LoaTree & ALO Present: Le Cirque du Libération! Come one, come all to an unforgettable New Year’s Eve celebration in Santa Barbara, Ca! Expect dazzling lights, unforgettable spectacles and epic musical feats. You are the circus so dress accordingly, whether you are a circus performer, merrymaker, jolly clown, sparkly ringmaster or a beast in need of liberation.
An incredible night of music awaits featuring support act Huckle. Huckle, singer-songwriter-guitarist, is always ready to dig his toes and guitar licks into the friendly confines at SOhO.
Ending the evening and blowing open the doors to 2013 will be two full sets by ALO. This show continues a national tour in support of their critically acclaimed album, Sounds Like This. Joining ALO on stage, and holding down the low end will be special guest and good friend Ron Johnson, bass player extraordinaire (Warren Haynes Band, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe).
As with all ALO shows, surprises will abound and the crowd will pulse as 2012 comes to a close! Join us, Monday, December 31st at SOhO Restaurant and Music Club. Doors open at 7pm, show starts at 9pm. Cost $45-100. *NOTE: $100 tickets get you a three course meal (includes tax and tip) and the show! For more information or to purchase tickets, please go to: http://www.sohosb.com/event/182451/ or call 805-962-7776.
In anticipation of this year ending event, we offer you the following feature story on ALO’s Zach Gill as it appeared in the 1st edition of LoaLiving Magazine.
Zach Gill: Sing Like Nobody’s Listening
Zach Gill emerged in the mid 1990’s in Isla Vista, Ca., a college town full of more than just booze, bikes and beaches. These were the days when a group of uber-talented musicians were taking the local scene by storm. Along with Jack Johnson and a handful of others, Zach and friends lived and breathed rock and roll, enjoying the sun, beers in their bellies and the freedom of their youth.
It was during those carefree days at UC Santa Barbara that Zach’s band, Animal Liberation Orchestra (ALO), was born. A jam-based quartet, ALO performed in parks, on-campus, and at countless house parties on the infamous Del Playa Dr. ALO now boasts seven studio albums and a legion of committed fans around the world.
Today Zach Gill is turning 40. He’s raising a family and still making music after years of traveling the globe and handling many of life’s wild rides. He’s a rare combination of charismatic performer and avant-garde artist, dedicated to playing music for the masses and creating a better world.
While his daughter Ellie slept in the back seat, I took a ride around Santa Barbara with Zach and talked about music, gardening, and how to live a good life.
LoaLiving: You’ve been playing music since elementary school– how many different bands have there been?
Zach Gill: “Well, our first band in 7th grade didn’t have a name – we just went out there and played. Then I started playing with Dan Lebowitz and Steve Adams, and we formed a band called One Percent Away. Then we created Django – with a silent `D.’ Django was named after a famous guitar player named Django Reinhart. We saw his name in a music book. It sounded snappy and cool – and it was only later we found out he was pretty famous. We made a couple of demos under that name and kept the name until college. Then Dave Brogan joined the band and we moved to Augusta, Georgia where we met James Brown. We came back and realized it was time to start fresh. Then we became the I.V. Dogs, Magnum Family, Pig Farm, Sueno Research Institute (SRI), and finally settled on Animal Liberation Orchestra and the Free Range Horns.”
LoaLiving: What inspired the name Animal Liberation Orchestra?
Zach Gill: “We really liked the concept of ‘liberating your inner animal’ on the dance floor. We later learned that the concept of ‘animal liberation’ carried a much deeper significance. We also liked the ‘orchestral’ feel of the band. We had nine members, five of which were horns. Plus ‘orchestra’ felt intelligent and collegiate. The whole thing felt like an adventure – felt like a superhero thing. No one thought the name would stick. Living in Isla Vista, nothing felt like it mattered at all. You felt like you could do whatever you wanted in life. We weren’t thinking about branding or competition. But, once we started touring, we could see the problems. People called us Animal Liberation Army, Animal Liberation Front’ – all sorts of things. At one point, we had a big discussion about simply calling ourselves ALO – we were all tired of the baggage and confusion. Do we add an ‘E’ and grow it to ALOE? Finally our manager said ‘no,’ and ALO stuck.”
LoaLiving: Back in the days of Isla Vista, SOIL (Jack Johnson’s band in college), Django, Mother Hips and the Fuzz were all out there. Was there competition?
Zach Gill: “Yes – maybe just for a second. We (Django) moved to Santa Barbara to take it as far as we could. But, we quickly realized there were no clubs – we just set up in the yards and on the streets of Isla Vista. Playing at the right house and with the right access to plenty of beer was always a good formula. We’d go up to a house and go ‘hey, do you need a band?’ Jack’s band SOIL formed during that same period and became pretty popular. They were originally based out of the Anacapa dorms. Our crew was out of the San Miguel/San Nicolas dorms. Sophomore year, SOIL came on pretty strong, opening up for Sublime and Dave Matthews Band, but ended up petering out.
That’s when Jack and I became friends, we both liked to write songs and share them with each other. He showed me a lot of the songs that ended up on his first album (Brushfire Fairytales). If we (Magnum Family) would have stuck around town, we would likely have been his backing band. Jack then took off to Europe and we kept on with Magnum Family.”
