California Rockers Allah-Las Reinvent Retro Sound
September 3, 2016 @ 12:00am
We live in an era where it seems increasingly difficult for musicians to create an original sound. Especially in indie music, artists are often compared to their influences, conjuring up feelings of nostalgia for genres that made their debut in earlier decades. Allah-Las is one of those rare bands that actually draws from the past without mirroring it, reinventing a garage-surf-psychedelic rock sound that pays homage to the authenticity and rawness of those genres’ beginnings while still writing music that’s truly their own.
Correia and his bandmates have been cultivating a sound based on their shared taste in music since three of the four members (Correia, bassist/vocalist Spencer Dunham and lead guitarist/vocalist Pedrum Siadatian) worked together at Amoeba Records’ Sunset Boulevard location in 2008. Rhythm guitarist/vocalist Miles Michaud and Dunham were buds growing up, and met Correia back in high school.
“When we got together to play, this is the stuff that came out just based on what we listened to,” Correia says of the band’s beginnings. “But I think timelessness is what we look for in the records we buy, and that’s the idea behind our songs.”
When Correia chats about the band’s greatest influences, scenes from Empire Records and High Fidelity start playing in my head – only in my version, Allah-Las is debating the importance of 80s and 90s Britpop and shoegaze versus 60s downtempo garage rock.
The guys devoured the sounds of Spacemen 3, Spiritualized, The Jesus & Mary Chain and Primal Scream, while simultaneously kicking it to Kevin Ayers, Lou Reed, The Beach Boys and The Byrds. They also dug the sound of a lot of the bands they were playing with around L.A. at the time. With such range in their combined musical tastes, it’s no wonder they’re hesitant to label their own sound.
“I don’t really know how to describe [our sound] when people ask me,” Correia says. “I usually say California music of some sort.”
Their unnamed sound has been evolving since the release of their eponymous debut album in 2012. The band is currently on tour to promote the release of their third album, Calico Review, out on September 9, which veers into new aural territory for the band. The guys experimented with some different instrumentation on the 12-song album, and honed their individual songwriting skills.
Correia partially credits their recording space, L.A.’s Valentine Recording Studio, with inspiring these changes. The studio hadn’t been used since 1979 until recently, by Allah-Las and other musicians including retro soul and R&B crooner Nick Waterhouse (who produced the band’s first two singles and their first album).
“It’s trapped in time,” Correia says. “We’ve been calling it the time capsule studio.”
But the drummer is quick to note that it’s not just the old-school equipment, shag walls, terrazzo flooring and lighting reminiscent of a middle school classroom that give Valentine its vintage charm.
“They’re all my children,” he says. “I can’t pick. I love them all.”
Upon further consideration, he notes that he’s got a soft spot for “Autumn Dawn” and “High & Dry,” both written by Siadatian. And the album’s last song, “Place in the Sun,” is definitely a favorite “just ‘cause I wrote the lyrics to it.” If the album’s first single, “Could Be You,” is any indication, we’re in for a real treat. The impossibly catchy song gives the subtlest nod to The Velvet Underground’s signature guitar-fueled openings on songs like “Rock & Roll” and “Foggy Notion,” and begs the existential question, “But if you had the chance to, would you do it all again?”
When asked what’s on the horizon for the band, Correia says they’re flirting with the idea of international travel after this tour ends – Mexico, France, Spain and South Africa are chief among the locations on the drummer’s wish list.
“Maybe a chance to stay in some of these places for an extended period of time,” he says, “and to record some music in another place and have those influences [appear] in some of our songs.”
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