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What We Learnt Backstage At Coachella With Allah-Las

2 May 2017 | 6:19 pm | Bryget Chrisfield

Two weekends in a row at Coachella = Groundhog Day

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As we enter a shared artist trailer behind Coachella's Sonora tent, the vibe is hectic. Spanish indie-rockers Hinds have just played, New York hardcore trio Show Me The Body are up next and then it's Allah-Las' turn. A Heineken stubby is plucked from a tub of ice and handed over before this scribe is introduced to Miles Michaud (vocals/guitar) and Matthew Correia (drums), and then we settle into a couple of perpendicular couches in the corner. 

This is weekend two of Coachella and, when asked how weekend one's show went down for Allah-Las, Correia enthuses, "The show was good. I mean, we'd prefer to be in the sun, but..." It's gotta be cooler on the stage under a tent than in the direct sunlight though, right? Michaud points out, "It's actually air-conditioned." Not only is Sonora air-conditioned, but there are also sofas and beanbags scattered around, which punters appear to kip on in between sets. So is it a weird deja-vu feeling playing same slot, same stage two weeks in a row? "Groundhog Day?" Correia suggests before his bandmate observes, "Well, that's kind of our lives [laughs]. That's touring, yeah." 

On what makes these particular Coachella sets stand out from other gigs their band has played, Correia offers, "A close friend of ours, Robbie Simon, made the stage set-up behind us - that's the first time we've had that. He kind of created it for these two sets." Simon is also responsible for some Allah-Las album artwork and his set design is eye-catching and colourful, utilising flats of various shapes and sizes that are spread out across the full width of the stage (and give the impression that Allah-Las are popping out from a picture book during their performance).

Simon is also "one of the contributors" to Allah-Las' Reverberation Radio podcast, Correia reveals, going on to explain that some of Allah-Las' "closest colleagues from high school and college" also take turns uploading these weekly playlists. "Everyone gets to do one every two months or so," he says. "I mean, it's really something that we always used to do for ourselves - we'd always share mixes with one another... the only difference is that everybody gets to see what that is. But it's another fun thing to do with your friends."

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 "People always get upset with us on social media."

Australia's own The Babe Rainbow are counted among Allah-Las' friends and were recruited for support duty during the band's recent Stateside tour, which wrapped up earlier this month. "It's like we created our own little party to travel around," is how Correia describes this tour. We're curious to find out which other Australian bands are on Allah-Las' radar and the drummer enlightens, "Ones that you probably could guess: Tame Impala and Pond. And I think we've all been into buying Australian music over the years, like, The Saints." 

"The Sleepy Jackson," Michaud proffers and Correia seconds that: "We're big fans of the first Sleepy Jackson record [Lovers]." So did they go watch Empire Of The Sun in Sahara tent last night? "No," Michaud replies. When told EOTS is Luke Steele's latest project, this is obviously news to the vocalist/guitarist: "Oh, is it?"

Allah-Las' upcoming Australian tour will mark the band's first-ever visit to our shores and Michaud recounts, "There's always been logistical or, you know, planning issues and it's never worked out. So it's kind of a blessing and a curse, because now that we are going - and it's been so long - there's a really solid response and the shows have been doing great."

After their Australian sojourn, Allah-Las are heading to Bali to play some shows, but Correia laments, "We really wanna go to Perth and New Zealand, and all the places that we're missing, but..."

"That's the thing," Michaud continues. "People always get upset with us on social media and they're like, 'Why aren't you playing so-and-so?' And we're like, 'Well, we wish we could play everywhere, but it's usually out of our hands. It's not us, like, 'Oh, we don't wanna play there,' you know?' It's funny, 'cause that's all we get on social media - people, like, really upset that we're not playing [in their region]." 

The band's latest and third LP Calico Review (2016) was recorded at Valentine Recording Studios and incorporates some additional instrumentation such as harpsichord, violin and even mellotron, which Correia acknowledges was "sort of like a progression in songwriting". Michaud remembers: "There were a lot of instruments we brought into the studio, and they were around the studio as well, and we'd just kinda try different things out. It was fun for us because, you know, the first [self-titled] record is just the four of us playing; I think the one extra instrument on that record was the piano on, like, one song."

Three out of four Allah-Las members went to high school together (Michaud, Correia and bassist Spencer Dunham). But it was while working at Amoeba Records that Dunham and Correia met the missing link: guitarist Pedrum Siadatian. When Allah-Las first formed, Correia recalls the quartet had "no idea" how far the band could take them. Michaud concurs, "I mean, we really just wanted something to hang out and do on Sundays. We were just friends that wanted to jam and hang out, basically; like, we were big music fans and avid record collectors, and that was the extent of it."

"The series of events that happened - we were very fortunate and we feel lucky and honoured to be playing amongst the people that we do," the drummer confesses. "[We] never would've expected that to happen. We were big fans and kids that were hanging out in a record store, and trying to get into shows, you know. We never would've figured that this would be our future, but we're happy."

"You have to kind of decipher things a little bit and encrypt the lyrics to try to figure out what it means to you."

When asked which bands blew their minds when they were younger, Correia singles out "a lot of LA stuff": The Tyde, The Brian Jonestown Massacre ("I never got to see them") and Beachwood Sparks ("I don't know where we'd be without those guys. They helped us out; they were mentors").

On what kind of things they miss about being music fans, pre-internet, Correia admits, "I was thinking about this and [I've been] talking about it a lot recently. In a lot of interviews we get asked, like, what our band name means and what our songs mean, and what our album titles mean and, to me, the funnest thing - when we were younger - is: you'd get a record and you'd have the front cover, and the back cover, and the lyrics and you'd, like, really just try to decode everything on that and just try to figure out what's going on from all the information. I feel like today, with the internet, sometimes there's not a lot of mystery. And I miss that - like, I don't wanna tell people what those things are... I want people to interpret them the way I did when I was a kid and I made up my own ideas about what that meant, 'cause that's more fun, right?

"What's good about a lot of songs is you can - it becomes something that's just for you and I want people to have that still; like we were when we were kids and things are still a mystery, and you have to kind of decipher things a little bit and encrypt the lyrics to try to figure out what it means to you.

"Now you go can go online and put in the lyric and figure out what the song is. But I remember going into a record store and being like, 'Okay, the cover looks like this,' and then singing the lyrics to some grumpy, annoyed record store employee and having them be like, 'Yeah, it's over there.'" 

"And it sucks!" Michaud adds with a laugh.

"Yeah, I miss that," Correia bemoans. "I wish that was still around. And I think we were working at a record store when the transition happened, and I miss the grumpy record store [employees]." 

When told this scribe really misses the excitement of queuing overnight to purchase concert tickets and the likeminded souls you'd meet along the way, Michaud reminisces, "I remember hanging outside Tower Records in Hollywood... they'd open at midnight and sell the new releases." 

At this point, Correia is called away for sound check and it's all getting a bit wild and woolly in the trailer so it's time to switch the dictaphone off.