Allah-Las: The Ineffable Concept
Allah-Las are on the road again promoting their new album, Calico Review, out Sept. 9, and they’ll be stopping here in SLC on Sept. 6 at Urban Lounge. The record itself is a nostalgic yet crisp 2016 release. Allah-Las embraced the vintage equipment lying around the studio, including a model of a soundboard used for The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, but they weren’t timid about newfangled sounds and evolving ideas. Miles Michaud, vocalist and guitarist of the band, shared his thoughts on the new record and the band’s current tour as he headed down the streets of Brooklyn in search of some grub.
SLUG: Where are you at in the nation today?
Allah-Las: Right now I am walking down Driggs [Avenue], and I’m at South 3rd in Brooklyn walking to a steakhouse called Peter Luger. They’ve supposedly got one of the best cheeseburgers in town and I’m about to go try it.
SLUG: Cool. I just wanted to call and ask you a few questions about your upcoming show here in SLC and your guys’ new album. I’ve been able to listen to Calico Review, and I really, really liked it. What I’m most curious about is how you got your hands on the Pet Sounds soundboard?
Allah-Las: Yeah, they put that in the [press] writeup. It’s not the same exact board as was used on Pet Sounds. I kind of resent that they put that into the little press thing. I mean, it’s not the specific one, but it’s the same type of board, and you know, it was in the studio that we ended up working at, which was shut down for 30 years—built from the ’50s. It’s a pretty cool place called Valentine Recording Studio. It just opened back up in like August of last year.
SLUG: What made you decide to use that soundboard and go to that studio?
Allah-Las: We were planning to use another studio in L.A., and … a couple weeks before, we were gonna go into this other place. The guy who runs [Valentine] now—this guy Nic Jodoin—he sent us an email. He said, you know, it was just opening up and wanted to get bands in there to check it out. We went and did a little tour, and it was just such a rad space. It was like a time capsule, and it has a really cool feel and had a really cool vibe. It was a comfortable place to spend some time to make a record, so we decided to go for it.
SLUG: That sounds like a really cool opportunity.
Allah-Las: It was, man. We consider ourselves lucky, ‘cause I don’t know what would have happened if he hadn’t reached out to us. We had no idea the studio even existed.
SLUG: What sort of ideas did you have going into the album?
Allah-Las: You know, we demoed probably like 40-plus tracks for about a year before going into the studio, in between touring and whatnot—whenever we had the opportunity. The guy who helped produce the record, Kyle Mullarky, has got a studio in Topanga Canyon. It’s a small studio, but we go up there and just demo tracks and hang out for like a few days at a time, stay up there and surf in the morning and whatnot. … When it came time to go into the big studio, we just broke down what we wanted to have on the record, and everybody contributed to writing some of the songs. It was sick.
SLUG: Well, I guess I just wanna go into one track specifically right now: “Could Be You.” You guys have a psychedelic sound, but on this album, it sounded a lot more almost avant-garde and maybe kind of protopunk. I feel like that song specifically characterized that. What was going on with that track in particular?
Allah-Las: That one, I mean, it’s just a riff I came up with one day in the demo studio, and it started with that basic chord progression at the beginning and had a little idea over it … I kind of improvised some lyrics, and then we were listening back to a lot of the demos we had done and a lot of ideas we put down. … The song is about how people are able to or unable to cope, and how some people let it get the best of them and aren’t able to adapt and start blaming things around them and a lot of external things for their unhappiness. I guess the title “Could Be You” is just kind of saying, “Maybe it’s not all the shit around you. Maybe it’s you.”
SLUG: Maybe you’re the asshole?
Allah-Las: Yeah, exactly.
SLUG: Do you guys consider yourselves “Beach Goth” at all?
Allah-Las: Nah, I mean, I don’t even know what that means. It’s The Growlers’ thing. I mean, I love those guys and respect everything that they put together, and I love the festival, but I don’t really need to know what beach goth is. I think it’s just kind of a fun term to use. But are The Growlers beach goth? Yeah, because they came up with the word, but like, what does that really mean? “Beach Goth,” I don’t know. But it’s all good. … It’s clever.
SLUG: It’s a term thrown at you guys a lot, so I wanted to hear what you guys had to say about it, but I get where you’re coming from.
Allah-Las: I don’t mind it. All labels are kind of annoying in the end, so whatever.
SLUG: So, from the last time you guys were here in SLC, what do you remember?
Allah-Las: I remember the Urban Lounge being a great show—lots of good energy—and I remember going to somebody’s house party afterwards and getting on this little mini ramp in their garage, playing pool or something. It was fun.
SLUG: And you guys are playing at Urban Lounge again.
Allah-Las: Yep, that’s our spot, I guess.
SLUG: When’s the last time you guys were able to make it overseas? And how well do you guys do over there?
Allah-Las: We were over there just about a month ago. We played a few festivals … and yeah, we do pretty well. We played in Greece. Greece happens to be a really good place for us. We have really good shows over there [in] Athens and Thessaloniki. We hop around in places like that. We’re constantly traveling. We’re going back in like another month and a half to Europe. We make our rounds back and forth.
SLUG: Very cool. I just have one last question for you. How do you guys sound so nostalgic while still evolving your sound? Like, how do you still sound like you could have been anywhere in the late ’60s, but also anywhere today?
Allah-Las: That’s the timeless quality. That’s the thing, above all, that we strive to do: Create something that we can’t really place in a timeline; make something timeless. You know, there are certain records made in the ’60s, certain records made in the ’80s, ’90s, that have that quality—all different genres, but for some reason, there’s just something that’s just timeless about [them]. It’s kind of an ineffable concept that we strive for. It’s a matter of how many—you know, all the records that we listen to, all the hours spent listening closely and taking things apart and discovering those qualities and everything—and trying to replicate them ourselves. That’s why we’re able to do it.
With Calico Review out early this September, Allah-Las will keep doing it. They’ll continue to sift through time, providing a quality that’s both reminiscent and refreshing. Remember to head downtown on Sept. 6 to catch Allah-Las at Urban Lounge with TOPS.