Moody tunes and SoCal blues, it’s apparent that the Allah-Las’ music is informed by the 60’s in both production and arrangement. Hailing from Los Angeles, the band embodies its background – a laid-back surf culture and a love for the tonality and subtlety of retro garage rock. The band even had to kick out drummer Matt Correia just before their debut record, as he was more interested in the beach than the rehearsal space. Thankfully, after a jam with a potential replacement, Correia was back in the saddle.
Formed in 2008, three quarters of the band found friendship in a love for music while working at a well-known record store on Sunset Boulevard.
“I think Los Angeles influenced the way we listened to music,” says bassist Spencer Dunham. “Learning to drive is one of the most formative experiences any Angeleno has in their life. Once you get a car your life changes, commuting becomes a way of life, and your car becomes your second home. Growing up in the era of tapes and portable CD players, the radio was always a guiding light of new inspiration. We were lucky to have radio stations with DJs that pushed the envelope of new artists like Ariel Pink, and others that curated weekly shows with older artists and obscure selections.
“During our college years three of us worked part time at Amoeba Music - a giant music store in Hollywood - and were able to discover a wide range of new styles of music,” says Dunham. “Los Angeles has been a magnet for music since the 50s, whether it's bands that have formed here, performed here, or drawn inspiration from it. LA seems to produce and cultivate some of the most interesting music and musicians. We consider ourselves lucky to have grown up here and hope we're in some way contributing to its legacy.”
The Allah-Las’ lineup was completed when the trio met vocalist and guitarist Miles Michaud. Despite Correia and Dunham still being fresh on their respective instruments, the band chose to develop their technical prowess by jumping immediately into playing live. “Our first bunch of live shows together were generally at house parties and small bars,” says Dunham. “Luckily the raucous crowd was usually too busy dancing or drinking to notice some of the hiccups in our sets.”
Fast-forward nine years and three studio albums, and the band are demoing songs at The Pump House Studios in Topanga Canyon, the same studio where their last record, the critically acclaimed 2016 release Calico Review, was developed. “We’re here now, recording a few covers for a release to come out sometime before our next record,” Dunham says.
Calico Review in particular is reminiscent of its influences, trading in a sort of gloomy nostalgia, but it is the album’s production that stands out. Following pre-production at The Pump House, with musician/engineer/producer and owner Kyle Mullarky, the band then utilised Valentine Studios, a well-known LA studio with classic analogue equipment. Furnished with an MCI JH114 and Stephens 811C tape machines, the band were able to take full advantage of these in creating vintage sounds.
“One piece of equipment we always seem to use was a Fender Twin amp. We usually just use guitars through them but we sometimes experiment running other things,” says Dunham. “I also just love playing my 60s German-made Klira bass. It's light and has a great tone for live shows too.”
The Allah-Las are set to tour Australia for the first time this May. “We will be checking off some rock’n’roll bingo squares this year,” Dunham says. “It’s our first tours in Australia and Asia; we’re playing Coachella, Puerto Rico & possibly Costa Rica. Hopefully we'll be able to save up enough frequent flier miles to get free flights out of the country by the time Donald Trump officially begins to burn the US to the ground, too.”
The Allah-Las will tour Australia in May for more information head to Contrary. Calico Review is out now Mexican Summer.