ALO: The Love You Give

By: Dennis Cook

This Friday, January 28, ALO will embark on their 5th Annual Tour D’Amour, a California centered run that benefits Music In Schools Today. For ALO fans, these shows are often highlights of the year, with a looser, giddier band on display with lots of love in the air. This year the band starts in Arcata, CA and wraps in Crystal Bay, NV on February 20 (full tour dates here). We snagged keyboardist-singer Zach Gill to chat about the tour, the band’s abiding affection for pop and their desire to give back to their community.

Zach Gill by Josh Miller
JamBase: How did Tour D’Amour get started?

Zach Gill: We skipped one year, so it was about six years ago and around that time we were touring quite a bit. And the ALO love theme is always strong, so we thought we’d start an annual Tour D’Amour right before Valentine’s Day. We had a friend who makes props and he made us these giant hearts that light up. It was pretty awesome. I have one of the original ones in my house and another giant one is at Lebo’s house. So, it was our first real set piece for what became an annual tour that was one part a chance to reconnect with friends on the California coast and one part a chance to give back to Music In Schools Today, something we felt we were prime benefactors of in the first place.

JamBase: It is a struggle to keep arts programs running these days. So, all of ALO participated in the Music In Schools program when you were young?

Zach Gill: Yeah, all of us were very much products of public school music education, and as a byproduct we all had access to a lot of amazing things and got turned onto music outside the mainstream. When you’re a kid, if you don’t have an older brother or something, it’s just whatever the radio is dishing out or your parents provide you. But [through this program], I remember being turned onto jazz records, Bobby McFerrin and classical music. In the end, these high school music classes ended up counting for college credit. I don’t think I would have made it without those classes [laughs].

This tour is a great way to give back to a program that helped shape what you did with your lives.

It was a super natural fit for everyone in the band.

Do you try and come up with fresh love songs, particularly covers, for this tour?

We do, and we’ve done quite a few over the years. We’ll try to do a different tune each night, though some are so good you want to play them a couple times. We’ve had some good ones over the years.

I’ve long appreciated ALO’s way with covers. At the risk of being blunt, you guys mine some stuff that’s not too hip. Not many bands tackling Wang Chung’s “Dance Hall Days”.

Probably true, huh? [laughs]

ALO’s Adams & Gill by Josh Miller
But you have the ears to hear the value and quality of these songs, regardless of their current cultural status.

That’s exactly it. I’m always listening to the radio and there’s so many things that get written off because of their associations. “Dance Hall Days” is just an amazing song; I just love the changes. It doesn’t matter if it’s Wang Chung or Burt Bacharach [laughs]. A lot of times I go back to stuff I dug as a kid when I was first falling in love with music and discovering that it was magical.

Pop music has gotten a bad reputation especially in the past couple decades but it’s actually a great tradition from Tin Pan Alley to The Beatles and all the great stuff AM radio produced in the 70s. I feel like ALO is holding up the good part of the pop tradition.

I agree. For us, pop is not a dirty word. It’s gotten lumped in with fast food and pop culture, but strong melodies and great choruses endure. And a pop song’s ability to unify people is just magical. I’ve been enjoying the Glee phenomenon, which has brought back songs that have been written off. Just the other day, my daughter said, “Dad, you’ve gotta hear this song!” and it was “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”

There’s something really cool about a song that touches people across a wide spectrum. Pop music today is largely very compartmentalized but once in a while a nugget like Cee-Lo Green’s “Fuck You” will sweep everywhere and remind us what real classic pop is all about.

In the early formative years of rock ‘n’ roll, where the songs started to largely sound the same, then suddenly The Beatles and the whole British Invasion comes along to harness the raw power inherent to rock to catchy melodies and fancy chords and suddenly it was a whole other thing again.

Rock is such a great format when it’s utilized and respected as this huge crucible you can throw almost anything into and have fun with. From the time of the British Invasion forward, rock, at heart and at its best, is about disobeying rules on some level.

That’s kind of the energy of rock ‘n’ roll in a nutshell. It doesn’t matter if its dressed up, the energy is about pushing boundaries of some kind. It’s crazy how things get so formulaic so fast, but then I think about a band like The Clash, who were a punk band but they did RnB and covered Isley Brothers songs and reggae stuff. It’s just amazing and inspiring. They weren’t what I thought they were.

Nathan Moore by Anne Staveley
How did you decide to bring along Nathan Moore and Sean Hayes as your openers for this year’s Tour D’Amour?

They’re both great guys and just two of the first names that popped up as people who’d be fun to tour with.

With Nathan there’s also the x-factor of what will happen with him in the mix. With him along you don’t really know what will happen but it’s bound to be memorable!

True! He’s been alluding to some mysterious things. On Jam Cruise he was talking about being our devil [laughs]. I don’t know exactly what that means but we’re game to play along with him. I’m excited to be out with Nathan.

It’s always good to have a trickster in your midst.

Yes. When you’re touring it’s easy to sometimes take it too seriously, and I feel like he’s got a good blend of traits to avoid that. He’s a quality trickster.

Fun usually permeates the Tour D’Amour. ALO seems a bit looser, a bit more ready to trip in the cause of something enjoyable, a bit more game for what happens in the moment than even your usual selves. This tour often brings out the giggles in all of you.

I think so! That’s the energy I want.

Friday 1/28 Humboldt Brews – Arcata, CA / with Blue Street Junction
Saturday 1/29 The Fillmore, presented by KFOG – San Francisco, CA / with Sean Hayes
Wed. 2/09 SLO Brewing Co – San Luis Obispo, CA / with Nathan Moore
Thursday 2/10 Belly Up – Solana Beach, CA / with Nathan Moore
Friday 2/11 Troubadour – West Hollywood, CA / with Nathan Moore
Saturday 2/12 Saint Rocke – Hermosa Beach, CA / with Nathan Moore
Sunday 2/13 SOhO – Santa Barbara, CA / with Nathan Moore
Thursday 2/17 Moe's Alley – Santa Cruz, CA / with Nathan Moore
Friday 2/18 Hopmonk – Sebastopol, CA / with Nathan Moore
Saturday 2/19 Harlow’s – Sacramento, CA / with Nathan Moore
Sunday 2/20 Crystal Bay Casino – Crystal Bay, NV / with Nathan Moore

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[Published on: 1/24/11]

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