While SXSW steals the majority of the music world's attention for five days, the rest of the country reaps the benefits in terms of the tour aftermath that follows the conclusion of the festival. Even though San Francisco is at the end of the earth, we stand to gain some great shows after the fest. This week's boon comes from Seattle-based Ivan & Alyosha. You may know them from their very popular 2009 single, "Easy To Love," which the guys performed at one of Bob Boilen's Tiny Desk Concerts on NPR Music.
Ivan & Alyosha have been branded as folk-pop and compared to a combination of Fleet Foxes and Mumford & Sons. I can vaguely hear the similarities in the building group vocals and melodic hooks, but I also hear the rich and raw talent found in bands such as Middle Brother, and Delta Spirit, grounded in the The Kinks. Ivan & Alyosha is the answer to indie pop. They have the songwriting capabilities to blow every Top 40 song out of the water, and the emotional pull to stay for good.
After wrapping up their time at SXSW they headed west to play a few shows before arriving in San Francisco. I spoke with lead singer and one of the core members of the band, Tim Wilson, somewhere between Texas and Flagstaff, "somewhere mountainous" to be specific. Their first full-length album, All the Times We Had came out just a few weeks ago on Dualtone Records and was featured on NPR's First Listen.
Ivan & Alyosha didn't take the traditional track when it came to releasing an album on a record label. It took them nearly four years to release an LP after their first single. 2009's EP, The Verse, the Chorus yielded them a fair amount of attention. 2011's, Fathers Be Kind kept them out on the road. Their sound changed into something more appropriately energetic and clean. Wilson mused, "We're older and maybe a little wiser. We didn't mean to make everyone wait so long, it just sort of happened that way as we honed our sound out on the road."
All the Times We Had is an album about love, joy, happiness, and believing in the value of struggle. While these are familiar themes in folk-Americana, they feel a little more earnest with Ivan & Alyosha's lyrics. Wilson seems to know this too, "There's a certain kind of spiritual element that keeps us grounded, focused, and happy. Good, bad, ugly, it could be worse, we are very blessed certainly." Happy Seattle music? I'll take it.
The single on the album, "Running for Cover," encompasses the seriousness of their sound, while simultaneously delivering the swells of energetic emotion that get the blood pumping. Wilson particularly likes how the recording turned out for "Don't Wanna Die Anymore" and he wasn't the only one. That song caught the attention of Dualtone Records, the band's current label. It's the most alt-country sounding song on the album wielding ardent lyrics and a more stripped-down version of the band.
"Who Are You" was, according to Wilson, "a last minute addition and a little more difficult to interpret in the studio than playing it live." It's one I feel is an important addition nonetheless, and is getting more and more attention as the guys' tour. Wilson is still convinced it sounds better live than on the record, I guess we'll just have to make our way down to Brick and Mortar on Wednesday to find out for ourselves.