Allah-Las take covers pretty seriously.
"A well-written song can sound a whole bunch of different ways and still kind of connect to people," the band's lead singer/guitarist Miles Michaud told me over the phone recently.
Case in point: Their latest release, a three-song EP (or four, if it's on vinyl) titled "Covers #1" [Listen/buy it here]. While their fresh takes on George Harrison, Television, Further and Kathy Heideman tunes carry over some sense of the originals, Allah-Las bestow their own brand of West Coast chillery to them -- adding to each a cooled-out vibe amplified through the group's psychedelic surf-folk kaleidoscope. It follows their 2015 "Lagniappe Sessions" EP (via Aquarium Drunkard) which found them covering the Jesus & Mary Chain, Cass McCombs and Kevin Ayers. [Listen to it here]
"Ideally, we search for a song that wasn't produced that well, or that we feel could benefit by playing it a different way," Michaud said. "For example: On 'J.O. Eleven,' a track from Further, it had a really bad buzz all throughout the [original] track and never really got a proper recording. Josh Schwartz [of Further, Beachwood Sparks, and more] developed Lou Gehrig's Disease and recently passed. We actually finished it, and he got to hear it before that happened and that was something that meant a lot to us -- to take something that he had created and hopefully give it a wider audience because it's a beautiful song and it was just kind of unknown for a long time."
That kind of exploratory approach to music extends to a long-running podcast the band (consisting of Michaud, lead guitarist/vocalist Pedrum Siadatian, bassist Spencer Dunham and drummer/vocalist Matthew Correia) and some of their friends record every week and particularly pride themselves on: Reverberation Radio. [Listen in here]
"I used to go to Loyola Marymount University in LA," Michaud explained, "and when I was there, I got on to their KXLU LMU radio station and started a show. Originally it was from 2-6 a.m., so it was a drag. [laughs] I had to do that for a few months. Then I got promoted to 9 a.m.-noon on Wednesdays and the guys in the band and our other friends that we kind of grew up sharing music with, would come through and bring some records and hang out. Eventually, after a while we got kicked off the radio 'cause we weren't following all the rules and I had dropped out of the school so we got the boot. Our manager suggested that we turn it into a podcast.
"So since that suggestion, it started off kind of slow but we've done every Wednesday for over six years now I guess. We're at 300-something episodes. I don't think we've ever done anything that consistent in our lives. [laughs] It's been great...it keeps us digging to find new stuff."
With the "Covers #1" EP title indicating that there might be more on the way, Michaud explained that it all boils down to a matter of time: "When we do the next covers EP, we'll probably just come up with it as time permits, whenever we can get to it. Right now though, we're really focusing on writing and making the new record."
When asked if their latest material is shaping up to follow closely in the footsteps of the band's last full-length album, 2016's "Calico Review," the frontman wasn't entirely sure.
"It's hard to say. The way that we're playing songs now, they're so new that they'll evolve and change, so when we get down to recording them, they'll sound however we're feeling at that moment. There might be a little bit of a departure from 'Calico,' at least in theory right now. But it's hard to say. For us, we kind of plug in songs to our collective psyche and let them shape us as we shape them. The results are always different than what we anticipated or planned, in a good way. It's just the way it goes."
While we await the new record, go ahead and keep basking in the glory of "Calico" and the "Covers #1" EP, along with the band's earlier albums (which includes their 2012 debut self-titled release and 2014's "Worship the Sun"). And hey, if you're feeling inspired, maybe send the band your own cover of one of their tunes -- just do your best to switch it up a little, eh?
"People send us YouTube links of their bands covering us all the time, but it mostly sounds like how we play it," Michaud said laughing. "It would be cool to hear somebody who had a different approach to music do one of our songs. I don't know who that would be. But yea, I'd love to hear that."