Having just dropped their fourth album, Allah-Las have come to define the modern Californian rock sound more than a particularly sun-kissed photo from the 1960s. While their style might be drenched in rose-tinted nostalgia, their eyes are set firmly on the future as they kick back and enjoy the ride.
We caught up with Allah-Las ahead of their massive Australian tour to chat their new album, Amoeba music, and the smell of vintage guitars.
HAPPY: Shall we jump into it?
PEDRUM: Let’s jump into it like a kangaroo. Get it? Cause it’s an Australian interview.
HAPPY: Oh yeah, very nice. So you guys are about to kick off your own 2020 Australian tour with shows already sold out and venues being upgraded. Do you find a bit of home down here with Sydney being likened to LA a lot?
PEDRUM: The sunset is close to the water and I think yeah, I guess climate-wise there’s a similarity, some similar things.
HAPPY: I caught you guys at a really intimate show a few years back at the Wild Things gallery on the Northern Beaches. And it was a great show. Do you have any particularly memorable private parties that you played?
PEDRUM: Oh yeah, we’ve done some private parties. We played this private thing in Big Sur a few years ago, and Al Jardine from the Beach Boys was there and we hung out with him for a little bit and he invited us to his ranch. So we went and hung out at Al Jardine’s compound in Big Sur and he gave us a tour of his studio and stuff. So that was a pretty memorable one.
HAPPY: What drew you to the Gibson Firebird?
PEDRUM: Oh! I liked how it looked kind of looked like a Jaguar. I tried one out and it sounded great and had more versatility in sound. So I liked how it looked. I like how it sounded. And I liked how Keith Richards looks with one 20 years ago.
HAPPY: He always had a way of making any guitar look pretty good didn’t he. Is it an old one?
PEDRUM: Yeah, it’s like a ‘65 or ‘66. And it smells really good.
HAPPY: What does it smell like?
PEDRUM: I don’t know. It just smells really good. Like old nitrocellulose.
HAPPY: Like rock and roll.
PEDRUM: Like fucking rock and roll mate.
HAPPY: How does that couple with the pedals you’ve got, any magic pairings in the chain?
PEDRUM: See I don’t have that many pedals really. I just have an echo. I’ve been using flange for the last couple of tours.
HAPPY: Which flange?
PEDRUM: Just like a BOSS flanger, and also a BOSS distortion. It’s called a Blues Driver.
HAPPY: Having been a band in LA since 2008. How have you found the scene has changed that for the better over the last decade?
PEDRUM: I feel like in general, there are just a lot of bands in general here. A lot of bands have been moving from other places to LA. So it kind of feels like everyone is here. And there are plenty of venues to cater to everyone. So it’s a pretty good place for music right now.
HAPPY: Definitely more bands and there was a decade ago?
PEDRUM: It feels that way. Lots of bands from San Francisco move down. Bands from Austin moved over.
HAPPY: You got a few instrumental tracks on the new LAHS album with Rocco One having a particularly delicious groove. When do you decide that a track is going to be instrumental?
PEDRUM: Are those your words? ‘Delicious groove?’
PEDRUM: Wow, you animal. What was the second part of the question, after the ‘delicious groove’ part?
HAPPY: That’s it, man. That’s the whole question.
HAPPY: When do you decide that a track is going to be instrumental?
PEDRUM: I feel like I know from the get-go, yeah. Like, this is fine. No need to ruin it with vocals.
HAPPY: Cause you wrote six songs on the new album and contributed a lot to the writing of the record. Does it feel like more of your project than previous efforts or is it still very collaborative?
PEDRUM: No, I don’t feel like it’s my project. I mean, I have another project that is my project. But Allah-Las doesn’t feel like mine. Every song has everyone’s input and everything.
HAPPY: Is there a favourite of yours?
PEDRUM: Um, I really like Electricity. I’m trying to think of what all the songs are. Okay, I really like Royal Blues. Let’s say that was my favourite. No one seems to notice it but it’s my favourite.
HAPPY: You guys used to work in LA as Amoeba music? How did that like wildly expand your tastes back in the early days?
PEDRUM: Oh, yeah. It was very important. It was like working at a library. They had a cool system back then. I don’t know if it’s still that way. But every employee had like a logbook. And if something was used, you could pretty much lock it out like a book or something. You could go in and like, just dig in with whatever interested you were interested in. If you wanted to you could buy it and you get a sweet discount. So it was very easy to access you pretty much anything.
HAPPY: That’s basically what record stores are, just a sonic library.
PEDRUM: I don’t know if other stores have a similar policy. I feel like he was really good in that regard. But I think the record business was way stronger back then, and maybe they had to tighten up certain things. But back then it was really sweet.
HAPPY: There’s been a significant rise in vinyl sales over the last decade, with 16 million records being sold in 2017, as opposed to 2 million in 2007. What do you think is a lead contributor to that?
PEDRUM: I think it has a big aesthetic appeal to people, just everything is bigger about it, and especially the artwork is bigger. It’s such a nice change from streaming an MP3 and stuff, where you’re missing out on a big part of it. The experience of that, that record you know, you’re just streaming something close to having the liner notes and all the photos credits.
