One of the most beautiful things in life is how different people's tastes are... A lot of people use music to define who they are, and in a sense, a means of differentiating themselves. --Dan Lebowitz

Layton: After being together for 15 years, and seeing all these bands come and go and now with Phish gone and all these bands coming into the scene that sound like regurgitations from the previous bands we have listened to, do you feel that you have a heads up on some of the other groups? Do you feel tighter in the sense that you all know each other so well, and even with this surge of new material, that you perhaps haven't even gotten to a half way mark with where you could take the music?

Adams, Lebowitz, Gill by J. Lebowitz
Lebowitz: It's a very special thing to have been playing together as long as we have. Especially the fact that we really started our lives as musicians together. We taught each other some of the first songs each of us ever learned. And still, to this day, teach each other so much about music. This type of experience creates a deep bond.

Gill: I feel that we are only operating at a tenth of what we can do. Not that we aren't giving it all we can, I just feel that we are coming up with so much, and we have known each other so long that it comes faster then we can even harness it, if that makes sense. A perfect example is that we are putting out this album with all these songs that we have had in our catalogue for some time, and yet we have written a ton of new material that can already make up a new album. The thing with Phish was that you can hear in their music that they spent a lot of time putting the music together. They spent a lot of time putting these arrangements together and practicing and doing that, whereas with us, we grew up together you know from like before puberty and now I have a four year old daughter and a wife, and Dan [Lebowitz] is married, and Dave [Brogan] lives in Seattle. So we are still fully committed to the music, but the time for us to devote to it isn't as readily available anymore, but for these same reasons, when we do meet up and we are playing, it is always happening, and something new is on the horizon. I think in that sense, we are meant to be playing together, because it just flows.

Layton: Do you think that it has a negative effect on you guys being so far apart?

Dave Brogan by Jenna Lebowitz
Brogan: I don't know, because the time that we are together, we are writing a lot and getting a tremendous amount done. It makes it harder to practice, but at the same time, for whatever reasons, we are able to create new music and it is all sounding good.

Lebowitz: On the positive side, we are forced to be really focused about our rehearsal time. Rather than set aside a couple hours on Monday and a couple hours on Thursday, we'll set aside a week and put in ten hour days of quality uninterrupted rehearsal. On the negative side, if somebody has a new idea that's going to take some time to hash out, they might have to wait a bit before it can get worked on. We keep a pretty active touring schedule, so the week long rehearsal sessions, while frequent, don't happen every week.

Gill: In the van we will work on vocal stuff for hours on end, harmonizing and exploring new areas vocally.

ALO by Susan J. Weiand
Adams: Back in college though, we were all living together, and that time was pretty special because it was a non-stop creative process. Any ideas that one of us had, we were able to go into the shed and figure it out. I don't think that we will be in that situation again, but for when it was like that, I feel we accomplished in those few years what takes some bands forever to find. I think that the respect that each of us has for each other carries through in our writing process and in our being able to have a quick turn around time in creating all this music, even if it is in the van or right before a gig.

Gill: I feel like we have stumbled into this new territory. In many ways, I feel as if we are a new band. It all feels fresh and new. It is weird for me to think that we are 15 years old as a band, because it all seems so new and exciting, this new material we are working with is some of the best stuff I think we have done, and it seems to just keep coming, and I love it.

Layton: Do you think that a big part of that is your following? You guys have one of the most supportive, dedicated followings of a lot of bands out there.

Gill and Adams by Jenna Lebowitz
Adams: We have a great support network, especially those in Santa Barbara. They have allowed this to happen, and it goes back a long way. I think in many ways that started with Jenna [Lebowitz]. I always credited her in keeping the band together and moving forward and bringing more peoples attention to what we were doing. There was a point where we could have gone our separate ways musically, and I think she kept us together.

Gill: We are very much a family. As far as our Santa Barbara fans, I consider them family.

Layton: Do you consider Santa Barbara or San Francisco your home?

Lebowitz: Both Santa Barbara and San Francisco are places where we have deep roots. We have spent a lot of time playing music in many different contexts in both towns. When you are on tour, you generally show up in a town, play the show that night, and leave the next day. However, when you spend more time in a town, you begin to function in that particular community as more than just a musician. This is where the walls between performer and audience get torn down. It becomes more of a person to person thing, and that feels real. Not to say that these relationships can't be achieved outside of one's hometown. It's just that in a hometown it's a really natural and common occurrence.

Adams: I agree. I mean ultimately the California coast in general has been our home.

Zach Gill by Susan J. Weiand
Gill: It's just like growing up, you know. You live with your parents and that is your home, but then you go to college and that is your home, or get married, whatever the case may be, you always consider these places your home. I just feel so fortunate to have so many supporters and love all along the state, so it's all home to me.

Layton: Over the years, who have you guys most enjoyed playing with, who do you consider in the family from the people you have been able to share the stage with?

Gill: We have been on the road a lot, so we have been experiencing a lot of cross pollination, but bands like The Ritual and Vinyl are really close with us. One of the highest musical moments for me was on stage with Steve Kimock. It was unreal to be creating music with someone of his stature; he is a legend in his own right. I think we have a real kinship with Tea Leaf Green and Hot Buttered Rum String Band, those groups especially because we all sort of come from the same place. Trevor [Garrod] from Tea Leaf actually went to our junior high and high school; Steve was even in a band with him. So those ties go back a long way. I definitely feel like there are some really good friendships being made with the bands that are coming from the Bay area right now.

Adams: John Whooley is always a pleasure to play with, his spirit is so incredible, and I love the music that we make when he is sitting in with us.

Brogan: Alfred Howard without a doubt.

Gill: I love Al, he has always had such a positive attitude, and it tickles me to finally see him getting the recognitions that he deserves.

Lebowitz: Another exciting collaborative experience has been the Everyone Orchestra that Matt Butler has been organizing. We have done a few of these and had a blast each time. This is where we played with Kimock as well as many others. The next one we are doing will be at the Boulder Theater on November 19 [Editor's note: which was a huge success] and will include Michael Travis [String Cheese Incident], Peter Apfelbaum [Trey Anastasio Band], Kai Eckhardt [Garaj Mahal], Jamie Janover, Matt Butler, Liza Oxnard, Leslie Helpert, and Aaron Holstein [Zilla].

Layton: Well, you guys have a show to do so I am going to end it here, but I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of you. I have been associated with your music for a short time in retrospect, and in that time the amount of positive energy I have experienced has been unparallel. Thank you for the music, the dancing, the laughter and most important, the friendship, you all deserve the best in this life and I have no doubt that you will achieve greatness sooner than you know.

Aside from a few scattered shows throughout December, ALO will be laying low preparing for what will be their biggest New Year's yet alongside Tea Leaf Green at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall. Tickets are on sale now and are $30.00 pre-sale. This event will sell out, so make sure to get your tickets soon, as you do not want to miss out on what just might be the most happening new year's show in San Francisco. For more information, log onto

Matt Layton
JamBase | San Francisco
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[Published on: 12/2/04]

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