A band like Allah-Las couldn’t come from Brooklyn. They couldn’t be from Austin or Portland or any other hipster-band enclave across the country. They’re just too California. And while the Los Angeles quartet draws on a unique mixture of psych-rock, folk, surf, garage and a dusting of the Bakersfield sound, it’s unmistakably SoCal—a Byrds / Surfaris bastard child birthed onto a bed of Afghan Kush in Topanga Canyon.
The band’s latest, Worship the Sun, picks up exactly where their 2012 self-titled debut left off. The guitars are still clean and jangly. The laid-back beats again induce plenty of head nodding. Healthy doses of cinematic instrumentals and lush harmonies are still front and center, while the continued inspiration of women, waves and weed keep the vibe loose and in complete accord with the music.
It’s the kind of record perfectly suited for watching the sunset melt into the Pacific during a drive up the coast. Just don’t mention that to guitarist Pedrum Siadatian. He hates that shit.
“I’m sick of hearing ‘chill beach music’ constantly,” he tells CityBeat from a recent tour stop in Texas. “That one is especially annoying to me. I think it can’t be helped when people are saying the same thing about you over and over. But I’m sure everyone in the band has his own unique gripes. It just makes me not want to sound like that at all.”
It’s doubtful that Allah-Las will drop a black-metal or mariachi record anytime soon, but there is a direct line to his exasperation. Siadatian, bassist Spencer Dunham and drummer Matthew Correia formed the band when all three were employees at Amoeba Records on Sunset Boulevard (vocalist Miles Michaud joined later).
Especially for a music-store worker, having your art constantly reduced to the equivalent of a category placard has to be frustrating. But it’s also something that’s served the band tremendously well. In just two quick albums, Allah-Las have etched out a distinct sound that’s directly tied to their own geography. And they’ve done it through the unlikely paradox of being an act that’s both forward-thinking and vintage. There’s a palpable air of timeless California chic to the group and their songs, and it doesn’t stop with the music.
From their gorgeously minimalist marketing campaigns to their weekly Reverberation Radio podcast, the band oozes West Coast cool—even if they aren’t trying very hard.
“I think we’re kind of weak on promoting ourselves,” Siadatian says. “We don’t really bombard people with that stuff. But I guess we’re attempting to make a collective consciousness with our fans. It’s more about imagery and things like the Reverberation we do. We want to bring people into this world of appreciation for great things in the past. But we’re just promoting the things we like, both aesthetically and through our music.”
Part of the credit, at least for the music, can go to Nick Waterhouse. No stranger to vintage cool himself, the L.A. artist and producer is a college friend of Michaud’s who took interest in Allah-Las after seeing them play live. He ended up producing the band’s debut and co-producing Worship the Sun.
Dan Horne picked up the slack on the latter, producing much of the album in his Echo Park garage / studio over a period of a few months. Horne and other friends, like percussionist Jeff Luger, have been rounding out the live shows.
Although the extra players help to replicate Worship’s expanded sound, Siadatian has found that it injects new energy into the old songs, as well.
“It really helps,” he says, “especially with stuff from the first album that we’ve played a million times. It’s great to have someone else on stage adding their own touches. It just invigorates the songs for us. It helps to fill it out.”
Things come full circle as the current five-piece closes out its 2014 tour with a run of dates on the West Coast. It’ll be a welcome change for a band that Siadatian says “has been freezing our bones off in the sun” in recent weeks.
The new year is bound to have plenty of additional tour dates, but it will include work on new music, too. For fans accustomed to being transported to a 72-degree day in the City of Angels when Allah-Las hit their earphones, this is welcome news.
“We write songs in all kinds of ways,” Siadatian says. “It’s good when whoever is writing can fully realize what they want to say and present it without making it into a full sound. We actually come up with a lot of ideas during sound check. We figure out quite a lot of things when we’re just riffing and messing around. They’re all there. And we’ll definitely be working on the ideas we feel are good enough when we get home.”
Originally published in San Diego CityBeat