Allah-Las Talk 'LAHS,' Making Their Podcast 'Reverberation Radio,' Working At Amoeba Music & More
Los Angeles rock band Allah-Las' music oozes Southern California. Their surf-rock sound, infused with reverb, easily transports you to sunny skies and warm oceanfront views. The way they came together is pretty on brand for California, too, with high school friends Miles Michaud, Spencer Dunham and Matt Correia meeting singer/guitarist Pedrum Siadatian at one of L.A.'s most iconic landmarks: Amoeba Music.
Since 2008, the quartet have established themselves with a surf-rock, neo-psychedelic sound and laid-back visual aesthetics and lo-fi music videos that could very well be camcorder-helmed home movies. Now, their fourth studio album LAHS (out Oct. 11 via Mexican Summer) is a push towards more experimental tunes; they even have a whole song in Portuguese, "Prazer Em Te Conhecer."
Siadatian describes their latest LP as having "the warmth of our first record" but "branched out." The band continues to take that their sound across the country and overseas on tour, currently in support of their forthcoming album.
The Recording Academy spoke with the band over the phone while on a stop on their European tour in Amsterdam about their latest album, being influenced by Brazilian music and culture, Reverberation Radio, a podcast they use to share musical influences and more.
How did you all meet?
Matt: Spencer, Miles and I met in high school. We met Pedrum later while we were working at a record store, Amoeba in Hollywood. That was about 2008. Started playing music and then we didn't put out a record until about 2012.
Amoeba Hollywood is iconic. How was it working there?
Matt: Oh, it was a place that we kind of like grew up going to anytime we had enough money to buy some records and spent a lot of money there and a lot of musicians that we liked growing up worked there. It was great getting to work there as well and having like kind of a library of music to pull from and listen to and be influenced by. Yeah, it was a good experience. We were kind of in college at the time.
What do you think about the resurgence of vinyl?
Miles: It's nice, I think, that people are getting back into it, but it's kind of a drag that all the vinyl can be more expensive now. But I think it's just a backlash from people having downloads and MP3s and all that. That was exciting for a time but that made people kind of want something to be a little bit something tangible and that's a nice thing.
Some pretty big names come by the store sometimes. Did you ever meet any?
Matt: I can't remember exactly. It's Hollywood so there was all kinds of people would come in there, but there was a guy that worked there when we were frequent shoppers, his name is Jimi Hey and he played in a lot of bands that we liked, that we still like. He's a drummer and I remember him giving me a bunch of recommendations every time I came in. It was a big influence on me, particularly as a drummer and as a musician.
Speaking of influences, who are you influenced by as a band?
Pedrum: Personally when we're making music, I'm not really listening to anything. Other times it's all over the place. Decibels, rock and roll and krautrock and old instrumentals, moody stuff. It all kind of gets filtered in there.
Miles: Best way to kind of hear what we're listening to is to check out the podcast we do for Reverberation Radio. Every week we make like a 30-minute mix and send that out as a podcast and it's kind of to be able to see what we're listening to at any given point in time. And some of our friends who make guest mixes as well.
Matt: We're about at like 400 weeks of running that podcast and you can kind of go back through the whole thing. There's a lot of music, a lot of mixes and one of the only rules for Reverberation Radio is that you're not supposed to use the same song twice. So it's a lot of stuff on there at this point. I think if people do go back through you can kind of see that sort of evolution. If you've got to find new songs and make a mix every once in a while then you've got to kind of dig for some new stuff. It's a nice thing.
That's really cool. What made you want to make a podcast?
Miles: Used to have a radio show on KXLU in Los Angeles and started out at 2:00 to 6:00 AM on Wednesdays and worked its way up to 9:00 to 12:00 AM, to noon, on Wednesdays and then ... I wasn't always able to make it so a lot of our friends and people from the band would come in and kind of substitute. That actually ended up being the demise because the station caught on that I wasn't always there and we didn't follow a few other rules as well. But we got eventually kicked off there. Then a couple of months later our manager, he was our manager then. We started working together on a podcast.
How do you make time to make music and tour and create this podcast?
Miles: Yeah, there's eight of us or nine of us regularly to do it and even more guests who contribute. So every two months or two-and-a-half months, because only one person does it per week, so every two-and-a-half months or so you have to make podcasts. So find the time, sometimes we're late but we get it done.
I've made podcasts before and I know that they can be very fun but also very challenging. What is one thing you've learned making a podcast?
Matt: We don't learn. [Laughs.]
Miles: We learned by doing the podcast.
Pedrum: Absolutely nothing.
Matt: I don't know because it's just something we do.
