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This Band Will Take You on an Psychedelic Bus Trip Within City Limits

By Nicole Levy | October 14, 2015 7:46am
 Interstellar Transmissions is Gavin McGowen (guitar,) Nathan Wilson (drums,) and William Jerome, a.k.a
Interstellar Transmissions is Gavin McGowen (guitar,) Nathan Wilson (drums,) and William Jerome, a.k.a "Coda" (keyboard.)
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Interstellar Transmissions

It may be a spaceship. It was once a school bus. It's now a tour bus — and a concert space. 

There's no shortage of brick-and-mortar performance venues in New York City, but you'll have to board a repurposed school bus—its splashy exterior covered in cosmic motifs and alien lettering—to see Interstellar Transmissions play what reviewers describe as its "shamanic jazz" or "circus fusion" music.

On the road since 2012, the band rolled into town for the first time earlier this month, inviting fans to track its movements via Twitter and Facebook. Interstellar Transmissions offers all willing passengers a literal trip through the city, and it promises them a metaphorical one through an alternate universe where the psychedelic era of the 1960s and '70s abides. 

bus exterior

Credit: Facebook/Interstellar Transmissions

Throughout the past three years of picking up strangers on their travels, the band has found there are three kinds of people who choose to ride the bus with them, according to band manager and keyboardist William "Coda" Jerome:

"There are the people that are raging, jumping up all over the place, punching the ceiling, screaming out the windows. Then you have the people in the front of the bus who are just kind of sitting there, uncomfortable, making sure the driver isn't about to drive off a cliff. And then you’ll have the people in the back of the bus ... just really analyzing everything.”

What these hitchhikers share, Jerome said, is a sense of adventure.

The Interstellar trip launched from New Orleans in 2012. On a tour of the city during Mardi Gras, Jerome, guitarist Gavin McGowen and drummer Nathan Wilson decided they were done busking on the streets, where they drew large crowds and noise complaints.

They would play their music — a fusion of jazz, rock, classical and world music influences — inside the school bus Wilson's former bandmate had bought off a New Life Fellowship church in Texas. By bringing the act indoors, the band could "drive around and just play music really loud and piss all the people off that wouldn’t let us play," Jerome said. "It was such a hit that we literally started a riot on Bourbon Street."

Over the next three years, the band invested roughly $30,000 outfitting the bus with everything a trippy music venue and crash pad needs: electric wiring for neon lights, LED lights animated by sound, benches that fold out into beds, and window tinting.


LED floor tested and lookin good! ;) #arduino #LEDfloor #DIY #InterstellarBus @luminescentgrand #CodaNova

A video posted by INTERSTELLAR TRANSMISSIONS (@interstellarbus) on

Earlier this year, the band members sold their apartments in Austin and committed to a nomadic lifestyle that has them sleeping for two hours at a time and drinking an herbal tea they swear keeps them in peak physical condition. They have since taken their act across the country, asking riders for donations that pay for food, gas and repairs.

"There’s plenty of places where we’ve gotten into trouble, where we weren’t accepted entirely," Jerome told DNAinfo. "We’re not really allowed in the city of Medford, Oregon any more. We were asked to leave Key West, Florida and not come back."

In an inaugural visit to New York, the gypsy band is testing its boundaries. Parking hasn't been an issue because, Jerome said, officers won't ticket a bus — presumably out of commission — when its hood is popped. But late last week in the East Village, the NYPD issued Jerome and the band's driver $1,375 in fines, the keyboardist said, for various infractions, including what appeared to be a license plate held in place by duct tape. (According to Jerome, the tape is there to protect partiers from sharp screwheads.) 

“We’ve never racked up over $1,000 in tickets in one sitting," Jerome said.

The band will steer clear of the East Village for the rest of its trip, but you can track it down in Brooklyn this week.



Brooklynites on board the Interstellar bus

Fans are singing praises for the experience the Interstellar bus offers.

"Thank you," wrote a Facebook user last week, after the bus made an appearance in the borough. "That was probably the most fun I'll EVER have on a bus!"

"Legendary bus ride," wrote another. "Unforgettable."