LoaLiving: Back when you were hustling, money got tight. What kind of gigs would you take?
Zach Gill: “Every kind of gig I could – modern dance classes at UCSB, accompanying children’s musicals, adult musicals, substitute teaching, gigs at restaurants. I even borrowed money from my Dad. ‘Just give it a couple of years,’ we kept saying. In 2002, the band had been going for a while, and Jessica (my wife) and I decided to get a van and move out of the house. We hit the road to play music. That only lasted six weeks. Those were the hard times. I asked myself, ‘Why am I putting everyone through this?’ Then I got lucky.”
LoaLiving: What are all the different instruments that you play?
Zach Gill: “Piano, guitar, ukelele, accordion, percussion, marimbas, vibraphone, hand drums, penny whistles, and anything with a piano keyboard structure. I’ve learned to apply rhythm to almost any instrument.”
LoaLiving: How does ALO help make a better world?
Zach Gill: “We’ve been playing benefits for eco-causes for years. We started with Rainforest Thursdays in college, then Rock the Earth benefits, Kokua Festivals, and Earth Days all around the country. The last four years touring with Jack Johnson’s band have essentially been eco benefits, with 100 percent of the profits going to various nonprofits around the world. We’ll be playing Farm Aid this year as well.”
LoaLiving: What does your musical message bring to your fans?
Zach Gill: “To enjoy life – to be balanced. If I share my stories with people and they connect with it – and grow from it…and they realize someone else is going through the same things, that’s when the music has found its purpose. Many people have written us letters about obscure songs and lyrics that they have connected with.”
LoaLiving: Traveling the world with eco- rockstar Jack Johnson and the band, how does sustainability fit into the equation?
Zach Gill: “The whole Jack Johnson team is dedicated to sustainability wherever possible. For example, we decided we didn’t want plastic water bottles on tour. We replaced them with corn-based bottles, but they disintegrated part-way through the tour. Then we switched to reusable bottles, but they had BPA (a toxic chemical). We are constantly trying to do the right thing even though it isn’t always easy. Everyone has to be flexible.”
LoaLiving: Now that you are playing in Jack Johnson’s band (in addition to ALO), Do you and Jack collaborate a lot?
Zach Gill: “Jack writes a lot on his own, then comes to full band with finished songs. Sometimes Jack bounces lyrics off me. I can help push things through and help finish them up. Lyrics are funny – they are so based on an experience or character. I think I understand Jack pretty well. That vulnerable creative spot for music making is a pretty comfortable spot for both us together.”
LoaLiving: How do the big crowds around the world react to the music?
Zach Gill: “They are pretty loose and seem to have a good time. People seem to like when I stand up at the piano. Jack is more inward and very captivating and people respond to that. Others dance and get pumped up – I’m more of this type of outward person. I’m a performer. I tend to have more fun playing to the crowd and getting them in the game.
Jack always eggs me on to do the extra accordion solo or stage dive [laughter]. Most of the time I go for it, and sometimes I think he wants to as well.”
Zach Gill: “When we first signed with Brushfire Records, the music industry was tanking and records weren’t selling like they used to. This scared us a bit. We definitely played it more conservatively with our first album. With Sounds Like This, we wanted to make something that was as true to who we are and not worry as much about what was commercially viable. We went back to the Time Expander era – more upbeat and danceable.”
LoaLiving: What was the process like, recording Sounds Like This?
Zach Gill: “It was done in San Francisco, so I had to let go a bit this time around, as the rest of the band is based there and I’m in Santa Barbara. I needed to be home more with my family. This proved to be fine. We’d go up to the studio and start jamming – just generating cool grooves and sounds like a collective brainstorm. This generated hours of music. Some songs were pretty well done, like ‘Storms and Hurricanes’. With ‘Room for Bloomin’, we only had the groove and a couple parts and had to backfill the lyrics. The ‘Blew Out the Walls’ demo was very different in the demo, more melancholy. We got in the studio and the band recreated it. All in all, it was a great, pretty natural process.”
LoaLiving: What’s on the horizon for Zach Gill the musician?
Zach Gill: “I’m getting the bug to record again. Maybe some solo stuff and more ALO stuff. I have lots of unfinished songs and need to see which would be good for ALO and which for solo. I really enjoy more family-oriented storytelling type solo shows. ALO is more of a dance party. I like the separation. I could see doing another ALO album that keeps on the dance party tip. Also, I’ve been thinking about writing a story and turning it into an opera or a digital story with music and animation.”
LoaLiving: What’s growing in your garden?
Zach Gill: “In my literal garden we are growing spinach, strawberries, blueberries, artichokes, heirloom tomatoes, snap peas and a whole lot of chard. In my metaphorical garden, I’m growing children, music, and new perspectives.”
To find out more about Zach Gill and ALO visit their website at ww.alomusic.com
**Did you make it this far?? In 50 words or less, post a comment to this page letting us know how ALO helps you liberate your inner animal. A pair of tickets will be given away and held at will-call on Dec. 31st. Winners will be notified by email after Christmas Day.