Animal Liberation Orchestra Jam With a Sophisticated Approach

Charleston City Paper | November 22, 2005
"The band name is kind of a lighthearted name," says Animal Liberation Orchestra drummer David Brogan, 36. "It relates to liberating your inner animal, or your animal spirit, you know? We were all studying in a music department that had this tight, stuffy vibe to it. I think we wanted to come up with a name that countered that."

Animal Liberation Orchestra (a.k.a. ALO) first got together at the University of California Santa Barbara, where Brogan, keyboardist/singer/ukulele player Zach Gill, bassist/singer Steve Adams, and guitarist-singer Dan Lebowitz studied music. They started out as a large-scale jazz-fusion ensemble with a full horn section, and eventually pared down to a funk-based, songwriting quartet in 2002.

Brogan and his bandmates had already soaked up all sorts of West Coast/California music as young musicians -- from cool Brubeck jazz and Bakersfield-style country styles, to L.A. punk and hair metal to Cali-style hip-hop and rap -- all of which sneak into the band's live sound.

"I remember being impressed by the sounds of the Simon & Garfunkel records," says Brogan. "In junior high, I was definitely knocked out by Led Zeppelin and John Bonham's huge drum sound. I did get a lot of the early hip-hop, like Curtis Blow, Grandmaster Flash, Run-DMC. We were into all that and it's been a constant influence."

At UC-Santa Barbara, they sunk their teeth into as much music as they could find -- researching older albums and checking out current acts. As students, they concentrated on the techniques. As bandmates, they tried to explore their own big ideas.

"You know, I think there are left-brain musicians and right-brain musicians," says Brogan. "Some people need more structure, tend to play by the rules, and like things to be perfect and solid. Others are super-creative, right-brained, going for it, just learning rules to throw them out the window. Good modern music needs both."

This year, ALO officially signed to Brushfire Records and spent two months on the road with singer-songwriter (and Santa Barbara scene colleague) Jack Johnson, the label's co-founder. Gill sat in as Johnson's keyboardist during the '05 tour. ALO recently embarked on their own headlining tour across the U.S. in support of their forthcoming album, Fly Between Falls.

"The thing that is special about Fly Between Falls is that it is kind of an exercise in reinventing the band, using both old and new material as the building blocks," says Brogan.

"We are a band that jams, if you say jamming is like improvisation," he adds. "But the term 'jam band' loses meaning every day, because it's a name for a genre of music. But it's also a name for a growing music scene. I think better current terms might be 'jam base' bands, or 'Bonnaroo bands.' We definitely belong to those scenes, and we want to be accepted into other scenes, too."

Charleston City Paper

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