This year is turning out to be a good one for Allah-Las. This week saw the announcement that the L.A.-based band, who weave strains of ’60s Nuggets-style garage rock with ’80s Paisley Underground jangle and au currant surf rock swagger, would be releasing their self-titled debut album Sept. 18 on Innovative Leisure. Additionally, Allah-Las were announced as part of the FYF Fest lineup this week, taking place Sept. 1-2. And the band also is playing this weekend at Moon Block Party in Pomona Saturday June 23.
Allah-La's debut album was recorded at the Distillery Studio, a Costa Mesa-based haven for analog recording, and was produced by label mate and local rock hero Nick Waterhouse. The band, which consists of bassist Spencer Dunham, singer/guitarist Miles Michaud, guitarist Pedrum Siadatian and drummer/singer Matt Correia, already has released a video for the album cut “Tell Me (What’s On Your Mind),” a jangly powerhouse that calls to mind Them’s garage classic “Gloria,” but relaxed instead of manic, resplendent in its analog sheen and laid-back cool.
I checked in with Dunham, a fellow South Bay native, to ask about the new album and what it was like for 3/4 of the band to work together at Amoeba.
PST: Has it been difficult to capture the exact sound you've been looking for on record?
Dunham: We tried recording a bunch of ways with different people but were never really satisfied until we went to the Distillery.
PST: What has recording with Nick Waterhouse and at the Distillery afforded the band in terms of sound and direction?
Dunham: Nick grew up in Orange County and has known the owner, Mike, since he was about 16. Mike loves to tinker with weird electronics to create one-of-a-kind instruments and effects, like microphones that go through record player needles. Sometimes those kind of things can be very complicated and time consuming, so it was really helpful to have two people working together to set up strange reverb tracks and whatnot.
PST: Can you talk a bit about working at Amoeba and how that affected the formation of the band and development of its sound? And what did you do while working at the store?
Dunham: Pedrum, Matt and I all used to work upstairs in the warehouse as “case switchers,” which is where you take bins of used CDs and put them in fresh jewel cases. You get a CD player and a hold box and basically just listen to music all day. It's pretty mundane work, but you get to see a lot of unusual albums, and we were all exposed to a lot of new music.
PST: In addition to the screaming girls and whatnot, have you had a lot of older “Nuggets” fans and people like that be into you guys? Have you had any particularly strange fan experiences so far?
Dunham: We definitely have a healthy contingency of garage fans, but our main audience remains American Apparel models. Not too many strange fan experiences yet, but Patrick Campbell Lyons from the ’60s band Nirvana (UK) befriended us after hearing our old radio show on KXLU a while back.
PST: I was never really that into the punk and stuff that a lot of other kids from the South Bay were into. Were you guys always attracted to more of the rock n roll stuff compared to what the area is known for? Were you exposed to it by parents, older siblings etc.?
Dunham: I used to listen to punk and it will always have a place in my heart, but in high school we mostly listened to a lot of classic rock: Hendrix, Who, Rolling Stones etc. We also used to hang around Scooter’s, which was a legendary Hermosa Beach record store owned by Uncle Tim, who hosts my all time favorite radio show, “The Bombshelter,” on KXLU. His shop was about the size of a closet, and while the majority of it catered to the punk scene, he also kept an eclectic selection of rock and got us turned onto stuff like The Velvet Underground and early Moody Blues.
PST: Can you give me a top five garage rock and paisley underground list of records you're particularly fond of?
Dunham: Here's a mix of classics and current jams:
The Rain Parade - Emergency Third Rail Power Trip
From the beginning we realized that it was impossible for most of us to condense our favorites from all genres into a tiny top ten list. So, we limited our lists to Rock/Pop and its sub-genres like punk, metal, goth, and new wave. Even so, it was a difficult selection process because not only are there hundreds of amazing records to consider, there is also the added dynamic of time.
The '80s were a long time ago and the music has had many years to gestate. We have a deep sense of nostalgia and sentiment with these albums as our fondest memories are associated with them. These are albums we LOVE.
- Henry Polk
P.S. We'll be posting new additions to the '80s list project from Amoeba staff members on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. See all entries in our ‘80s list series.
P.P.S. The '80s List Book is available for sale at Amoeba Hollywood.
Pixies – Doolittle (1989)
Husker Du – Zen Arcade (1984)
Judas Priest – British Steel (1980)
X – Los Angeles (1980)
Pretenders – Pretenders (1980)
The Cure – Disintegration (1989)
The Clash – London Calling (1980)
Duran Duran – Rio (1982)
Iron Maiden – The Number Of The Beast (1982)
Adam And The Ants – Kings Of The Wild Frontier (1980)
I have been obsessed with biopics ever since I can remember. I even remember liking the 8 hour long movie Ghandi when I was a kid! I loved A Cry in the Dark, Gorillas in the Mist, and Reversal of Fortune. I wanted to see any movie about real people. I also wanted to watch all the TV movies. Melendez: A Killing in Beverly Hills, Sybil, Death of a Centerfold: The Dorothy Stratten Story, Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones, and The Amy Fisher Story were all my favorites. I love Drew Barrymore in The Amy Fisher Story. I watch this movie many times every year. Not sure why. The movie is not the best in the world, and yet I just can't get enough of it. I put it right up there with Showgirls!
But I have also been obsessed with movies about rock stars. I would probably go see a movie about Kenny G if it was done right. The first movie I remember seeing about a rock star was La Bamba. I probably had no idea who Richie Valens was at the time. He was just the "La Bamba" Guy. I was 13 when La Bamba came out but it was one of my favorite movies. I was also obsessed with the Karen Carpenter Story, which was released as a TV movie two years later in 1989. Cynthia Gibb played the lead role. I was a bit obsessed with The Carpenters. I still can't get enough of them. I find it to be the most tragic, depressing pop music ever. It seems like most of these movies all ended up with the star dying an early tragic death. I also loved Selena starring Jennifer Lopez. I was never a fan of her music until this movie, but it is actually Jennifer Lopez's best role and a pretty good movie with Edward James Olmos as her dad. Angela Basset played roles in two of my other favorites. She of course played Tina Turner in What's Love Got To Do With It and Katherine Jackson in The Jacksons: An American Dream. But she didn't stop there! She also played the mom of the Notorious B.I.G. in Notorious. She is for sure the queen of the biopic! She also ventured out into some non-music biopics. She played the wife of Malcolm X in Malcolm X and Rosa Parks in The Rosa Parks Story. And you might or might not also remember her as Cheryl McNair in the movie Challenger from 1990.