Desert psych

Scorched sounds from Allah-Las, the LA band cutting instant classics
By Alex James Taylor | Music | 29 September 2014
Photography Sean Carpenter
Above:

Allah-Las

It is often said that the 60s ended abruptly on that ill-fated evening at Altamont in 1969. For Allah-Las the sound of the swinging decade transcends far beyond that point in time. They embody the sensibilities of those years, personifying those psychedelic, progressive grooves first forged by the likes of Brian Jones and Roky Erickson – and later collected in the era-defining Nuggets and Pebbles compilations.

Allah-Las’ debut eponymous album was released in 2012 to critical acclaim, winning rave reviews for their sharp articulation of psychedelic blues. Fast forward two years and the band are back with their second offering, aptly titled Worship the Sun. The appeal of their first is ever present in that singular Californian sun-kissed romanticism. However here they’ve left sea washed sandy beaches behind for a soul-searching pilgrimage into the baked desert, towards the more profound regions of psychedelia.

Kaleidoscopic instrumentals evoke hallucinogenic mirages under the furnace of the dry heat, materialising with waves of reverb before hastily evaporating in a wash of jangly guitars. It’s the ideal soundtrack to Clint Eastwood’s long overdue return to being ‘the man with no name’ (wishful thinking), waves of reverb usher in a blend of textures, from Dick Dale surf lines to The Doors keyboard progressions, all with a slight melancholy hinting at a more insular atmosphere.

They say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. When Allah-Las are able to metabolise their inspirations with such bold attitude, there’s no question that the bands they take influence from are being well and truly wooed.

Alex James Taylor: You arrived in London yesterday, what have you been up to?
Pedrum Siadatian: We haven’t had the chance to do much really because we have  pretty tight schedule, but we went to Shoreditch House last night, that was cool. I beat Jeff (Ferruzzo, percussionist) four times in a row at ping pong. And then he beat me the final time.
Miles Michaud: They also have cheeseburgers which are easily one of the best cheeseburgers I’ve ever had. This interview’s going to turn into an ad for Shoreditch House.
Spencer Dunham: Maybe we’ll get sent free cheeseburgers…

AT: You recently toured the US and I’m assuming that you played new material on that tour, how was that?
SD: Yeah, Jeff plays percussion with us on tour now, so that’s an added element for us. And it was a really fun tour.

AT: Was it nice having a wider range of songs to put in your setlist?
Matthew Correia: Yeah, absolutely. We’re still trying to figure out the best way to play some of them live, to make it a cohesive set.

AT: When you’re writing do you ever consider how the songs are going to translate live?
MM: I never have, it’s more secondary.
SD: Yeah, first you write the song and then you figure out how to play it live afterwards.

AT: I read that you approached this album more holistically, as an album or concept. Did you consciously set out to do this before you began writing?
MC: The first record was pretty much us bringing our live set onto a record, because we’d been playing together for a while.
MM: Our new record is less of a collection of songs, its more of a cohesive set of songs.

AT: So how long were you together for before you released the first album?
SD: Like four years.

AT: Oh wow, a long time then. Did the recording process alter for Worship the Sun?
MM: The first album we recorded mostly as a live set, so we tracked the songs the way we played them live. And then with this record, partially because we hadn’t been playing the songs live, we were able to mix up things more and add different elements.

AT: Are you one of those bands who try and shut themselves away during recording?
PS: We did the record in a couple of different places around Los Angeles, one of which is in Topanga Canyon, which is pretty far removed from LA, it’s about an hour and a half away. We kind of locked ourselves away there and did some recordings.

AT: Your video for Buffalo Nickel is really cool, it’s very Keith Haring. Where did the concept come from for that?
MC: That was done by a close friend of ours called Robbie Simon. He’s a great artist and he also does a lot of our other band aesthetics, he’s really coming into his own as an artist now.
SD: He took the photos which are in the record.
MC: He wanted to do a sort of stop-motion concept for the video and we loved the idea.

AT: Back to Worship the Sun, did it come easier as your second album?
MM: We had ideas that we had been cultivated the whole time we were touring. But it was, I wouldn’t say a surprise, but it was a bit of an urgency after we toured the first record. We got back and they wanted the next album in a few months. But luckily we had ideas and concepts which we had been working on, and were just sort of able to pull it all together and turn it into a record.

AT: I wanted to ask you about your hometown LA, there seems to be an amazing scene there at the moment, how is it living there?
SD: Yeah there’s a great bunch of people all living in the same neighbourhood, John Dwyer from Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall, Tim Presley from White Fence. We play shows together and are all friends.
MC: Yeah we’re friends with a lot of those guys, but we also tend to stick to our own influences, our own groups. In LA right now there’s Burger Records and there’s Lollipop Records, all that going on. We’re friends with all those people and love what they do but we’re also outside of all that, we do our own thing.

Allah-Las’ new album Worship The Sun is out now via Innovative Leisure

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