Miles: We've shared music [between] our group of friends and us since we were young and I think starting the radio show and the podcast was just kind of another way for us to share music with each other. But we, you know—
Pedrum: ...[have a] competitive spirit between us. Kind of egg each other on badly.
Matt: We've been sharing music with each other for a long time and then we just kind of decided to let other people also be able to listen to that as well. And it wasn't like an aggressive or podcast in any way. We don't talk in it, it's just 30 minutes or around there every week
You guys are really are music fans.
Miles: Yeah, I think it's one and the same, really.
Miles: Well you have to really appreciate music and before you can be a musician at a young age you probably find yourself being attracted to music in general. It's going to be a precursor to being a musician in some way.
It's cool how you guys made time to create.
Matt: We've been lucky enough to be able to travel and have time to do that, I guess. We sacrifice.
I want to talk about LAHS, which is your latest album. You have a song in Portuguese. Tell me more about how that happened.
Pedrum: Jarvis [Taveniere, of Woods], who produced the record, said he had an open day at a studio he was working at and if we wanted to record any demos or anything and [if we] an idea for a Portuguese song. And so I kind of scrambled and referenced a bunch of Brazilian records I had and wrote a song in Portuguese, like very rudimentary. And we went in and we did it and we liked how the demo turned out. In the end we had Matt sing it because he's Portuguese and it kind of made sense for him to get it, his voice sounded better on it than mine. So that's kind of how it came together.
Are a couple of you Portuguese?
Pedrum: Matt is part Portuguese, just Matt. Who knows, maybe we all are. 23 and Me, or something. Maybe I'm .2% Portuguese.
Matt: My dad's from the Cape Verde Islands, so it's a Portuguese last name and [the island has] some colonial history [with Portugal].
Matt, how was that, being able to sing in Portuguese?
Matt: I worked with a friend from Los Angeles, Karina Fontes.
Miles: Yeah, she's Brazilian and so she kind of helped us.
Matt: She coached us just a little bit. It was fun, we just had lunch and sorted out some things. And I sent her the demo and she said it sounded pretty good. We played it in Portugal and well, we were told that, obviously it sounds more like Brazilian Portuguese than Portugal Portuguese. But it was nice to have a song like that to play live at our second time in Portugal.
Do you feel like you connected to the audience at a different level because of the language?
Matt: Sure, yeah. I think it's maybe just like a sign of respect for these records that we like, I think these Brazilian records have lots of different feelings and textures. I guess we wanted to show them in the song and pay our respects to this whole genre of music that we really love and are inspired by. So, yeah, I hope people enjoy it.
What Brazilian artists are you all into?
Pedrum: Marcos Valle.
Matt: Caetano Veloso.
Pedrum: Erasmo Carlos, Jorge Ben.
Matt: It's a lot of history in that canon of music and it's a lot like America in a sense in like diaspora and different cultures and different mixtures of things and yeah, we've always really keen on that music. I think the Portuguese Brazilian is one of the most beautiful languages sung.
LAHs is your fourth album. Is there anything you wanted to accomplish with this one?
Pedrum: I think every musician when they make a new record is trying to improve themselves, what they did before. That's kind of the main objective, at least for me. It's like get closer to what ideas you have in your head with the possibilities of the band and where it can go and how true to this ideal you have in your head you can get.
How do you feel like you've evolved since the last album?
Pedrum: I think this new record has a lot of the same ... Has the warmth of our first record, and it's kind of branched out and is a bit more experimental. Just kind of a best of both worlds for me.
How do you create music? Do you song write first or do you create melody first?
Pedrum: Every way. There's no one formula that the songs are written in. It's just kind of whatever works for that moment or what has inspired you at that moment. A riff or a chord, or sometimes.
Miles: A beat.
Pedrum: Yeah, get like a concept, maybe.
Pedrum, you mentioned that when you create music you don't listen to other music. How does that help you?
Pedrum: Because I feel like I don't want to be comparing it to anything else, mostly. I just want to kind of like enter my own world and not be distracted by other music.
You worked on the Mexican Summer surf documentary soundtrack. How was that?
Pedrum: It was fun. It was, it was fun to just like watch this movie and see what ideas we could come up with. It was very low pressure and fun to just jam on things.
Do you guys surf?
Pedrum: Three of us do, I don't. I'm the only ones who doesn't.
Miles: Pedrum does not surf.
Did your experience surfing help you create music for the film at all?
Matt: I think even more than actually like surfing and what that helps with music or whatever but we've grown up watching a lot of surf films and a lot of the music in those films has inspired us for things, a lot of things from the '60s and '70s up until now. I think when we were kind of making those instrumentals, those ideas were there and we wanted to kind of make our own style of that, bringing some things in that maybe hadn't been done. So we had the history in our heads.