Interview: Allusinlove at Rough Trade, Bristol – 10/02/2019

From left to right: Jemal Beau Malki (bass), Jason Moules (vocals), Connor Fisher-Atack (drums), Andrej ‘Drey’ Pavlovic (guitar)

Allusinlove is a band going somewhere. Their music grabs the raunch of ’70s classic rock, spins it through the darkness of ’90s grunge, and spits it out with a modern indie-pop twist. Formerly known as Allusondrugs, the boys from Leeds were halfway through their first tour under the new name when I got the chance to chat with them at Rough Trade, Bristol. Weary from the rigours of touring, all four were under the weather, quite literally passing lozenges and Lemsip sachets around the table, but were still very friendly and great fun to interview. Read on for what the band had to say about working with legends, the mental challenges of being a touring musician, and… Chuck Berry’s legs.

You’re about halfway through your UK tour now. How has it been for you?

Jason: Excellent. It’s been a long time coming as well. We haven’t toured for about a year and a half, so it’s been awesome. A lot of the places we’ve played this tour, we’ve been to quite a few times, and it’s great that people still want to see us play – if not more people than before.

Jemal: Some of the turnouts have been awesome. They’ve all been great, but at some places the amount of people coming to watch us has doubled or more. Before, we might have got, like, ten people turn up, and now it’s more like thirty to forty, coming early to watch all the bands and stick around.

Connor: People are showing a lot of love for the new music as well. We haven’t played for ages, so people obviously haven’t heard a lot from us for a while. Taking new stuff to audiences is quite nerve-wracking, so it’s great that they generally really love it. That makes it all worth everything.

Which of the dates you’ve played so far has been the best?

Drey: Last night, for me.

Jemal: What? Your day off was the best date of the tour so far?!

Drey: Sorry, haha. I mean the night before, in Birmingham. That was really good. We were the most ill we’ve ever been, but, for some reason, we made it through okay!

Jemal: That was it: there’s something about that risk of feeling like, ‘I’m seconds away from just dying’ and still managing to play through all of it.

Jason: We usually do a jam, improvising for the last ten minutes of the shows. In Birmingham, were ally took it somewhere special. The audience could tell as well, and I think they really liked that. They probably don’t get to see bands do that sort of thing very much. I love it. Well, I say I love it even though I don’t actually play anything… I just get to dance around!

Jemal: No wonder-he loves it, in fact. He doesn’t have to do anything!

Brilliant! So, would you say that your choice to rename the band as Allusinlove from your old name Allusondrugs is a sign that you guys are growing up as a band?

Jason: Totally.

Jemal: Absolutely!

Drey: It shows maturity now, definitely. I do like the old name, don’t get me wrong, but there comes a point where you have to think, ‘O.K.We can’t really do that anymore.’

Jason: We don’twant to alienate people. When I was growing up, it wasn’t with a lot of money, so some of the music I heard would be on a cassette, or on the radio. I just think that if some young kids were never going to hear our music because of theword ‘drugs’ in our name would be mad. To let something so detrimental stand in the way of getting our music out there… It is pretty stupid, to be quite honest. I don’t think it’s stupid on us – we don’t want it to be that way– but it’s the world we live in. You just have to play the game. It’s as simple as that. We want to travel the world, we want number one albums, we want to sell out arenas. Simple as that.

Jemal: If you believe in your music, and you’ve got a message or anything like that in it, then why wouldn’t you want it to be heard by the most people it could possibly be heard by. There’s no point in putting a barrier somewhere there doesn’t need to be one. It’s so superficial, ultimately. There comes a point where a name doesn’t matter anyway. Nobody will look at our name and think of that in itself – they’ll just see us.

Drey: The first half of it’s the same anyway haha!

Jemal: We were already sort of dropping hints about it way before anyway, so I think a lot of people had guessed it was going to be that before we actually changed our name.

How did it all start for you then? How did you get together as a band? Why did you choose to do it?

Drey: We’d been in bands for a long time before this. When we started this, it was my seventh band or something. Probably the same for Connor as well. Jemal’s been in a few bands, and Jason’s been in a lot. But yeah, to tell you the truth, I met Jason just through smoking weed… I liked smoking weed, he liked smoking weed. Somebody came to my house who also enjoyed smoking weed, bringing Jason along… All because of weed! But the minute Istarted chatting to him, we put that to one side, thinking: ‘Wow! We could hang out anyway!’ We ended up just hanging out a lot, writing music a lot, and then starting a new band. We properly wanted to have a good crack at it as well. We thought, ‘Right. Let’s do a band and let’s make it work and go further than we’ve gone.’ It kinda worked, I guess! We’ve got to this point anyway, so let’s see what happens.

Jamal: It took seven years to get to this point, though.

Drey: We got signed, basically. That was the goal, you know.

Would you say that getting signed and being with a record label has ben a wholly positive experience so far then?

Drey: Yeah, again. It’s been great.

