American Driver

 



American Driver at the Monte Vista Hotel 2016-10-14 (L to R: Andy Gaines, Jon Guerrero, and Matt O'Toole)

History

American Driver was founded in Phoenix, Arizona by Andy Gaines, Jon Guerrero, and Matt O’Toole in the Fall of 1995.  The initial lineup included Andy Gaines on guitar, Jake Grobe on drums, Jon Guerrero on bass, and Matt O’Toole on guitar and vocals.  The band was originally named Carl and the Crosswalkers and rehearsed at O’Toole’s house.  At this time the band primarily concentrated on playing cover songs by several of the bandmember’s favorite bands, including the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers.  The bulk of the band’s early material was cover songs by the band Phish, including “Tweezer”, “Run Like an Antelope”, and “Bouncing Around the Room”.  In late Fall 1995, Grobe left the band and O’Toole took over drumming duties while performing all vocals with the band.  It was at this time that the band began to write and perform their own songs, including the instrumental “Russian Two-Step”, written by O’Toole.



American Driver at Flagstaff Brewery Circa 2000 (L to R, Andy Gaines, Matt O'Toole, Jon Guerrero)

The band began playing in public in the Spring of 1996 with their first show being held in the backyard of Laura Pallin, a friend of the band.  That Spring also included shows in the backyard of Owen Johnston’s house and a gig at Central High School’s “Battle of the Bands”.  In the Spring of 1996, Gaines and Guerrero began to provide vocals for the band and the band added original songs “Speedbump”, “Four Twenty’s Near”, both written by O’Toole, “Way Down Below”, written by Gaines, and “Western Front”, co-written by Gaines and O’Toole.  In April 1996, Mason Nostrum joined the band on keyboards and vocals.  In addition to his great keyboard playing and vocals, Mason brought several songs to the band, including the blues based “Crawl Back”, which was co-written by O’Toole.  “Crawl Back” would come to be a staple of the band in later years even after the departure of Mason.  The Spring of 1996 culminated with a show in the backyard of Nick Firth’s house in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Mason left the band in the summer of 1996 to pursue a career in entertainment in Las Vegas.

 

American Driver at Joey Nylander's Flagstaff Circa 2000

American Driver at Joey Nylander's House Flagstaff, AZ Circa 2000 (L to R, Andy Gaines, Jon Guerrero, Matt O'Toole)

 

The band continued to play throughout the Summer and Fall of 1996, adding the O’Toole penned song “NBA Woman”.  In the Fall of 1996, O’Toole and Guerrero began to play as an acoustic duo, with O’Toole on guitar, mandolin and vocals and Guerrero on banjo and vocals.  This arrangement produced new original songs “Tennessee Me” and “Sailin’ Away”, both written by O’Toole.  These songs were quickly adopted by the band.  The only show of note in the Fall of 1996 was an afternoon gig in the backyard of Andy Gaines.  In the Spring of 1997, Gaines left the band to deal with personal issues and later moved to Eugene, Oregon in the Fall of 1997 to attend the University of Oregon.  O’Toole and Guerrero stayed closer to home, both choosing to attend Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona.

In the Winter of 1997, all of the band members had come home for Christmas and the idea for a show was thrown around.  On December 21, 1997 the band re-assembled for a show at Alex Heimann’s house in Tempe, Arizona.  The band arrived at the house, astonished to find a standing room only crowd.  The band played three sets into the early morning hours.  Although the band had not played together in more than a year, the band played seamlessly and decided to do another show that was held on December 23, 1997, also at Heimann’s house in Tempe.

1998 found O’Toole and Guerrero back at school in Flagstaff while Gaines continued to deal with personal issues.  In January 1999, Gaines moved to Flagstaff in order attend Northern Arizona University and to re-join his band mates.  The band was renamed American Driver and began to rehearse at the O’Toole cabin on the outskirts of Flagstaff.  Several new original songs were added to the band’s repertoire in early 1999.  “Lost”, “Fire up the Town”, and “The Final Gift” were written and sung by Gaines.  “Flanders” was written and sung by Guerrero.  “Quickie”, “Surfer’s Dream”, and “Juan’s Lullaby” were written and sung O’Toole.  It was at this time that Andrew Tuttle, a friend of the band, began to attend all rehearsals and to act as roadie for the band.  American Driver again began to play publicly on February 23, 1999 opening for the band Shaggin’ Wagon at the Monte Vista Hotel Bar in Flagstaff.  That Spring also included a show at Steve Skelton’s house in Flagstaff celebrating Jason Zeidler’s 21st birthday.

American Driver and Andrew Tuttle at the Cabin

American Driver getting ready to practice circa 1999 (L to R, Jon Guerrero, Andy Gaines, Andrew Tuttle, Matt O'Toole)

 

In the Spring of 1999, the band was invited by Nick Firth to record an album at the Scottsdale Community College music studio in Scottsdale, AZ.  Firth engineered the two day recording session and the album was called “Juan’s Sandwich”.  The album included older songs “Speedbump” and “Western Front” as well as the recently penned “Surfer’s Dream” and “Flanders”.  The album also saw the band placing more emphasis on vocals, with O’Toole providing harmonizing vocals on Gaines and Guerrero penned songs.    

