Growing up in the Southern California area, it's refreshing to hear a band that reflects the casual coastal environment so well. The Allah-Las' shimmery tones and music reflect the casual nature of life that we all love here in Southern California. Inspired sonically by music from all around the world, all of the members of the band have a deep love for rare records.
On a rare rainy LA day, we recently caught up with one of our favorite sonic artists, Spencer Dunham, from the Allah-Las. His melodic bass notes keeps the rhythm section moving and driving forward. In this interview we talk shoes, travel, touring, Reverberation Radio, and the Allah-Las’ most recent album, which they’ve just wrapped up recording . Enjoy!
First of all, thanks so much for time and hope you’re digging your Felix’s!
Not a problem, thank you.
How’s your shoe game?
I don’t have that many shoes, but the shoes that I do have, I kinda wear out until they’re totally destroyed.
It sounds like you develop a special bond with them.
Yeah, I have these boots that are some generic lace-up boots that I got at a secondhand store in Berlin and I’ve worn them kinda to the point where they’re dust... I just kinda go with what fits and with what feels good and looks good.
How would you describe your own personal style?
I guess I’d say that I really like clothes that friends donate to me or from secondhand stores. With some of my clothes, my friends say “hey, I have this shirt that I don’t want anymore” and I’ll wear it. I really don’t like to go "clothes shopping", so that’s kind of one aspect of my style.
Did you skate much growing up?
I skateboarded when I was in high school and I got to a point where I was trying to do stuff down stairs and then I broke my ankle and kind of stopped.
What kinds of surfboards do you like and gravitate toward?
The ones that are donated as well. There’s a fish that a friend who moved the east coast gave to me. It’s the one I surf the most and its beat up and its seen better days, but…its really fun.
What are your favorite places to camp and explore when surfing?
Ventura and Ojai -it’s really pretty -and I go to places in Baja as well, if I’m gonna get out of town for a couple of days either north or south of LA.
Did you have a musical background when you were a kid?
No, I started playing music in high school and jammed with friends in my parents’ basement, but I couldn’t really go beyond that. The Allah-Las was the first band venture.
Are there any bass players you especially look up to?
Yeah, like Carol Kaye. She was in the band Wrecking Crew and played in a lot of hit records, like the Beach Boys, for example, and a lot of Phil Spector productions and stuff like that. There are a lot of bass players that I like, but from more of a case by case basis with bands.
Do you have a special bass that you really like?
Right now I don’t really have a bass that I especially like or anything. Actually, I left the last bass in Europe to tour with when I go over there, but I left it there because I didn’t want to fly with it. So now I’m just borrowing a bass.
Talk about your own creative process- do you write songs / arrangements from the bass?
I don’t usually write songs from bass first. Usually, more guitars first and then everything falls into place. But sometimes there are elements where the bass lines kind of drive the songs and point them in a direction...it all depends.
Was the “second album” pressure tough? I imagine you guys had such a deep amount of influences and creativity.
It was a different process for the second one than the first, because the first one we had been playing together as a band for like several years and we didn’t have a record, but we had plenty of songs. So we just kinda narrowed the songs down to twelve. The second record we hadn’t played many of the songs live, so they were more formed and practiced in the studio rather than by playing it live and recording it quickly. I’d say there was a little bit of pressure to not just do the first album again and have people say that the new record sounds like the first.
Yeah, I love clear distinctions of sound on albums as an artist and that’s why I loved the second album so much.
Cool- thank you.
Talk about how Nick Waterhouse helped you guys. How important are those kinds of people in your life? Was he your “George Martin”, where he helped focus your sound? Or was it already there?
Nick was a friend of Matt’s and they went to college together in San Francisco, so we were friends with him and then we started playing music together. Then Nick started a band and wanted to record in Orange County, then he said, “You guys should come down there and I’ll produce your record.” And up until that point, we had tried to record a couple of times to record things and they had never turned out good at all. And so we went down there and recorded a few songs and it turned out good, so from that point we continued working with him for the next two records.
We love to listen to Reverberation Nation. Who creates it?
It’s us as a band and about 6 friends, so it’s 10 total. It’s a rotation. It’s not like one person has it one week and another has it the other week. It’s kinda random, that gets put out twice a month. Most of the recordings are weighted towards the 60’s and 70’s, but there are tracks from modern artists and the 90’s as well.
Do you exercise or meditate on the road to maintain that body / mind focus?
The schedule of touring doesn’t really lend itself to be able exercise or do a whole lot of physical activity. It’d be nice....there are times when you can do that, but it’s pretty easy to get into a routine of being fairly lazy and not doing a lot in terms walking around even, or running, and definitely not surfing.
Do you guys get sick of holding the flag for LA? Is that terrible to ask?!
We get a lot of “how does living in LA affect your music?” or “what’s it like living in LA?” questions, so it’s a focal point with interviews. You kind of have to field those questions often and hopefully do a good job of being musical ambassadors.
Any summer tours?
We’re doing a EU tour in June and July, and a tour in Austin (Austin Texas Psyche Fest LEVITATION) later this month. And after the record comes out, we’re going to be doing a US and an EU tour.
How are the crowds usually?
It depends, because it’s all over the place really. Sometimes it’s mellow with aspiring surf dads or rock dads, then we just played a show in Manchester a few weeks ago and it was crazy! It’s all over the place. You can’t really say that people in some areas are boring and people in others are crazy, ha! It all depends. It’s exciting to see people respond in a lively way to your music, but at the same time I’m not expecting anyone to be moshing to our slow songs.
Thanks so much for spending time with us and for digging our shoes!
Thank you guys!