Jason: I remember just tracking guitars, looking at the desk, and then turning around to see ourA&R – not even noticing he’d appeared – and he’s just rocking out to our stuff. You hear stories of A&Rs turning up and being like, ‘You’re gonna have to change this song. You’ll have to take it in adifferent direction…’, but ours would be like ‘Yeah it sounds f***ing awesome! I’m gonna have to go off for dinner anyway. See you in a bit!’ He was just so into it. The people we made our record with – the engineers and the producers – were all our A&R’s idea. He’d teamed us up with people who’d made our favourite records. Yeah. It’s been ace!

Jemal: One of our favourite things about him turning up was when we had a day when we were listening back to every track we’d recorded so far. We were in the studio and Colin (A&R) was there too. At one point we were listening to one of ourtracks, ‘Full Circle’, and it was apparent that he has such great knowledge about how stuff should sound. He was talking to Alan (Moulder) and was getting really detailed about the reverb onthe vocals. It was weird listening to two people just sort of work on a song that you’ve written, and got to a point with, and then take it to another level.

Jason: They’re absolute, f***ing LEGENDS. You know, Alan Moulder and Colin Barlow discussing your track…

Jemal: Yeah, saying, ‘Oh a little bit more of that wet reverb…’, and talking about space echo.

Would you say the whole experience has been quite surreal?

Jemal: Oh yeah!

Drey: It didn’t really sink in for a long time after.

Jemal: It still hasn’t really for me.

Drey: We just came out of the studio like, ‘Oh s***t! This is over…’.

Jemal: You listen back to the stuff that you’ve written after it’s been mixed and mastered, and it sounds SO different to how you remember it sounding. You mostly only remember how it was sounding when you were recording it, so you’ll get the rawest version of it in your memory. But it’s insane – some of the songs don’t even sound like I played them. I’ll think, ‘I can’t believe that’s US that did that.’ It’s annoying having it and not being able to show people it for,like, a year, though.

Another stock interview question now, but it’s got to be asked: who are your main influences?

Jemal: I’m going to go for some Larry Graham, Sly and the Family Stone’s bass player. He’s pretty good.

Drey: I realised the other day that my strumming style’s a lot like Johnny Ramone’s, where all he wants to do is f***ing downstroke the s**t out of things, just making sure it sounds aggressive. I do that a lot.

Jemal: You could be a Ramone – you’ve got the hair.

Drey: Frusciante’s good, very good. Hendrix is great. Jimmy Page is awesome. Prince is sick as well. There are so many that it’s difficult to pinpoint one. I like to pick out little bits from all of them. I can always take something good from something that might not be wholly my taste, but there’ll be bits in it that I like. There’s a theory that your ears like certain frequencies, and all these artists that I’ve mentioned have a bit of that. In terms of image, I’m not really influenced by anyone. Maybe I will be, eventually.

Haha, so noBowie-esque outfits will be hitting the stage anytime soon then?

Jemal: Maybe I will!

Drey: I’ll never have that ability to reinvent myself that often, ahaha.

Jemal: I could definitely wear his costumes, though. Maybe not get away with it, but I’d definitely do it.

Drey: We just want to be a good band, I guess.

Connor: I’d say for me, I’ve got loads, but the one that sticks out is Abe Cunningham from Deftones. I listen to those literally every day. For me, every time I hear one of their songs, it’s like that feeling when you hear a really good song for the first time. I love how his drums are so punchy and heavy, yet so groovy as well. You don’t get that with much metal. I’m not saying that metal doesn’t have groove, but not a lot can do it like he does in that almost hip-hop, groovy way. He also does some very obscure stuff that I think’s just unbelievable, so, out of them all, he’s like the top one for me.

Jason: Most recently, singers I’ve been listening to are stuff like Etta James, and Bjork. I like Anna Calvi as well – I like her voice. I really like old singers. I don’t know if it’s the words, or the phrasing they use, but it reminds me of my grandma, and the sort of things she listens to. I like all sorts, from Michael Jackson to Kurt Cobain.

Well you do look a lot like Kurt Cobain. I bet you get told that a lot, right?

Jason: Yeah, but I tend to smile a lot more than him, ahaha. I grew up listening to Nirvana from a young age, so it’s a weird thing that I turned out to end up looking like him, I guess!

What would you saythe biggest challenge you’ve faced, or are facing, as a band is right now?

Drey: Just keeping healthy.

Jemal: Yeah, and stopping touring. And that sort of goes part-in-part with it because, when you’re playing, when you’re constantly touring, you feel like you’re constantly progressing. The moment you stop, though, even though you have to do so in order to progress, and write anything, you have too much time on your hands. Then you feel like you’re not doing anything. Unless you use that time properly, it can be really mentally tough. I think that’s the hardest thing for me.

Jason: We’re a band that thrives on being busy. I think that the only reason we got here was we wanted, so badly, to play all the time. We’ve become so trained just to being what we want to be as musicians. F**k it. If you want to be rockstars, fair enough. But, before that, we want to be musicians. I tend to remember bad gigs much more than good ones. Not because I don’t enjoy them, but because I feel so much regret for something I could’ve done better. I think that’s the thing: being on tour eliminates that because there’s all that experience you’ve built up and, the minute you stop, it’s almost like you’re starting from scratch.

