Into the Wayback Machine with the Allah-Las
The Allah-Las‘ sound has clear antecedents in the garage and psychedelic rock scenes of the mid 1960s. But the band is careful not to make too much of that connection. “I think there’s a certain shared musical consciousness,” says bassist Spencer Dunham. “But the 60s were a very different time period. I wouldn’t say that I feel like we’re doing the same thing now. The musical environment is so different that there isn’t a lot of commonality. High school groups were playing Battle of the Bands when that was all new. Now there’s Facebook and Youtube, and anyone can do anything.”
The group favors vintage instruments both in the studio – as on their newest release, Calico Review – and onstage. But even here the Allah-Las don’t go overboard. “Most older instruments – particularly amplifiers – have a sound that you can’t re-create with modern technology,” Dunham says. “There’s a certain aspect to all that, but you can only take it so far.” Their songs as presented onstage give modern-day listeners the most authentic recreation of what it must have been like to see bands like Love at legendary L.A. venues such as Pandora’s Box and the Whisky-a-Go-Go.
All four members of the Los Angeles-based group were born long after the 1960s were over. But they discovered the music that would influence them, and bonded over their shared appreciation of it. “A few of us worked at Amoeba Music in Hollywood,” recalls Dunham. “During that time we found lots of new music. And because classic rock wasn’t interesting enough to us, we would find bands that were less popular.”
That’s probably an understatement. The group’s first single, “Long Journey,” was a cover of an ultra-obscure 45 by a Fayetteville, N.C. artist named Dayv Butler. But on each of their three albums, the Allah-Las have showcased their own original take on the styles of a half-century ago. Occasionally, that means bringing in extra musicians to provide sonic textures beyond the rock quartet.
Live onstage, though, Dunham and his band mates – guitarist Miles Michaud, Multi-instrumentalist Pedrum Siadatian and drummer Matthew Correia – capably create both that vintage vibe and the sound of the group’s studio recordings. Concertgoers who would enjoy a trip in the Wayback Machine while keeping one foot in the present will appreciate the Allah-Las.