Culture Dose: ALO at Nectar Lounge

ALO by Jay Blakesberg

A Q+A with the longtime bandmates 

Pop/rock quartet ALO has been deemed “more than a band…It’s a musical relationship”—and one that has propelled the band and its loyal fans for nearly two decades. The band’s currently on tour to support their new Brushfire Records (Jack Johnson) release of  ‘Tangle Of Time’—a joyous collection of songs evoking their 70s-esque California cool sound and whimsical improv. Saturday, December 5, they bring their playful act to Fremont’s Nectar Lounge.

ALO by Jay Blakesberg
ALO by Jay Blakesberg

We recently caught up with front man, singer and keyboardist Zach Gill about the secret recipe to ALO’s ongoing success.

Q: For those who don’t know your music already, how would you describe your unique sound?

A: My descriptions change depending on who I’m talking to, but some answers I’ve given in the past…fun and eclectic dance rock….Funky Funtime, jam-quirk, pop rock n soul…

If The Grateful Dead, Elton John and The Talking Heads made a baby, it might sound like ALO…On the sonic spectrum somewhere between Randy Newman, Spinal Tap and James Brown, you will find California’s ALO.

Lately I’ve been into this one: Great songs and great jams to move your body, engage your mind and tickle your soul.

Q: What is your secret to thriving in this industry for more than two decades?

A: We take breaks from each other and play with other musicians, and this helps in two ways. We learn from other great musicians and bring this back to ALO, and also we gain new appreciation for the really good parts of being ALO. New growth and new appreciation are essential for any relationship I think—bands, marriages and friendships.

Q: It’s so impressive that all four of you contribute to the songwriting of your albums. Can you explain how that process works?

A: Every song and album is a little different, any one of us might bring in a finished song and the band will rearrange it, give it new life—maybe the song started out as a ballad and ends up a disco dance party. Other times, we try and support each other in reaching the songwriter’s vision for a song, we will let the writer guide the band direction. Other times, we work backwards; we start with a band groove, a group improvisation that feels really good instrumentally, and then one of us will give it lyrics or arrange it and add form. We’ve had songs born out of 10-sec moments in a 10-minute jam. You listen back to the jam and one little section really grabs you, and so you make that moment its own song.

For this album, we sent demos to each other and gave each other feedback and voted on the songs that we wanted to start with. Interestingly not always did the writer of the song vote to work on his song. The nice part about our process is that the amount of ideas generated is really endless, [while] the trickiest part is usually narrowing down ideas.

Album cover courtesy Mason Jar Media
Album cover courtesy Mason Jar Media

Q: How did you come up with the name for Tangle Of Time?

A: Tangle of Time is a repeated phrase in the song “The Ticket.” We usually start without a title and wait for the songs to speak to us and reveal the title. After we got most of the songs recorded, we realized how many of them had to do with time. In this case, the title really resonated once we found it, given our history together and the fact that so many of the songs address different types of time. The album is truly a tangle of time.

Q: What three adjectives would you use to summarize your newest album?

A: Timeless, diverse and warm.

Q: Rumor has it, concert goers can expect “live theatrical shenanigans” during this latest tour. Why do you go to great lengths to make sure your audience members feel engaged?

A: Everyone, including the band, the staff at the club and the audience, comes to our shows with lots of personal history, but for this brief moment in all of our lives, we are sharing this space and time together, and I want to make it count. I want to remember the night for the rest of my life, I want it to be special, and the shenanigans help with this. It’s fun, it’s whimsical, and it’s of the moment. It also helps loosen people up; we want them to walk away from our shows feeling liberated and rejuvenated by music.

Q: What can Seattle audiences expect of your show here at Nectar on December 5th?

A: Great songs and great jams to move your body, engage your mind and tickle your soul. Oh, yes, and also…we are going to tangle the band and audience in yarn, to honor the web of life and also just because it looks cool. Please bring yarn to the show. I’m serious:-)
#followtheyarn #alotour