Originally published: The Stool Pigeon
‘We’re just nerds that play music’, say the light-fingered quartet from LA
Allah-Las’ story and sound first took shape in LA’s Amoeba Music. An independently owned record store on Sunset Boulevard, it’s frequented by music nerds that socialise awkwardly while skipping over records with light fingers in search of an original find.
It’s a familiar narrative — like the plot line to a rehashed, low budget indie film — but Allah-Las weren’t the guys front of set in the spotlight; they were the ones at the back, doing the bum jobs.
“We worked in the storeroom, cleaning up bins and bins of unwanted records and putting them out on the shop floor,” explains lead guitarist Pedrum Siadatian. “Eight hours, five days a week, you’d be sat there, swapping broken cases for new ones, playing stuff by bands you had never heard of before.”
“And in some cases, that can be really lustful,” elaborates Miles Michaud, singer and guitarist, “especially for a young, curious employee who is not working, but digging through stacks of records and pocketing what he wants.”
Along with Spencer Dunham (bassist), the three taped many of their five-finger discounts and passed on their recordings. Their love of sixties-style guitar rock and its many variants (The Gories, Flamin’ Groovies, Further, Teenage Shutdown compilations) weighed prevalent among their acquisitions, unifying Pedrum and Spencer when they began jamming in 2008, with friend Matt Correia joining on drums (having never played the instrument before).
The years that followed saw a succession of hashed shows and substandard recordings that struggled to appease the band’s fanaticism for the crackly records they listened to in Amoeba’s stockroom, as well as the influence of their home state and its musical lineage.
“We’re just nerds that play music and love recording,” explains Matt. “None of us really had the drive to be in a performing band; we just wanted to make music that we liked the sound of.”
It wasn’t until Matt introduced their music to producer-friend Nick Waterhouse that things clicked. Recording them at The Distillery, an all-analogue recording studio in Costa Mesa, Waterhouse (California’s answer to Mark Ronson) managed to nail the four-piece’s Sunset Strip garage sound.
‘Catamaran’, their debut single produced by Waterhouse, was released as a limited edition 45 last year on Pres and is soon to be re-issued by Innovative Leisure. Along with the single’s b-side, a cover of The Roots’ ‘Long Journey’, the release resonates like a lost 7” from California’s Acid Test era, surfing on a wave of psychedelic jangle pop, imbued with the warmth of its reel-to-reel treatment. It sounds authentic but somewhat archaic: are they worried about being perceived as a revivalist band?
“Lots of people say we have a strict sixties sound,” says Miles. “It’s our common ground. I don’t think we’re a throwback band, though. That’s a term we’re kind of wary of.”
With a self-titled album due this summer, the Allah-Las are also wary of the fuss their name might cause. “Eventually we might run into trouble and offend some people,” says Pedrum. “The only people it’s offensive to are those that associate it with evil which, quite frankly, is bullshit. Every religion has an element of evilness to it.”