Self Discovery for Social Survival: A conversation with Allah Las (Part II)
The hot eyed amongst you have probably already read part one of our two part piece on Self Discovery for Social Survival, the brand new film from indie label Mexican Summer and surf brand Pilgrim. In our conversation with Keith Abrahamsson, who was the Music Supervisor, we spoke about the rise of surf films and the ideas behind the collaborative project. You can read it here.
In part two we got chatting with Spencer Dunham of Allah Las, a band that are the foundation of the film’s soundtrack alongside the likes of Dungen and Connan Mockasin. In Mexico, Allah Las joined surfers Ryan Burch, Richard Keyan Burch, Richard Kenvin, Devon Howard, CJ Nelson, Karina Rozunko, Corey Colapinto and Ellis Ericson for a few days of sipping tequila, slumbering through siestas and finding the swell. Heading home to Los Angeles, Allah Las created music in response to the surfing that happened down south to create a typically beautiful set of Allah Las tracks, with tingling guitars, groovy bass lines and a perfect beat to tap your toe to.
Get to know more about Allah Las contribution to the Self Discovery for Social Survival below.
What was your initial reaction when you found out about the project and got asked to be a part of it?
When I was about 14 years old, I went to the Hermosa Beach Community Theater to see a screening of the movie, "Siestas & Olas", somewhat of a late 90s / early 2000s version of the "Endless Summer," which featured Tom Wegener & Josh Farberow driving an old chevy suburban south from Los Angeles to the Southern Mexican border, surfing and siesta'ing at a leisurely pace southward.
One of the focal points of the movie is called "Perfect Rivermouth #27", where they stumble upon a vacant river mouth in the state of Guerrero, with one little restaurant which has a couple of extra hammocks. So when Mexican Summer asked us if we would like to go to this "Perfect Rivermouth #27", with 4 iconic surfers, and then write original music to accompany the film, I pinched myself, laughed, and then immediately said "yes."
Do you find that nature has a direct impact on the music of Allah-Las?
Nature always plays a part in music. Nature impacts the way the music is created, and then the music helps people define the environment from where it came, whether it’s Walter Wanderly or Dr. Dre.
Was it valuable for you to have direct time with the surfers and spend time in the environment in which they were in to truly understand the approach to this film?
The four surfers chosen for the Mexico segment were very diverse, from young shredders to elders who shaped the current landscape of the surf world. It was really nice to be able to hang out with the guys and get a sense of their perspectives. Surfers can get a bad rap, but what people don't often realize is how much life experience goes along with it. Professional surfers travel all over the world, for sometimes 8 months of the year, and do so typically in humble fashion. They often have some good stories and a balanced perspective on the world in general. I think getting to know the surfers in the film was a really great part of the experience.
You’ve got five tracks on the soundtrack, and have laid down the very foundation of the film. All the tracks have a similar feel to them, pulled together by their titles. Did you feel is was quite natural finding your flow?
Yeah, we had been recording at Kyle's for a while so the space and vibe felt comfortable to mess around a record some instrumentals. The titles of the instrumental "jams" are a bit tongue and cheek.
That’s Kyle Mullarky’s studio right? You’ve worked with him a few times before. Was having a familiar face and like minded person helpful?
Yeah, Kyle is one of our favorite people to work with. His recording studio in Topanga Canyon is a such a refreshing place to escape LA and focus on music. As you can see in the film, it’s basically a ranch with pigs, dogs, chickens etc so its a really fun place to spend some time.
Allah Las seem to have always had close ties to the surf culture. Did you dig into any research before recording your tracks for this film? Did you watch any of the classics like The Endless Summer?
Pedrum (guitar) is not a surfer, hence he doesn't really watch surf movies, unless he is in an inescapable situation, but otherwise the rest of us in the band love a lot of the old classic surf films like Morning of the Earth, Innermost Limits of Pure fun & film makers like George Greenough, Bruce Brown and Jamie Budgie.
We spoke to Keith about the locations and what music fit in which locations. Allah Las definitely got the sunnier aspect of things, sending you down to Mexico. Was this a natural fit for you? Would you have found it harder if you were doing the sound track for, say, the Iceland scenes?
I think we would have enjoyed being a part of any of the locations, but Mexico was indeed a really nice fit for us. I think we could have probably adapted to scoring music for any of the locations. Not sure what it would have sounded like but it definitely would have been different.
Keith also stated, “I wanted to see a surf film that’s not rooted in nostalgia, but is very respectful of, and is almost a nod to that past”. Did you have a similar mindset in creating the music?
Yeah, the surfing in the film is not what you are going to see at a modern surf contest and hopefully people enjoy the music that we made to go along with it. We didn't purposely set out to make revival surf music for the film, we just kind of improvised and wrote songs that felt cool to us.
As an artist, what was the hardest obstacle to overcome with this project and how did you do that?
The hardest obstacle was agreeing on what berries to name the songs after. In the end each of us got to chose our favorite berry and we were able to continue on as a band amicably.
If you took one lesson away from the recording for Self Discovery for Social Survival, what would it be?
A friend of mine who is a professional surfer once said to me "Don't give up, dreams are real."
Self Discovery for Social Survival is out now. You can watch the film here.