The band took the rest of the year off, while Gaines continued to deal with personal issues.  The band re-emerged in the Spring of 2000 with Peter Harter joining the band on percussion.  Although Harter practiced with the band in the Spring of 2000, he left the band shortly thereafter and the band continued as a trio with core members Gaines, Guerrero, and O’Toole.  Also in the Spring of 2000, Gaines and O’Toole played several shows as an acoustic duo, playing classic American Driver songs, as well as new cover songs “Sugaree” and “Cortez the Killer”. 

The year 2000 found American Driver at their creative peak, adding new songs by each band member.  “Lonely Town”, “You’re Through, “Longsleeves”, “Alexis Machine”, “Machine’s Way”, “My Only Friend” and “Bag of Bones” were written by Gaines.  “Throw Away” and “Soothe” were written by O’Toole while Guerrero delivered the heavy bass line and idea for “Longsleeves II”.  Another new song, “Trash Can Man” was written by Guerrero and quickly became a staple of the band’s live sets.  The band recorded a few of these songs in a recording made at the O’Toole cabin, including “Throw Away”, “Soothe”, “Trash Can Man”, and “Lost”.  The year 2000 also found the band at their busiest in terms of live shows.

The band played several shows that Spring opening for the local Flagstaff band, Shaggin’ Wagon.  This opening spot included multiple shows at the Monte Vista Hotel and Bar and Flagstaff Brewery.  In another opening slot for Shaggin’ Wagin, the band was invited to play at the downtown Flagstaff venue, Heritage Square.  This was a memorable performance attended by several O’Toole family members, which included excellent versions of “Lost” and “Speedbump”.  October 6 found the band playing to a crowd of newly registered voters at the Northern Arizona University Voterpalooza event.  After Voterpalooza, the band quickly packed up and played another show at friend Joey Nylander’s house.  The band played several shows at Nylander’s house throughout the year.

American Driver at the Cairo House Tempe, AZ Circa 2000

American Driver at the Cairo House Tempe, Az Circa 2000 (L to R, Jon Guerrero, Andy Gaines, Matt O'Toole)

 

The year 2001 found the band at the peak of their live performances.  Headlining gigs at the Flagstaff Brewery and Mogollon Brewing Company became more common, but the band felt more comfortable playing house parties.  The band played a great show at their friend, Carrie Colburn’s house.  This show was very high energy with a large crowd.  In the middle of the second set, several of the audience members tried to come onstage and rap with the band but were rebuked and told that the band did let random rappers onstage with them due to a previous incident.  The rappers eyed the band suspiciously and the rest of the set was played amid obvious tension.  This tension only served to fuel the band to greater heights.  Another memorable show was at a girl named Rose’s house.  After setting the band up next to the keg in the kitchen, water from the keg bucket continuously drained onto the band’s equipment, causing minor malfunctions.  The band played a great show but was visibly upset over the situation.  The band exacted revenge in the form of Jon Guerrero.  After the show, Jon would eat handfuls of trail mix set out for the party guests.  Between bites, Jon would drop the trail mix onto the carpet of the living room and crush the trail mix into the carpet with his shoes, assuring that any clean up efforts to remove the trail mix would be extremely difficult.

The band played sparingly in the summer, with only one known show at longtime friend Skelton’s house.  In the Fall of 2001, the band played what would turn out to be their last show, at a club called Vini, Vidi, Vici in Mesa, Arizona.  The show was sparsely attended but included a special guest appearance by Gaines’ brother, Ned, on harmonica for “Sweet Leaf” and “Crawl Back” at the beginning of the second set. 

Seattle 2016 (L to R, Andy Gaines, Nathan Soccorsy, Matt O'Toole, Jon Guerrero)

 

As of 2016, Matt O’Toole and Jon Guerrero reside in Seattle, Washington.  Guerrero works as a civil engineer and O’Toole continues with his musical pursuits.  In addition to releasing several solo albums, O’Toole plays mandolin and sings with the bluegrass group, The Haggis Brothers.  O'Toole also plays regularly with former bandmate Mason Reed.  Mason Nostrum moved to Las Vegas shortly after high school to pursue a career in entertainment.  Mason has since changed his name to Mason Reed and has lived in Los Angeles, California and Tucson, Arizona while pursuing his musical career.  In 2009, Mason in appeared on the internet show, Legends of LA LA.  Mason and his music were featured in several episodes.  Mason Reed no longer tours and resides in Seattle, WA.  Andy Gaines currently resides in Phoenix, Arizona and continues to write and record songs, as well writing poems.

 

Please click on the links below to hear tracks from the American Driver record Juan's Lullaby

Way Down Below