Please list all of your band members and their roles in the band.
We are mainly a four piece. My wife Sara Bright plays guitar and banjo. PM Feist is our multi-instrumentalist who got his chops playing trombone and trumpet in the United States Army band when we served as a young man. Now he basically makes tons of weird and beautiful noise or hand builds chimes to throw around on stage. Our drummer is Josh Halpern who lives in Austin and plays in tons of bands including Shearwater, Palo Duro and Marmalakes. I play piano, guitar and sing. I usually handle the basic idea for a song and then we flesh it out together in the studio. During the last record cycle, I also worked very closely with Lucas Oswald getting a sound together and structuring songs. He has an amazing project of his own though that he is pursuing along with being in Shearwater and engineering full time so we usually don’t get to have him on the road.
For starters, what bands were you guys a part of prior to Allelujah? How long has the band been around?
I grew up in Boonville Missouri and I played music with my 3 best friends throughout high school. We stayed together once we all got into college and had a pretty successful band on Jagjaguwar records called Minus Story. We were part of the Lawrence scene with Appleseed Cast, Ghosty, Get Up Kids, and all those amazing hardcore metal Kansas City bands. Eventually, we decided friendship was better than a band and we called that project done. Lucas who was also part of Minus Story went on to play in a number of bands until Shearwater stuck, which has been his main musical pursuit the last handful of years outside of his own record, which comes out this Friday, September 1 on Cosmic Dreamer and is absolutely incredible. We’ve been working as Allelujah for just under 3 years now.
What’s the origin of that name and have you changed the band’s name before?
I wanted something that somehow evoked a spiritual kind of feeling, something that took on the mood of what this new music is. The new record we just finished is pretty serious music, as is the Death and Life, so I wanted a name that kind of spoke to who I am. I’m very into the celestial world and that which we can’t see. I feel like that word, Allelujah, when used in certain instances, seems to be directed towards some time defying, ethereal place that we can’t access here on earth. We can only shout these words and feelings into that space.
Who writes your songs? What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs and do you think these topics will change over time?
I usually do all the writing with the intention that we as a band will pull it together structurally. For the Death and Life of Capt Nathan Baker it was all directed towards this one individual whom I got connected with by chance. His life’s work fascinated me. I wanted to create an art record that simply told a story in the guise of gospel rock to illustrate the ideas of man going off to war and fighting and the death that it brings with it and the hell and heaven of battle.
I wanted to follow what he might have been thinking in his own head while out on the battlefield. He was a captain and a chaplain, someone who killed and at the same time was praying to the heavens. What a concept. The new record is much more personal. It’s looking into my past and examining my relationship with my family. It talks about the fragility of life and how vulnerable we can allow ourselves to become. In some ways its an extension of the last record but sonically its pretty different.
What bands are currently inspiring the music that you’re making?
All throughout this last record I couldn’t stop listening to Talking Heads. It just floored me. You can hardly hear it in the songs we made in the studio but it was a huge influence. Other things that have stayed with me are all these older tracks by Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and the Everly Brothers. Simple, beautiful, soulful songs. Jerry’s energy is always very important to me. Great Balls of Fire is the first song I ever connected with around the age of 4 and it’s the foundation of my musical tastes. Willie Nelson became a huge part of my life over the last year. His masterful life was the best kind of fuel for me.
His songs and his struggle towards discovery spoke to me in the greatest way. So smooth, so rough, so unabashedly country. I couldn’t get enough of it. I also discovered Aldous Harding this year and she is just fantastic. The way she utilizes what her voice can do and not being afraid to let it stand alone has been really inspirational. She’s a knockout. What else, tons of Alice Coltrane. Tons of Ravi Shankar. Far out spiritual music. Having this balance of sounds I think really spaced the new record we made.
Was there a particular band/artist or concert that inspired you to start a band?
The first concert I went to was Three Dog Night and I hated it because some guy spilled his beer all over me. I was 6 and could have cared less about the music. My shirt was sticky and wet. One truly was the loneliest number on that afternoon. But in general, music has always been very important to me. I grew up outside of Memphis and Elvis and that sound has been something that’s propelled me to want to create music. The first things I really got into where the Beach Boys and Bruce Springsteen, monsters of the music world that would terrorize most of mental energy. I couldn’t get enough of it.
As a young boy those two artists were constantly being pumped into my head either by a walkman or this small portable boombox I carried around with me everywhere. As a teenager, my walls were painted with colorful rockstars. There were all these floating heads looking down on my while I slept. I woke up every morning looking at an oversized full body Thurston Moore painted opposite my bed. Sonic Youth were the bee’s knees. Chris Cornell and Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, all that was super important to me. My friends were easily the thing that finally propelled me to be in a band though. I grew up around a lot of very talented people who allowed me to be apart of their crew. It helped me a lot to understand how to break music down and listen to it differently than I had previously.
What do you do to prepare for a show?
Try not to worry about it.
What has been the biggest highlight of the band’s career so far?
We’ve had a few really nice shows, some good press. My favorite though was a museum show in Cincinnati. It was my birthday and we screened one of my older films behind us while we played. After the show we premiered the new Chariots On Fire video. The place was packed, we played incredibly well and the film was well received. The museum and hotel treated us like high profile artists. Champagne in our rooms and a private little thank you note. It was such a treat. Easily my most favorite moment to date.
If you could tour with any bands, past or present, who would they be and why?
Well if I could tour with the Beatles that would be it. I wouldn’t want to play before them, maybe during their Hamburg days, but certainly not after. We would have been smothered. But to be there to see them play those songs before they were burnt out on the whole scene would have been incredible. There’s just nothing like those four people playing together. It’s like the four corners of the earth melting together in one room for 30 minutes. It looks like total bliss, beyond understanding. No wonder everyone was completely losing their minds at those shows. They couldn’t handle to force in front of them.
I’d love to open for Willie, at any time, past or present. What an honor. But currently, for whatever reason, I am holding out on opening for some Eddie Vedder solo shows. I don’t even really listen to their music anymore. Last thing I gave time to of his was the Sean Penn film he soundtracked. But he’s an icon to me that will never be overpowered by anyone else. I gave too much of my musical soul to him as a young man. He’s just too important of an individual for me to not let him hold that seat in my heart.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Thanks for listening to the music and for reading.