Bridging the gap between the past and the present, Allah-Las is a band whose music effortlessly channels the essence of bygone eras while remaining elegantly current. With a sound that gracefully carries listeners to the enchanting melodies of the 80s, while firmly grounding them in the present, Allah-Las has masterfully crafted a musical space that harmonizes nostalgia and innovation.
In a recent conversation with Miles Michaurd, we explored the origins of their distinctive musical identity and the guiding philosophy that shapes their artistry.
Your music is drenched in sand and the scent of iodine. It makes you want to travel back to the 60s and roll a joint while you’re at it. How did your now defining sound come alive? Did you have an idea of what you wanted to do or did it just come alive during a jam session?
Our sound continues to evolve, but it has always just been the natural result of the four of us bringing our shared and individual interests into a room and making music together. We started in a basement under Spencer's parents' house, playing simple riffs and covers before writing some of our own songs. We played our first gig after two weeks together, a Halloween party in someone's backyard in Echo Park. We didn't have any songs at that point, just riffs, and I would mostly improvise lyrics over those riffs. It was probably horrible, but I think someone said it sounded good so we kept going.
You have a very retro sound. How do you balance honoring the past while creating something fresh and contemporary?
It's foolish not to incorporate a sense of history and homage into a creative process. It's also foolish to pretend that it's possible to create something new without borrowing ideas from the past. In our case, we create our own modern sound by being inspired by things old and new. Whether or not it's "retro" I think comes down to the opinion of the listener.
Music blogs and the algorithms tend to pigeonhole bands into very specific genres. In your
case, your sound seems to fall under the “psychedelic” category and it makes people have a very distinct image about your music. Do you think that it's limiting?
I think it's limiting for the people who have to label art in order to understand it.
Do you agree that the creative process of your music is reminiscent of a Rorschach test, where songs come to life without a predetermined purpose and acquire meaning only after they are completed? The free-flowing nature of it definitely sounds like it.
We do tend to allow songs to tell us what they need, to grow naturally. Especially on our latest record Zuma 85, which was written largely in the studio. We showed up with a few riffs, a couple of songs that were mostly done, and not much else. I think it's important in any creative situation to not try to force things, let them develop over time. When you're making music with a band, in particular, you have to let each member bring their own ideas into the song. It always ends up better that way.
Are there any artists past or present you'd like to collaborate with in the future to further evolve your sound?
Eno, Dr Sakis, Lil B
In an era of streaming and fast digital consumption, your albums seem to be crafted as complete experiences. How important is the concept of the album as a whole in your creative vision?
I like listening to whole albums, but I think most people lack the attention span to do so these days. Albums used to be a way of connecting with the artist; you'd go out and buy it, bring it home, and sit and listen top to bottom, reading the lyrics and the liner notes, developing a sense of who the artist was and what they were all about. Nowadays artists are expected to pander to their audiences, begging for attention by talking about what they had for lunch, live streaming themselves ordering at McDonald's. I guess that's how people connect to artists these days. Personally, I like having a little more mystery in my life.
The artwork for your latest single Right On Time is quite poetic and straight up beautiful. Who photographed it? How did you decide on that image?
That image is actually called Zuma #85, and is one of a series of photographs taken from the inside of a dilapidated building on Zuma Beach in the late 1970s by a photographer named John Divola. Matt is a fan of his photos and brought the image to the band as a concept for the album cover art, and we all loved it. We feel it is a very appropriate visual interpretation of the record. Also, obviously, we adopted the name of the photo for the name of the record.
You’ve been in the music game for a long time and with each album, you've shown growth and experimentation while staying true to your core sound. How do you approach evolving as musicians while maintaining your musical identity?
We don't think so much about our musical identity anymore - we used to, as I think all bands who are surprised by a somewhat successful debut record inevitably do - but we tend to think less about what Allah-Las is or was and more about what it could potentially be. At the end of the day, our "sound" is, like I mentioned before, the result of the four of us making music in a room together. No matter what we're doing, it will always sound like us.
How will the new record, Zuma 85, be different from the previous ones?
In ways you can only dream.