I'm in love with Aloha. First I reviewed their amazing sophomore effort "Sugar" [read here], then I caught them in concert in Iowa City and was stunned [read here]. Now I got the chance to pick the brains of the band. Click READ MORE to find out what that thing is on stage, what the worst band in the world is, just how they write their songs, and more. For more info on the band, go here, and visit PolyvinylRecords.com to buy Aloha-related merchandise.
SCOTT: State your name and what you play.
MATTHEW: Matthew Gengler. I play bass.
S: Describe Aloha to my grandparents.
M: Loud, or more precisely, not something you would like.
S: If you can sum up the history of Aloha in an overly cliched phrase, what would it be?
M: Can I have more vibraphone in my monitor please?
S: What has been the most exciting moment for you as a band? Most dreadful?
M: Recording is always fantastic, we hear the songs for the first time in the speakers and everything starts to come together. I'd prefer not to talk about the most dreadful moments, except to say we have nearly broken up a couple of times, and we didn't.
S: Name the top 5 CDs receiving heavy rotation from you right now.
M: In no particular order:
1. the unreleased Saturday Looks Good To Me and Flashpapr records(fred thomas will always be my hero)
2. Judah Johnson "Kisses and Interrogation"
3. any one of five or six Steely Dan or Thin Lizzy records that I own
4. Matt Pond PA "the Nature of Maps"
5. Q and Not U "Different Damage"
S: Do you ever get sick of people asking "what is that thing on stage?"
M: No, I get sick of people calling it a xylophone or a marimba.
S: Speaking of the vibraphone, I am really curious as how it gets from show to show. Please explain.
M: In three boxes, in the back of our van.
S: When I saw you guys live in Iowa City, I was amazed at your cohesion and the lack of a set list. Do you all go into a show knowing more or less what will happen with songs, or do the performances take on a more free-form jazz feel?
M: there are free moments within certain songs, and certain players take a more liberal approach to playing the songs, but they all have structure. segues are all improv. but for the most part we play five to seven songs from the twenty that we like to play at any given time.
S: Have things ever gotten too out of hand on stage, where you can't even tell what song you're in anymore?
M: no, though I have improvised well into a song, only to realize it is actually the song and not the segue.
S: It seems like bands like you would need hours and hours writing songs as each instrument tends to do it's own thing, yet they all blend together overall. Can you explain your songwriting process to me, so I can sleep easier at night?
M: usually someone has kicked a part around a while and presents it to the rest of us. we learn it and refine it. often this happens in the studio, during recording, as it is easier to write when you can hear all the parts. for sugar, some parts were finished in ten minutes while the rest may have taken days. there is no actual process, it is different every time.
S: Do you mind if, when my friends ask what you sound like, I say "think the Dismemberment Plan with a vibraphone?"
M: no. but I would recommend spinning the album for them instead, to avoid spoiling the first time listener with a set of requirements. hear this, don't hear that, etcetera.
S: Who is the worst band in the world, past or present?
M: aloha. they don't practice, they play too long and too loud. and they never play the songs the same way twice.
S: Could you take them in a fight?
M: yes and no, I am a candy ass with a chip on my shoulder.
S: Without vibe mallets?
M: vibe mallets are actually pretty soft, covered with yarn and all.
S: I consider packaging to be incredibly important to a band's recorded material, and a lot of times if a good band has really bland artwork I just can't get into it as much. All your Polyvinyl releases have unique, lush artwork - is this a concious goal of yours? Do you view the art in the album as an extension of the music? Who does your artwork for you?
M: for sugar, we relinquished complete control of the album cover to the artists who created it. the photographer Scott MacDonald took the photos he wanted, the artist Zach Buckner submitted the pieces he liked the most, and the designer Gregg Bernstein manipulated them as he saw fit. there were suggestions made, but mostly it was there call. musically, drew peters, our engineer had the same privelidges with our mixes. the key here is collaboration. on a related note, the album cover has won a design award from Communication Arts magazine. In addition, Zach and his work, the same pieces we used, were featured in New American Artist recently.
S: You recently toured with Q and Not U, a band who's style differs greatly from yours. Would you rather tour with different sounding bands than the same old "indie rock" sounding groups?
M: I actually thought we shared a lot in common with Q and Not U, with both bands adopting improv and rhythm at their base. when you tour with another band, you hear them ten times or more, it is good to pick someone you admire and like. but we are not like sounding to very many bands. thus, we often tour with bands that are different than us. if the band is great, like Q and Not U, it is fantasic. if the band is not, we can be a bit overpowering a presence.
S: What's one band you wish you could tour with for the rest of the band's career? More succinctly, who are Aloha's musical soulmates?
M: I quite enjoyed our time with Q and Not U. Cale played with them on a song almost every night, and when we lost our vibraphone player for a few days, John played with us. I also enjoyed our many past dates with Ted Leo and the Pharmacists.
S: Do you ever play your song off the Makoto split 7" series live? That song is ridiculously good.
M: Yes, every night for the past thirty days. Thank you, it is also on Sugar in a different version.
S: Do you consider yourself closer to jazz or rock?
M: I consider myself closer to jock.
S: Do you consider yourself closer to god or satan?
M: Neither, I am politely agnostic.
S: Can you tell that I'm typing this up on 3 hours of sleep?
M: Not really. Hey, at least you didn't ask us how we got the name for the band. it is by the way my mother's maiden name.