Allah Las met while working at the biggest of all the L.A. record stores, but they became a band in an even more rare and special space—a California basement, dug out somewhere between the mountains and the beach and lined with stacks of vintage surfboards along the walls, courtesy bassist Spencer Dunham’s collector father. There they made songs their own way—drop by drop. None of the Allah Las had ever been in a band that would play the kind of music they really hoped to play, and now they discovered themselves as a foursome whose voices, tastes and sense of history were all in unexpected harmony. This would lead simply and naturally to great things.
Their first show was at Halloween party in 2008, and their first single “Long Journey” / “Catamaran” was after years of weekly crash-course giggling released on longtime friend Nick Waterhouse’s Pres start-up in 2011 with two spare, dark and even menacing songs that came from the Animals’ private version of New Orleans or Beefheart’s high desert. These were the kind of songs that bounced between London and Los Angeles, the kind of thing that could have come from Mick Jagger or Arthur Lee or both at once, with crystalline guitar and slow-mo drums that recalled the way the waves take big bites of the beach at night. This was mystery music from the strange and ancient-modern California fringe, more Night Tide than Easy Rider. Allah Las were a reflection of a reflection, an echo of an echo, a band that was psychedelic not because of reverb or shredding through pedals but for the simple way their songs seem to extend to infinity.
Now after touring with the Growlers and Howlin’ Rain—fellow travelers in the Furthur sense if not quite the Further sense—and after untold hours of especially diligent studio sessioning at Costa Mesa’s famed Distillery, a place where the tube amps make the empty whiskey bottles glow, the Allah Las are ready for their debut full-length on L.A. independent Innovative Leisure. Led by the live signature “Tell Me What’s On Your Mind” single, the Allah Las present here the songs that have had such a strange effect—as Ray Davies used the term in a particularly Allah Las-ian song—on rooms dark and bright and big and small across the U.S.A. There was a magazine once called Bomp! that knew this music well, and when editor Greg Shaw wrote about it, he called it “bottomless.” And while he meant the endless supply of no-name 45s by teenage kids who saw the Yardbirds or the Stones and knew they could do it too, with the Allah Las it means something else—a band with songs so deep they go down forever.