Allah-Las on Making Cover Songs Their Own, and the Sacred Songs That Nobody Should Cover
Before peeling off to Joshua Tree to play at Desert Daze, Pedrum Siadatian talks the art of making covers.
Though prolific, Los Angeles jangle-pop heroes Allah-Las are men of few words. At least, that is the case in e-mail interviews. Then again, it’s hard to blame them, as they’ve had to do a lot more interviews than normal in the last couple months for all the wrong reasons: The band made international news recently for being faced with a terror threat at a tour stop in Rotterdam. They all ultimately made it out safe, as did their fans, but one can’t blame them for being shaken, much less for not wanting to talk about it any more than necessary.
With that in mind, we instead discussed the release of Covers #1—a new EP of (you guessed it) cover songs recast in the band’s particular style—with guitarist Pedrum Siadatian. Therein, the band tackles deep cuts by legends George Harrison and Television, as well as a couple songs by performers whose songs are all deep cuts: Further and Kathy Heideman. The EP is due out November 3 via Mexican Summer, and Allah-Las are due to appear at the Desert Daze festival in Joshua Tree this coming weekend.
Is there any intended thematic unity between the songs on Covers #1?
The idea was just to cover songs we liked with our production style.
What is it about these particular songs that made you feel like they’d be a good match for that production style?
We were able to quickly envision where we could take the songs. With the George Harrison song in particular, we heard a classic jangly pop song that was swept up in the production trends of ’80s.
Do you think these covers will work their way into your live set very often?
No, not often. It was more of a recording endeavor with these than anything.
You cover “J.O. Eleven,” a track by obscuro ’90s indie rock band Further. You can barely find evidence of Further online; one would have to, say, sift around in an old stream of a radio show to even dig up the original track. When and how did y’all first come across them?
We’re buddies with OG members Brent and Darren Rademaker, and we used to work with the drummer, Kevin Fitzgerald, at Amoeba [Music] years ago, before he moved to Alaska. “J.O. Eleven” was always floating around in MP3 form between friends, but it was hard to get a physical copy because it was only included on a rare Italian pressing of their record Golden Grimes. We did our best to emulate the original because it’s so good to begin with; the only problem with the original is that there’s a distracting loud buzz from one of the amps on the recording.
It should be noted that the guy who wrote it, Josh Schwartz, passed away recently, after a battle with ALS, and a lot of friends, fans, and fellow musicians are going back and revisiting the amazing body of work he left behind. Hopefully this cover will bring more attention to the great music he made over the years with Further, Summer Hits, Beachwood Sparks, and Painted Hills.
That’s a very sad thing. Are you all longtime fans of Schwartz’s music? I know his work is pretty widely beloved—a friend of mine traveled across the country from NYC several times over the years to see him perform, in various iterations—but I’m sure that’s doubly true in your neck of the woods. Without getting too personal, what does his music mean to you, or to the band in general?
For me, he was special because he had a timeless writing style. He was really good at reinterpreting the past and making it fresh again, and that’s a realm that we’re working in, as well.
Is there a band that you would not only never cover, but which you think should never be covered by anyone because the songs are too sacred and/or dependent on the specific individuals who made the originals?
I don’t think anyone should ever cover [The Velvet Underground’s] “Pale Blue Eyes.”
Why’s that? Because of Lou Reed‘s performance? The recording? What is it about it that makes it untouchable?
Because no cover could ever touch the original. I’ve cried to it. Sacred territory!
One more, extremely important question: Who does the best cover of “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”?