Pedrum Siadatian loves cold weather. This is a good thing because the band he plays guitar for, the Allah-Las, are about to get on a plane that will take them from their hometown of Los Angeles halfway around the world to St. Petersburg, Russia. The occasion is the band’s first European tour, coming almost directly on the heels of their first U.S. tour, which saw them venturing eastward for the first time along with soulful roots rocker and close friend Nick Waterhouse. Before they released their self-titled debut LP in September, the Allah-Las had barely ever left the always-sunny confines of Southern California. Only a few months later they’ll be performing in the middle of the Russian winter. “I’m really excited,” says Siadatian. “It’s going to be fun.”
Considering their appearance, the imagery they evoke and their laid back, amber-tinted sound, Siberia is probably the last place anyone would expect the Allah-Las to visit. Their debut album is ensconced in a warm, lo-fi glow combining elements of psych, surf, folk, garage rock and bubblegum pop. From its first track, “Catamaran,” to its last, “Long Journey,” Allah-Las serves as a soundtrack to palm trees and blue skies, to easygoing road trips up Highway 1 through Big Sur, to the sublime pleasures found nowhere else but the Golden Coast. With acute precision, it defines a certain kind of largely bygone Californian idyll that requires nothing from life other than the waves, the sand, the sun and, of course, the girl.
The Allah-Las formed at one of America’s most hallowed musical meccas—Hollywood’s Amoeba Records. It was while working there that Siadatian met drummer Matt Correia, who had transferred down from Amoeba’s San Francisco location. Correia soon got a job for his high school friend Spencer Dunham, and the three of them began jamming in Dunham’s parents’ basement, surrounded by his father’s surfboard collection. After realizing none of them wanted to sing, they brought in Miles Michaud, a friend who they heard, as Siadatian puts it, “liked to sing, or something like that.” They practiced in the same basement every Sunday and called themselves the Hidden Gypsies.
“The first stuff we wrote was really punk-y,” remembers Siadatian. “It was just a lot faster and louder with more yelling, but still in the garage punk kind of vein. And then it slowly evolved. When we wrote ‘Catamaran’ it was a change of pace for us and everything else followed after that.”
Nick Waterhouse had been a good friend of Correia’s when they were in school at San Francisco State, and after he saw the Allah-Las play in a bar in L.A.‘s Highland Park neighborhood they becomes fast friends as well as musical collaborators. The relationship eventually led to Waterhouse agreeing to release the Allah-Las’ first 7-inch— featuring “Catamaran” and “Long Journey”—on his own Pres Records.
More shows in L.A. and along the West Coast followed, and when it came time to put a full-length record together Waterhouse brought the Allah-Las to Distillery Studios in Costa Mesa. Like Waterhouse’s own debut, which was also released earlier this year, Allah-Las was recorded entirely on analog equipment. “It’s a sound that fits what we’re doing really well,” notes Siadatian. It wouldn’t have been possible without Waterhouse’s expertise and familiarity with the vintage equipment they recorded with. “We don’t really know anything about production,” Siadatian continues. “We don’t know how to achieve what we like in terms of sound, but we know what we want. Nick had that know-how.”
Though Siadatian lists the Rolling Stones (especially pre-Brian Jones’ death), the Rain Parade and, because he plays a 12-string electric guitar, The Byrds as influences, Allah-Las is much more heavily informed by California, particularly California in the ‘60s. Accordingly, most of the album’s songs center around girls, either longing for them on songs like “Catalina” or “Vis-A-Vis,” or downright dismissing them. “Don’t You Forget” peaks with the lines “If you think you’re going to tie me down, girl it’s high time that you found / Only thing you’ll ever live to see, is that you’ll never find another man like me.”
The Allah-Las, however, seem unbothered by any perceived girl troubles and are perfectly content to take refuge in their blissful Californian existence. Michaud’s voice sounds jaded and complacent throughout, with the album’s only instance of vulnerability coming on “Vis-A-Vis,” when Dunham sings with heavy sentiment of a past love that simply wasn’t meant to be. Otherwise, the attitude in regard to girls is mostly “oh well”— the band is too busy soaking in all of California’s wonders up to be hung up on relationships, especially when other more exciting prospects wait on the horizon. It is California, after all.
The Allah-Las influences combine with the analog recording process to result in an album that not only sounds like it was inspired by the ‘60s, but that was actually recorded in the ’60s. As a result, the media has labelled the Allah-Las’ music as “vintage,” “revivalist,” “nostalgic” and any other number of limiting distinctions. It’s the same thing that happened to Waterhouse after his album was released in May, and like Waterhouse the Allah-Las take umbrage with how they’ve been categorized.
“We’re not really into being labelled that way,” says Siadatian. “It seems like journalists and critics have a really easy time labeling ‘60s-inspired music as ’retro,’ but not really ‘80s- or ’90s-sounding music. We kind of think that’s silly. It’s not what we’re going for. We don’t only like ‘60s music, but that’s just what comes out. A lot of it has to do with the guitar tone and the melodies and lyrically, I guess. I don’t understand it.”
But as with the relationships and any other conflicts present on their album, issues of media perception have mostly rescinded into the periphery of the Allah-Las’ existence. They’re too preoccupied with reveling in their own heavenly version of California life, which they’re now able to carry around the world, proving that their mentality and their music aren’t limited to Los Angeles in the summertime, or the 1960s. Even in some tiny club in St. Petersburg, Russia it’s happening now because the Allah-Las are doing it now. As Siadatian says, “Good music is good music, regardless of the decade.”