And, you know, just remembering when I was a kid and buying something and listening while just staring at the art, you know. That kind of experience I think a lot of people are missing out on if they’re just streaming stuff.
HAPPY: Do you think Amoeba is almost solely responsible for all those vinyl sales?
PEDRUM: Oh yeah, the store’s just massive. There are so many record stores now. Even people who like aren’t super collectors. A lot of people are still like buying record players like shitty ones and buying records at like, Urban Outfitters or, or whatever. You know, it’s more accessible now. Even cassettes are coming back people just want a physical copy.
HAPPY: It’s almost as if streaming has cheapened music to the extent that now people just want something physical.
PEDRUM: We’re exhausted and we want the music. We want it all.
HAPPY: You once has a show cancelled in Turkey due to the nature of your name.
PEDRUM: That show was never booked actually. We were talking to promoters about possibly going over there then before an offer was even made the promoters backed out. So it was never really like cancelled because it was never really planned to begin with.
HAPPY: Well, It just made me think of like, fellow Californian rockers The Grateful Dead and how they released an album called Blues For Allah, in 1975. Do you think the controversy with your name is just a product of the times?
PEDRUM: I think more so now than that, yeah. And that was one record by them as opposed to an association with everything they put out. Yeah, I think definitely in the context time it has affected the perception of that word. More negatively than ever, which is unfortunate.
HAPPY: When you guys first started playing live only two of you really knew how to play instruments and sometimes you laughed at on stage. Now you consistently touring the world. What’s the secret to your perseverance?
PEDRUM: Oh my goodness. Let’s say three of us knew our way around our instruments. As for what keeps us going, opportunities to go to new places and play, that’s a big part of it. And also being a very democratic band. That’s helped us I think. The excitement of new countries and new adventures is keeping the dream alive. I think it definitely helps to play older material.
HAPPY: Are there any countries you’re super keen to hit that you haven’t yet?
PEDRUM: Yeah, I’d love to play in Asia and Iceland. Yeah, there’s a festival over there. I forgot what it’s called. But yeah, we played we have played some off-kilter places like Russia and Israel, Greece, Poland, Russia, and Bali.
HAPPY: What was Russia like?
PEDRUM: The Russian shows were actually very early on in our touring careers. For some reason when we first started touring like overseas, we got offers to play Russia. Yeah, it was weird to play Russia before somewhere like Japan.
HAPPY: How did they go with the sun-soaked California vibes?
PEDRUM: I don’t know they were really weird shows. One was in this bar, and it was a Camel sponsored event there were just Camel advertisements all over this place. Yeah, and it was like a very slick restaurant and there were people there to see us which was surprising.
The second time we were there we played in some motorcycle shop and there were some of the same people who were at the other show over there. It was Moscow and St. Petersburg. Yeah, it was pretty interesting. Non-conventional shows though.
HAPPY: I’d like to talk about Paint for a second and how it’s sort of a slightly more experimental offshoot of Allah-Las. What gave birth to Paint?
PEDRUM: Well, I just start with writing a song that I felt like wouldn’t fit with the context, I guess. Like, I don’t know if that would work with the Lahs then I just kept writing, you know. I’d be writing for a year and a half and it just seemed like, at a certain point, I had enough material to do a separate record.
HAPPY: Is that something that’s consistently happening more now?
PEDRUM: I feel like I’ve been able to balance both. Yeah, I recorded like another Paint record in March and it’s gonna come out in the Spring.
HAPPY: I love the name Paint. I consistently cite it as one of my favourite band names. It’s very colourful and punchy. I like it.
PEDRUM: Thanks. Surprisingly, there are no other rock and roll bands under that name that have ever released anything that I found.
HAPPY: Yeah, it’s brilliant. Have you ever thought about incorporating paint to the onstage proceedings?
PEDRUM: I have thought of some shit like that. I don’t know if it would work for a live show. But maybe for a music video or something like that. I don’t think many venues would want paint all over the place. But maybe they would!
HAPPY: It’s been good chatting to you, man. I’ll just wrap it up by asking if there’s anything you want to cross off the bucket list when you come down to Australia?
PEDRUM: Do they do shark tanks? Oh, yeah. That’s something I’ve wanted to try is holding a koala – I didn’t get to do that last time. It’s kind of like touristy thing, but I feel like I need to do it.
HAPPY: What about the kangaroos?
PEDRUM: They can be pretty violent can’t they? I certainly don’t want to get kicked in the mouth by a kangaroo. It would be pretty memorable though.
HAPPY: Thanks for the chat Pedrum.
PEDRUM: Thank you very much, Luke.
Allah-Las 2020 Australian Tour
20 Feb – Paddo RSL, Sydney – Tickets Here
22 Feb – The Croxton Bandroom, Melbourne – Tickets Here
23 Feb – Mojos Bar, Fremantle – Tickets Here
25 Feb – Rosemount Hotel, Perth – Tickets Here
28 Feb – Byron Bay Brewery – Tickets Here
28 Feb – Miami Marketta, Gold Coast – Tickets Here
1 Feb – Nine Lives Festival, The Tivoli, Brisbane – Tickets Here
Check out LAHS below: