Allah-Las – A Record High


Almost a decade into their existence, Californian jangle merchants Allah-Las are about to make their first sojourn to Australia. The LA quartet, who released their third album, Calico Review, in September 2016, will be playing a string of shows down the east coast during May.

2017 has already been a year of solid touring for the band, with a 25-date US trek just completed with Aussie star children The Babe Rainbow in tow. As bassist Spencer Dunham explains, the tour with the Byron Bay natives gave them a good chance to get some local info on where to surf.

“We start off in Byron Bay and they said they’d take us around. So, once we land, I’m sure they’ll show us some breaks.”

Dunham, drummer Matthew Correia and lead guitarist Pedrum Siadatian met while working at the Hollywood branch of record wonderland Amoeba Music. With the addition of Miles Michaud on second guitar and vocals, Allah-Las began playing shows around Southern California in 2008.

From 2012’s self-titled debut, through 2014’s Worship The Sun and onto Calico Review, the band have put their deep musical knowledges to use, producing material that emphasises a love for 60s garage from both sides of the Atlantic, as well as 80s indie and their Cosmic American forebears, amongst others.

Each new release has seen Allah-Las broadening their sonic palette with denser arrangements and more instrumentation. Dunham says the evolution across the three albums comes out of the group’s want to not continually repeat itself.

“I think you need to try to break new ground, whether it’s a good idea or not because you need to try and challenge yourself and do something creative,” he says. “I think if you try and take everything off that’s new and different, you end up making something that’s bland and boring. It’s kind of like painting the same picture over and over again. You want to try new things just for the sake of experimenting.”

While they haven’t started writing new music to any great degree at this stage, Dunham thinks the next Allah-Las album might see the band taking yet another different approach.

“Since the record came out, we’ve been touring so we haven’t had a whole lot of time to get together and collaborate. We’ve been trying to write and jam on some new stuff to try and break up the monotony of just playing the same old things,” he says.

“We have talked about going back towards a more stripped-down rock focus because sometimes when you get into a studio, you want to continually add layers of different instruments – stuff they only have in the studio like a Hammond organ or a harpsicord – but when you play live, they can only be played on some kind of artificial keyboard setup. As nice as that is for the recording process, I think we’ve had to come to terms with how hard that can be to recreate when we’re playing live.”

It’s this stripped-down approach that we’ll see when the band head our way. This is, however, more for logistical reasons, rather than an artistic decision.

Dunham says: “Because it’s our first time in Australia, we’ll only come down as the four of us. Usually, we’ll have someone play keys and someone play percussion. We’re going to try and keep the set focused towards the first record because that has songs that’ll work with just the four of us. We’ll play songs off the second and third records too but it’ll be more of a garage four-piece rock ‘n’ roll set, rather than some of the more composed songs the last couple of records have.”

As well as their Allah-Las duties, the quartet and a handful of friends take turns producing mixes for Reverberation Radio. The weekly podcast gives all involved a chance to show off their deep musical nerdom.

“We try not to use any of the same songs twice,” Dunham says. “We try to be competitive, not in a bad way. It’s just a group of friends trying to come out with something a bit different each week and to have a little bit of competition with each other.

“I’m making one for next week right now and I’m in the process of looking for things online, listening for things on the radio, trying hear a new artist and maybe exploring things by that artist. It really just comes from finding things in every possible way and trying to make a great mix.”

Having been born out of a record store, it’s unsurprising that the band’s quest for music continues when they go out on tour. You’ll be sure to find the Allah-Las crate-digging when they hit our shores.

“Each record shop has its own personality. When you’re in a new city, maybe there’s a record you can find there that in Los Angeles is maybe more expensive or more popular. It’s definitely fun to shop around for new stuff.”

Originally published in The Brag.