Allah-Lahs Bring Surf Rock to the Denver Bluebird Theater | Westword

New-Age Mutant-Pop Surf Rock? Just Listen to Allah-Las

Imagine a world where Lou Reed, John Cale, Peter Ivers and Brian Eno formed a supergroup at the height of their careers.
LA's Allah-Las is a modern-day throwback to the sunny days of Southern California surf rock.
LA's Allah-Las is a modern-day throwback to the sunny days of Southern California surf rock. Courtesy Alexandra Cabral
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Surf rock has long been the soundtrack of Southern California, and rightfully so. After all, it was there in the early 1960s that Dick Dale and the Del-Tones introduced the groovy, spring-reverbed guitar instrumentals that would serve as the soundscape to a burgeoning beach subculture defined by catching waves and soaking up sunshine.

It’s carefree, upbeat music that’s thick with nostalgia nowadays, but that’s exactly what Los Angeles quartet Allah-Las loves about it. The group has been aiming to share that feeling through its own music over the past fifteen years, as well as via its longstanding podcast, Reverberation Nation, which features eclectic playlists comprising the four bandmembers' classic and contemporary influences.

“I think we just dig a little deeper than people are familiar with” in the Allah-Las, says Miles Michaud, the band’s guitarist, organist and vocalist.

“We are fanatical about music across all genres,” he continues. That much is evident on Reverberation Nation’s 400-plus episodes. “It’s a lot of contemporary music, a lot of older music — ’70s, ’80s, ’90s through today,” Michaud explains.

But the new-age surf rock of Allah-Las is built on the foundation laid by Dale, with its use of Mexican melodies, and adds in more psych rock and mutant pop, two niche genres pioneered in the 1970s. Imagine a world where Lou Reed, John Cale, Peter Ivers and Brian Eno formed a supergroup at the height of their careers. Allah-Las is the long-lost lovechild of such a hypothetical musical melting pot, and the band has only added to that recipe since getting together in 2008.

“The things that we do, even though they can be reminiscent of certain periods and movements and genres, there’s a little more esoteria to it, and I think that comes out in the music,” Michaud says. “You can definitely hear that — otherwise people wouldn’t dig it.”

Audiences are certainly digging what Allah-Las is laying down, including on latest record Zuma 85, released via the band’s label, Calico Discos, on October 13, in partnership with Innovative Leisure, which issued the group’s earlier material. The band is now on the road in support of Zuma 85 and will play the Bluebird Theater on Monday, October 30. Sam Burton is also on the bill.

The new album contains thirteen tracks of everything fans have come to love about Allah-Las. Previously shared singles such as “Sky Club” and “The Stuff” showcase the band’s penchant for creating easy-listening tunes full of subtle funk and laid-back pop. Without spending much time together before entering Panoramic House recording studio at California’s Stinson Beach, the band wrote all of the songs that would end up on Zuma 85 in just three sessions.
Even though it was a new approach, Michaud believes it was necessary and only made the music stronger.  

“Over the time that we were apart, it was refreshing to not be together all the time, and you get to pursue your own individual interests. When we did get together again, it felt really nice. We had four distinct perspectives that came together really nicely,” Michaud explains. “We threw everything at the wall and tried to see what stuck. I think we’re really pleased and a little bit surprised at what came out at the end of it.”

He mentions how Allah-Las was able to break the seemingly nonstop cycle of recording and touring the band found itself in since its debut EP, Allah-Las. “We didn’t really make music for a year and a half, two years. It was a nice little reboot,” Michaud adds. And it was the first time he, Matthew Correia (drums and vocals), Spencer Dunham (bass, guitar and vocals) and Pedrum Siadatian (guitar, synth and vocals) were forced to step away from it.

“After the first record came out in 2012, we’d tour for a year, then record and make a record for a year alternately for eight years. Then that happened,” he continues. “But things felt really revitalized and fresh again.”

Once the band was back to business, the bits and pieces brought to the table by each musician seemed to organically blend, and the songs “seemingly came out of nowhere,” as Michaud puts it. He points to “The Fall” and “Sky Club” as prime examples.

“There was this old pump organ in the studio, and I sat down and started playing a little line on it one day, and that song ended up becoming 'The Fall.' At first it was like, ‘I don’t know if there’s anything we can do with this.’ But it ended up being one of my favorite songs on the record,” he says.

“‘Sky Club.’ same thing. It just kind of happened. You have to be receptive to those kinds of things happening when you’re in the process, and I think we were and made it work.”

In that sense, it was reminiscent of the band’s beginnings, when the four future bandmates originally met as co-workers at the legendary Amoeba Records and quickly fostered a friendship over their love for obscure psych rock and surf vinyl before going on to redefine a genre as Allah-Las that sprouted in their own backyard.

“But we keep our finger on the pulse of modern-day whimsy as well, my friend,” Michaud concludes.

Allah-Las, 8 p.m. Monday, October 30, Bluebird Theater, 3317 East Colfax Avenue. Tickets are $30.95
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