Updated: Dec 19, 2020
Multi-Instrumentalist Jayke Orvis is best known for his shredding mandolin skills but is also well known for his solo career, Jayke Orvis & the Broken Band, the .357 String band, and of course- The Goddamn Gallows. He has been in some form of a band since he was 15 years old, playing his very first show at a high school battle of the bands with his first band named, Orpheus. Jayke found a love for bluegrass in the early 2000’s saying that bluegrass is “really dark and really good. It’s fast and it’s fucking like, killer playing. If you’re into metal and you don’t like bluegrass, you’re just fucking up!” His first bluegrass band was named The Mighty Lumberhorn, but soon realized that the band was not his cup of tea and moved on to his next project; The .357 String band.
The .357 String Band's original line up consisted of Jayke, Rebecca Manthy from The Tossers and two other members from his previous punk band, Schwill Rotten- Joseph Huber and Derek Dunn. Joseph Huber wore a spiked punk rock vest with a giant charged mohawk at the time of the cultivation of the band. A hard picture to imagine if you have ever listened to his masterpiece folk album; The Hanging Road.
This band formed a sound that brought punk rock, bluegrass, and old country into a melting pot that smelled good to anyone who had an appreciation for these genres; brewing a perfect recipe for tea. When Rick Ness heard the band when they opened up for the Legendary Shack Shakers, he decided that .357 needed a bass player and joined shortly thereafter a few go arounds in their basement practice space.
The band began their career by busking on the streets but quickly evolved into playing shows and festivals around the state. Then touring around the country and eventually touring overseas. This band melted punk hearts across the world, one show at a time. The .357 String Band officially called it in 2011 but kicked Jayke out of the band in 2009 announcing on Myspace that “the band had came to musical disagreements and thought it is best for Jayke Orvis to move on.”
But Jayke’s has a different story than the Myspace announcement. “If you ask me, a couple of guys in the band got pretty big fucking egos and started getting kind of demanding and treating people beneath them. Not with me but with people that I’ve built relationships with. They started getting condescending to people and demanding shit and it just became this huge ego push. I finally got to the point where I had a meeting with Joe and Derek and I was like, dude you know what, I can’t keep fucking booking this band anymore. ‘Cause you guys are becoming very difficult to work with.” So Derek agreed to take the booking responsibility off of Jayke's hands and within a few months Jayke was fired from the band, the band that he started. Jayke made sure to clarify that Joseph Huber and him remained close friends the entire duration of the band all the way to today's date.
One of Jayke's last shows with .357 was at the Knotty Pine in Victor, Idaho while on tour with The Goddamn Gallows. The show was packed and he decided that he wanted to light his mandolin on fire during a “blazing solo.” None of his bandmates knew of his plan but the Gallows were aware and cheered him on while Avery (the Gallows old accordion player) lit his mandolin on fire but all of the strings broke before his solo could ablaze upon the crowd. “And that was it," Jayke recalled. "No solo, my mandolin was on fire and the strings were all broken off because they melted. Everybody in the crowd is laughing their asses off, I’m laughing my ass off and I look over at my band and they're just like, pissed.” Fishgutzzz, the Gallows stand-up bass player, later reminisced saying, “This is the moment they had it in their heads that you’re fired and this is the moment we had it in our heads that you’re hired.” And so began his career with The Goddamn Gallows shortly thereafter.
In 2010 Jayke recorded his first album; It’s All Been Said, encouraged and funded by Darren Dorlarque, founder of Farmageddon Records. After a few successful solo tours Jayke decided to go on his own and pursue his solo music career. He departed from the Goddamn Gallows and started; Jayke Orvis and The Broken Band with well-renowned guitarist James Hunnicutt, Courtney Kostick, and Jared McGovern and Liz Sloan (who now form The Urban Pioneers). He rejoined the Gallows in 2017 and has maintained his solo career on the side. Both Jayke and the Gallows left Farmageddon Records just before Jayke's reunion with the Gallows.
The Rise and Fall of Farmageddon Records
The rise and fall of Farmageddon is a story that angers some but saddens most. Farmageddon generated the music subculture and fan base that both the Gallows and Jayke are still involved with today. Their roster included; Jimmy Swope, Filthy Still, James Hunnicutt, Slackeye Slim, and The Calamity Cubes- just to name a few. Farmageddon helped many artists get into the studio, get on the right stages and made sure merchandise was plentiful for their musicians to make some money on the road. But as Farmageddon grew bigger, the staff remained the same; just Darren.
“In my opinion there was a really good thing going, that needed some help. It needed more organization. It was becoming bigger than anyone expected and there was a serious lack of organization, not taking anybody’s help that was offering it and being very one-sided with people. There was a lot of people that felt taken advantage of.” Towards the end of the labels career, discrepancies with the record label happened regarding orders that were made by fans and musicians, unfortunately most of the orders were never fulfilled or refunded. While Darren refused to take accountability for his own actions and spat excuses until the listening ears grew deaf.