Jemal: Any time when you’re just waiting for something, if you don’t fill that time with something, it just KILLS you and your motivation. The problem is with so much stuff in this industry. You’ll be waiting for an answer from one person or another. There are always gaps.

Drey: That’s the worst part for me. In the last year, we essentially had a record deal dangled in front of us, but, about halfway through the process, the people supposedly singing us just decided to change their minds. We had to live with getting told that, and then being told, ‘Oh don’t worry. We’ll find something else.’, so there was a bit of a limbo period. Then a couple of weeks later, they found us someone else. In the end, we got a much better album deal, and better percentages. So that was good. ‘Hashtag BLESSED’ ahaha. No, I never say that!

Jemal: I think that’s the only challenging thing, really.

What advice would you give to newcomers?

Jemal: Play!

Jason: Just go at it full-on. Don’t tell people you’re in a band if you practise no more than once a week. You’re just trying to get laid… It’s just something to tell people. Nothing in life will be hard for you if you really want to do it – and do it well – a lot. It’s as simple as that. Don’t give up either because the minute you give up you’re not going to achieve what you want. Don’t let people tell you what you can’t do either because you can. You can. We’re a testament to that: we shouldn’t be doing what we’re doing from the amount of times people said we couldn’t do it. We made the opportunities for ourselves by wanting to do them, and that rubbed off on people who wanted to help us because we worked hard. We didn’t get signed because, say, my dad works at a label or anything. We just did it because we wanted to, and people saw our enthusiasm about what we do. If you want to do something, do it well. Have some pride in what you do and put some passion into it. Honestly, it truly won’t be hard, I don’t think. It might sound simple and a bit of a dreamer’s sort of thing to say, but it’s true.

What’s next for you guys? I’ve seen you just announced a European tour.

Jemal: I think that literally is the next thing, after this tour.

Drey: Yeah, there’ll be more touring, but we’re also going into the studio to record the next album halfway through this year. And then the first album will come out.

Jemal: We’ve got a release after this tour as well – a single coming out.

Drey: Yeah, we’ll release something, then we’ll go to Europe, and then something else will come out, and go on tour again. We might do a few festivals too, and then we’ll do the second album. So we’ll record album two, and then album one will come out soon after that. That’ll be a bit weird!

Jemal: Yeah I know! We’re gonna have music and think, ‘I can’t wait for people to hear this!’, before the other one’s even been released!

My last question is one I always like asking: what would each of your dream rigs be?

Jemal: Well, basically, I already have mine. I literally have my dream rig. I don’t think it can be improved. There is one pedal that could improve my rig, and that’s it. So, my dream rig is an Ampeg SVT-CL, which I do own now, with an Ampeg 8×10 cab. I guess my dream rig would be just two of those, but I already have one. Actually, yeah I could improve my bass. I play a Fender Jazz Bass from the Modern Player series. So, I guess a ‘70s Jazz Bass would be good.

But the ‘70s was such a hit-or-miss era for Fender!

Jemal: Yeah, it’s a bit of a toss-up, but I think if I found a good ‘70s US Standard, that would be good.

Drey: My dream rig would be a bit of an improvement on the amplifier I’ve got to an Orange amp. And then… A complete and utter replica clone of me playing all the shows for me while I just get stoned in the corner! If we’re talking about a DREAMrig, then that’d be it.

Jeson: My dream rig would be Jimi Hendrix’s hands, Bjork’s vocal chords, Jeff F***LEY’s face because he’s a whole lotta man. Who else…? I’d probably have Muddy Waters’s lungs, and Nina Simone’s feistiness. THAT would be my dream rig – built into me. I’d be some sort of hybrid of them all.

Connor: Yeah, and Chuck Berry’s legs…

Drey: Haha, that’d be pretty good.

That’s brilliant! *Much hysterical laughter*

Connor: I’m the same as Jemal – I’ve already got my dream rig. I mean my cymbals are cracked now because I’ve been beating the s**t out of them for the last two months, so I’d just get some more of those, and maybe a new stand for my drum machine, and a new carpet, actually…

Jemal: He could do with a new carpet. His carpet’s looking a bit ‘80s art deco…

Connor: My kit’s a DW Collector’s Series in a glittery gold sparkle. It used to belong to my dad, but I’ve been playing it for years now. I asked him, ‘Dad. Please let me buy this from you…’ and, after a bit of convincing, he finally caved in and said yes. So I’ve got my perfect kit set up now. Got everything I need.

Cool! So that wraps it all up then. Thank you for your time. I really appreciate it.

Allusinlove went on to play a polished set later that evening, which included an exciting improvised jam between guitar, bass, and drums. However, my plan to formally review the gig had to be scrapped as the sound mixing was quite poor and I wouldn’t be able to do the band justice. Do check out their music if you enjoyed this interview, though.

© Emily Engleheart

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