Allah-Las: The Band That Almost Wasn't

The Allah-Las plays Walter's Downtown on April 3.EXPAND
The Allah-Las plays Walter's Downtown on April 3.
Photo by Laura-Lynn Petrick/Courtesy of Sacks and Co.
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So many bands with potential flame out before even getting into a studio, much less putting out a record. Allah-Las was no different. The California-based indie-rock foursome found itself in a similar place around the turn of the decade.

Even though they had formed three years prior, 2011 came around and the band had yet to record anything of note in the studio. The time had come to make a decision on their future.

“I remember before we finally went in the studio and recorded our first 7-inch [record], I talked with the guys about not having a record in the next few months,” front man Miles Michaud says by phone recently. “I told them that if we didn’t get something done soon, we’d have to call it quits. It was taking up too much time, and at some point, you have to move on with your lives.”

Six years later, Allah-Las not only has that original 7-inch to its credit, but a trio of proper studio albums, all released two years apart. The band will showcase its catalog of material – including its latest, Calico Review – at Walters Downtown next Monday, April 3.

“Once we made that first record, we were blown away with the response,” Michaud says. “Once we got signed and released our first LP, we planned out our year from there and planned to be on the road for most of it. That was really the turning point when we realized that this could be a full-time gig. You either invest all your energy in something, or none at all.”

For Michaud and his bandmates, they opted for the former, which has paid off to the tune of a certain level of fame on the indie circuit and live shows galore. Over the years, the tunes have morphed from tales of sex, drugs and rock and roll to those that come from a more mature place.

Maturity, after all, often breeds an increase in self-awareness.

“Once we started to gain a bit of an audience, there’s a certain sense of responsibility or duty that comes along with the knowledge that people are listening to what you’re writing,” Michaud says. “That knowledge allows us to touch on topics that are deeper and more resonant with people than the stuff we wrote before. Especially now, with our political climate filled with so much divisiveness, it’s more important than ever.”

On the topic of divisiveness, yeah, the band name. Invoking the name “Allah,” Arabic for “God,” was bound to ruffle a few feathers, though Michaud and crew contend they meant no disrespect toward anyone’s religious affiliation. Rather, the religious references in the band's name were twofold.

For starters, Allah-Las members are big fans of the Jesus and Mary Chain, whose name obviously invokes religious connotations as well. Second, while the band admitted wanting something “holy-sounding” as its name, Michaud insists the name was born more out of tribute to California.

“It was homage to the culture of California, the Orientalism movement, palm trees everywhere,” he says. “It was all born of fascination, and some of it was borrowed from Middle Eastern culture. It was not supposed to be a political statement, but I also don’t pretend it’s easy to understand the context. Those who don’t understand it can read into it however they see fit.”

Many have. In fact, Allah-Las was once pulled from a gig in Turkey because the concert promoter didn’t feel comfortable leaving them on the bill. Of course, the band is a bit far along in its tenure to go back now.

“Besides,” Michaud said, “we’ve been around too long to change it anyway.”

Rather than dwell in the past, Michaud and his Allah-Las mates prefer to look toward the future. Buzz for Calico Review is solid, they’re already talking about the next record (their every-other-year track record suggests new music is to be expected in 2018), and life on the road is good. Hell, the group is even booked for two weekends at Coachella next month.

Most important, after nearly a decade together, the members of Allah-Las still consider themselves a close-knit unit.

“We actually get along better when we spend a bunch of time together,” Michaud says. “We’re not as hotheaded as we were in our early twenties, and things are certainly mellower now. We don’t sweat the small stuff anymore, and we’ve gotten better at managing the overall experience between ourselves.”

Allah-La's and The Babe Rainbow perform Monday, April 3 at Walter's Downtown, 1120 Naylor. Doors open at 8 p.m.

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