Zach Gill of ALO on Debuting New Material at Fingerprints and Working with Jack Johnson

​San Francisco-based ALO (Animal Liberation Orchestra) released their third full-length, Man of the World, on buddy Jack Johnson's Brushfire Records Tuesday. The disc, which we reviewed here, features laid-back washes, hook-laden rockers and plenty of sunshine. Leading the way the way to this blissed-out vacation spot are the soothing piano playing and summery vocals of Zach Gill.

ALO will perform material from the album Wednesday at Fingerprints record store in Long Beach. It's the first show of a national tour with ample Southern California dates. OCW spoke to Gill by phone recently about the new album, soaking up sweet vibes in Hawaii, his buddy Johnson and pre-tour anxiety.

OC Weekly (Wade Tatangelo): Where you at today?

Zach Gill: I'm in Hawaii working with Jack Johnson on his new record.

Nice. Speaking of new records, let's talk about ALO's Man of the World. From the super mellow opener “Suspended” to rambunctious track 10 “The Champ,” the album covers a lot of ground.

The songs are more of a reaction to each other. We recorded that first mellow one after a bunch of intense things.

How did you approach this record differently than past projects?

There was a certain looseness. Most of it was just recorded with everyone in the room, so it was not even possible to overdub everyone's parts. In the past, we had a tendency to go over every part with a microscope.

How did recording at Jack Johnson's Mango Tree studio on the North Shore of Oahu influence the music?

It's tucked away and certainly an idyllic place to record an album. It's a great vibe and you can't help but fall into that vibe.

Man of the World, like your past records, doesn't sound like anything I would call jam band. But ALO consistently gets lumped into that category. Are you comfortable with the term?

It depends if you like jam bands or not [laughs]. The jam band scene–look at Bonnaroo–you can find anything from ALO to Metallica. I think maybe it's an outdated term that maybe refers to the fans as much to the music. I don't really mind. I'm actually working on musical about it.

Yeah. “Jam Band The Musical.” I've only written a few little pieces. Our band kidna grew up in a period when we saw jam bands like Phish blow up. We had this idea of getting in a van and playing for people and bypassing record labels. In the '90s, there started to be this concept of building and cultivating fans in this grassroots way and it was a big influence on us at first. This idea of getting in a van and playing shows. “If you build it they will come,” y'know? Maybe that's the roots of people putting us the in jam band category.

Jack Johnson is one of those hugely popular artists who people seem to either love or hate. What do you say to the haters?

I say you don't know Jack [laughs]. I remember in high school when a band got too popular, people didn't care for them anymore. I think it's the same thing with him. Now I'm deeply involved in Jack's music–and he is in ours–and it always amazes me what I read. People hear one song and think it's this, or that, when there's so much more to his music.

How would you describe Johnson? Is he the happy-go-lucky surfer dude many imagine or a workaholic who rarely just chills?

He's a good friend of mine and he's got all those things going on. He works hard when he wants to work hard and then relaxes. I don't totally know what people's perceptions are about him–but they're probably wrong.

This interview is to advance ALO's performance at Fingerprints in Long Beach. I understand you're familiar with the place.

Fingerprints is one of the last of great record stores. For us, Fingerprints is like a tradition. We played it the last time around on the release of both of our previous albums. The Fingerprints show will be the first time we played [the songs from Man of the World] in public.

You've been successfully making music for years now. Do you still get nervous about debuting new material?

Of course. But what's fun is overcoming the nervousness.
ALO performs at Fingerprints, Long Beach, Wed., 7 p.m. Free. All ages.

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