Let's Drive to Alaska compose the type of music you might hear soundtracking an indie documentary. It's well-suited to stimulate the right brain into creative mode, and about as post-rock as it comes. In their most frenetic moments–on songs such as "Past Lives" and "Setjaski," for instance–Alaska share space with the Benevento-Russo Duo. Mellower moments find them on Notwist's turf, with arpeggiated analog synth fluttering against syncopated snare rudiments, as heard on "Lower Moon."
The man behind these sounds is Chris Garcia, a 26-year-old, Whittier-bred artist who composes and records the tunes mostly by himself, save the drumming, which is provided by Fullerton's Patrick Haag (also of Mississippi Man), with whom Garcia has worked for about five years. The band have taken on several manifestations; up until the earlier part of this year, they were a quartet, with Chris Holguin of Mount Messiah playing gadget table and Marisa Kirtland adding violin and cello.
As a duo, Garcia plays a combination of keys, effects and loops, while Haag is on live drums, percussion and digital noise. Both are adept on multiple instruments, a quality that dates back to Garcia's earliest days of musicianship, when he played woodwinds, piano and percussion in jazz band at La Serna High School. And that's really where Alaska started, around 2005, during Garcia's sophomore year, on his laptop.
"It was cool because arts and music were prized and supported, and it was cool to be in a band," Garcia recalls. "We have a great scene [that grew out of Whittier], with bands such as Plague Vendor, Gloom Folks, Nineteen Eighty Four and the Littlest Viking. It's like a family."
Garcia's other post is in the OC beat scene as a member of the Grn+Gold Collective, which came together during his Commonwealth Lounge residency. "I remember when G-Wrecks and I were talking about throwing a show, and he was telling me about the Wizards Den," Garcia says. "I knew Keith [Alvarez, a.k.a. Kalva Won] through his prior project called Small Village; I introduced him to G-Wrecks, and I guess the rest is history."
As far as his own influences, Garcia came to this sound by way of Midwest indie-pop groups on the Jade Tree record label. "They had a lot of my favorite bands including Jets to Brazil, Joan of Arc and Cap'N Jazz," Garcia says. "I still am a huge Joan of Arc fan."
Garcia's earliest compositions were electro tunes akin to Postal Service and Lali Puna, but shortly after high school, the post-rock bug bit hard. "I remember this one Christmas, my friend Ruben [Cortez of the Littlest Viking] gave me a combo recommendation of the Album Leaf's In a Safe Place and Tristeza's Spine and Sensory, and that was definitely a game changer for me," he says. "I started writing music without lyrics and focusing on compositions and emotion through melody and textures."
Stylistically, it's coming full circle for Alaska–no surprise given the fluid evolution of the band's lineup and openness to collaborations and remixes. "We are starting to venture more into the concept of lyrics and vocal harmonies," Garcia says. "It's been a gradual thing, but I think we are ready to see where it goes."
Let's Drive to Alaska perform at the Continental Room, 115 W. Santa Fe Ave., Fullerton, (714) 526-4529; www.continentalroomoc.com. Every Mon., 8 p.m. Through Sept. 26. Free. 21+