in the Van at www.jaminthevan.com. Read more from Robin Linn, including an expanded version of this story with video imbeds, at www.desertrockchronicles.com.