Jayke, among many of Farm's rostered artists, was most concerned with the fact that Darren put all of the profits he was turning from merchandise sales (that were not being shipped out) and investing into a music festival that lasted for four events total; two were held in Montana and the last two were held in Wisconsin. His last festival headlined Municipal Waste, who he paid $10,000 to play his small DIY stage, this no doubt bankrupted any chance of profit for a small festival.
“This guy was like, one of my best friends and nothing ever happened between me and him personally, but just like, the amount of other people that I was close to that just got burned by him and he wouldn’t own up to any of it and just deflected the fucking blame- it just got to be too much.” The Gallows and many other musicians from the label have a similar story and opinion to Jaykes. “We talk about it a lot. We talk about how sad it is and that is a time capsule now.”
The Pandemic's Recipe For Tea
In the beginning of the pandemic Jayke was amongst many of the musicians that relied on live streaming to get by. At first, it was profitable and brought a sense of community that many musicians craved as most musicians are extroverts but this quickly took a turn as the pandemic fatigue began to set in. “As a community of musicians, I feel like we have been neutered by this fucking pandemic and the live streaming thing was great at first but man, it feels like nobody fucking gives a shit anymore.”
As the current state of the music industry looks grim in most of our eyes, Jayke speaks optimistically about the future of the Gallows career once it is safe to tour again. “We’re like cockroaches, man. I mean, we look like cockroaches, we live like cockroaches, we smell like cockroaches. I swear to God, there has been so many things that should have broken up this band but we just keep fucking coming back. We don’t give a fuck.” The Gallows have spent the last 15 years touring (at least) 9 months out of the year. Jayke and the rest of his band mates' lives are formed around the touring musician lifestyle and want nothing else but that life back.
What most people don’t realize is that a touring musician’s community is spread amongst many corners of the world. Their livelihood is based on seeing familiar faces from town to town, sharing energetic exchanges on stage, backstage and offstage with people who all come together for a show. A place where people come together to bond, a place where people allow their heart strings to be pulled amongst a crowd of strangers that they somehow identify with. A place where the misfits find connection and community. Many people that grew up listening to punk have mental imbalances and confide in music to cope alongside people that come from a similar place. A show is something that is tangible, something you consciously know going into it, that it will be an experience that fills your cup. This sense of community is what I call the land of the misfit toys.
“There’s a lot of mental Illness that is taking hold of people. I mean, obviously you and I lost a really good friend but that is just one of many and that gets really hard to deal with sometimes. Like my good friend Joey Henry said, this is more than just music, this is group therapy. And when you remove your therapist and you put it (your mental illness) in an oven and you just let it cook and there’s no way to take the food out of the oven and it’s just sitting there cooking and cooking and cooking. It’s really hard to see people go through it.” Jayke said, “You can reach out as much as you can reach out but without being able to physically be there it’s very difficult and a hard thing to watch. Ya know, Covid isn’t the only thing killing people in this pandemic and that’s really fucking heart breaking for me. So I really hope we can get back to it.”
The Gallows recently tried a mini-tour of outdoor, socially distanced shows. The Gallows were quickly shamed and ‘cancel cultured’ for testing the waters. “You have fans and friends that are mad at you for the same reason that they love you and that’s heartbreaking to me too.”
I have faith that Jayke will be back to it as soon as it’s safe and will be touring harder than ever before. Mending hearts with song and shedding doom with his metal banjo riffs into lost souls, world wide. Getting back to what he misses most, “The hospitality rider. A bottle of Titos, a bottle of Jameson, a bottle of Mad Dog, a case of Pabst and a case of white claw; every Night.” Jayke’s ability to keep your belly full of laughter has not ceased during this pandemic.
“But in all honesty what I miss most besides playing music with my best friends is not seeing everybody. Ya know a lot of musicians have fans, we have fans too but like, more than fans we have so many friends and I miss them dearly.” The Gallows have never lived a lifestyle that required more than a roof over their head and food in their bellies. They are in music for the way of life that it comes with.
In spite of the pandemic Jayke got creative and started a concrete business in Milwaukee called, Killer Concrete. “If you had told me a year from now that you’re not going to be touring and that you’re gonna be fucking slinging a sledge hammer and breaking concrete every day, I would’ve been pissed.” Fortunately for Jayke he has a skill set he was able to fall back on, where many careered musicians do not. “You know how many musicians that I know that have skilled trades that they can go back on, not many.”
The Goddamn Gallows merchandise was stolen recently from their trailer, including 400 vinyl records; which holds at least $10,000 in value! So please make sure to check out the Gallows merchandise store here and keep your eyes peeled for live streams by Jayke, the Gallows and the rest of the musicians that have been mentioned in this article. Your favorite musicians have been at your service, filling up your cup with their recipe for tea, since you heard that first song that pulled your rusted heart strings all the way until the last show you went to. It is time for you to give back to your musicians and find a way to support them in these trying times. To hear about some wild tour stories from Jayke and much more, give the full interview a listen on Travelin' With Bones' youtube video- An Interview with Jayke Orvis.