ALO on Preparing for Another Jam Cruise and the Evolution of the Jam Band

ALO on Preparing for Another Jam Cruise and the Evolution of the Jam Band

Spoken from firsthand knowledge, Jam Cruise is insane.

These people come from all over the country to, once a year, get together, leave all fucks ashore, and have a blast. In a year full of more music cruises than fish in the sea, this one stands out as one of the more impressive and well-run floating festivals. Jam Cruise is complete with a full-sized concert stage on the pool deck, armed with a badass light show and four more stages set up throughout the ship.

One unique feature of Jam Cruise is the “Masters Camp at Sea,” a program that allows attendees to take a music class from some of their favorite artists.

Unlike other music cruises, there really isn't much of a backstage area on Jam Cruise. You can be in line for pizza at 3 a.m. and your favorite performer might be waiting behind you, shit-faced and starving. 

ALO (Animal Liberation Orchestra) is one of the headliners on Jam Cruise this year. But you don't even have to leave dry land to see this band. The Californians signed to Jack Johnson's record label will play their first Miami show at Wynwood Yard for the cruise's official preparty on January 5.

But before that, we got to ask ALO's Zach Gill (keys/vocals) and Dave Brogan (drums/vocals) about coming to Miami for the first time and the release of the band's newest album, Tangle of Time.

New Times: There aren't too many bands that consist of lifelong friends. Has it always been organic? Or have there been a few crossroads that you had to negotiate together?
Zach Gill: It's been an organic process, but there have been lots of times where it seemed like, OK, that's it — the band is over. But somehow the band continues on. And now, after so many years, we've worked through a lot of the common issues that bring bands down: school, girlfriends, family, money, etc. And the good news is the band is just getting better and better. The years have seasoned the musicians and the music. I'm excited to see what happens next.

The "jam band" scene has certainly gone through a lot of changes. What are your thoughts on what people consider the jam-band scene, and where do you think it's heading?
Gill: I think the term "jam band," like lots of music-genre terms, seems to change as time goes on. I remember first hearing the term in the '90s, when I was in college. For me, it had positive connotations. It meant that the band was musically driven rather than commercially driven, and it meant that the audience had an earthy, open-minded, grass-roots following built upon touring live rather than music videos and big-label money. A lot of my favorite bands at the time resided in that category. In the early 2000s, I started seeing the term used in reviews, primarily as a derogatory term, like, "another jam band, with endless noodling." Then as the festival scene took off in America in the early 2000s, a lot of '90s jam bands became festival bands. I think festival culture has built upon the roots of jam-band culture and absorbed it more or less. It's common to go to a modern music festival and see a lot of different genres of music. The fact that they can all exist together at a festival is really the only common thread. People rally around a festival in the same way that they might have once rallied around a band.

If I'm correct, this will be your first Miami performance. Why is it that it's taken so long for you guys to get down here?
Gill: This will be our first Miami performance as ALO. ALO is sort of a rare bird on the touring circuit. Most of us all have families and side project bands, so we aren't on the road full time with ALO. For an ALO show to end up in your city or town, the timing has got to be perfect. Or at least a lot of things have to line up correctly. It's very exciting to be coming to Florida twice this year. After Miami, we will be at Aura Music Festival in March.

You have played a few Jam Cruises in the past. What are your feelings about Jam Cruise, how it's run, and what it's doing for the scene?
Dave Brogan: My nickname for Jam Cruise is "The National Convention of Professional Partiers of America." The people who come on Jam Cruise are pros all the way. I always have a great time. As for the people who run it? It's a music festival on a cruise ship. All you have to do is not mess it up. And they never do.

Tell us about the general theme and intent of your new album, Tangle of Time.
Gill: It was a pretty straightforward process. We showed each other songs, learned them, and then recorded them. Not too much discussion or deconstruction. Our last album, Sounds Like This, was built around jams, which is a fun process but very time-consuming. For Tangle of Time, we simplified the recording process — simple songs recorded in one or two takes. Once we had recorded most of the songs, we realized that a lot of them dealt with the theme of time in various ways, so we decided to run with it.

If you guys were in a plane that was going down and one of you had to jump out to save the others, which one of you would jump (or be thrown), and why?
Interesting question. No one would be thrown, and each guy would volunteer to jump but in a sort of indirect way. Then we would talk about it for while, each weighing the pros and cons, eventually getting distracted until someone — probably our managers Jenna and Josh — find the parachutes located in the back of the plane and we all jump together, just in the nick of time.

Jam Cruise Pre-Party with ALO and the Roosevelt Collier Trio. 7 p.m. Tuesday, January 5, at the Wynwood Yard, 56 NW 29th St., Miami; thewynwoodyard.com. Tickets cost $20 via brownpapertickets.com.

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