Dubstep has been an intriguing if polarizing new genre thus far, at some point encompassing artists as disparate as Skrillex and Andy Stott, much in the same way a new, seemingly precise but ultimately nebulous genre like emo or grime ended up describing very different music. If Raime are dubstep, they’re the murky bottom of its pit. Songs like “Soils and Coils” offer little in the way of humanity or respite from the brutality of its funeral-march beats and stark, alien sounds. Which means it’s one of my favorite things from the genre I’ve heard yet. Anyone with a taste for bleakness should check this out.
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:
We celebrated the release of Rhino's new box set Los Angeles Nuggets: Where the Action Is! with an in-store performance and signing at Amoeba Hollywood on September 22, 2009 featuring a number of the acts from the box set, including: Jackie DeShannon, Keith Allison, Danny Hutton, The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, The Standells, and P.F. Sloan! Compilation co-producer Andrew Sandoval was also there, spinning garage, sunshine pop, and singer-songwriter gems from the box set.
Prolific LA songwriter (and performer in his own right) P.F. Sloan delivers his box set inclusion "Halloween Mary"...Sloan had his biggest hits with "Secret Agent Man" by Johnny Rivers and "Eve of Destruction" by Barry McGuire...his backing band included locals the Wondermints.
Wondermints guitarist wields his minty fresh axe.
P.F. Sloan (2nd left) penned hundreds of songs and performed in many guises...this album, put together with longtime associate Steve Barri (2nd right) is an amazing simulation of circa '64 Beach Boys...the song "Surfin' Craze" was featured in an episode of the Flintstones.