Animal Liberation Orchestra bassist, Steve Adams, is a busy man. After rescheduling our phone interview three times (once was my fault), Synthesis finally caught up with Adams in San Diego where his other band, Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers, had just arrived on tour. The group was in the process of touring back from the East Coast where they had just docked after a week of performances at sea (along with ALO) on the 11th annual Jam Cruise – a week long music festival on a boat with acts such as Galactic, Moe – Oh! and a third act Adams performs with called Brokedown in Bakersfield. A busy man, indeed.
The rest of ALO flew back to the West Coast after the cruise, but Nicki Bluhm’s management had arranged for a van to be waiting in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida with all their band equipment. Along with the rest of the Gramblers, Adams hopped in the van for a few more weeks of touring across the nation before returning home. So how does Adams make it work with so many bands all at once?
“Those bands are getting more and more organized in terms of management, booking, scheduling, figuring out better ways to do things, and who does things well,” said Adams.
“Everyone’s got their jobs they do best and you put it all together to get a bigger goal accomplished. Even as far as like, ‘Who is the best driver? Who is the best guy to organize and pack the trailer? Who’s the best at writing the set list? Who’s the best at keeping track of the gas money?’ It’s all just total teamwork.”
Of all his projects, Adams has played with ALO the longest and considers them to be his main band. The rest of ALO features Zach Gill on keys, Dan Lebowitz on guitar, and David Brogan on drums, with all the musicians contributing vocal talents. The group cites their official inception in 1998 at the end of their college careers at UC Santa Barbara, although Adams has been conspiring musically with Gill and Lebowitz since junior high.
While living in the dorms, the band members befriended now-famous folk singer/songwriter/surfer, Jack Johnson. The band is currently signed to Johnson’s label and has enjoyed sharing the stage with him across the world. At some point along the road, Gill was offered the opportunity to join Jack Johnson’s band, which meant a temporary hiatus for ALO.
Adams calmly explained, “I don’t blame Zach for taking the gig. I would probably do the same thing. It made the situation with the rest of us in the band being like, ‘Ok well I guess since ALO’s on break, we gotta figure out what to do.’ So it lead all three of us into the direction of having to look for other gigs and fill out our time.”
Adams’s patience paid off. Instead of dwelling on ALO’s inactivity, he took the creative high road in search of other gigs. Between Nicki Bluhm, Brokedown in Bakersfield, and ALO, Adams presently manages to keep himself busy just about all year round. I asked Adams how juggling three different projects affects him.
“It’s inspiring. It’s tiring. It’s a lot to sort of work out and most people who are in a band that’s got some momentum and some growth to it – that’s usually the only band they play in so they can be available and dedicated to that one project. It makes it kind of easy on management and booking because they know you’re just going to be available if something cool comes up whereas for me I’m constantly, like every other day, looking at my calendar and making sure I haven’t double booked myself.”
Adams continued, “It’s a lot of work, but the upside is that it’s super inspiring. You get to play with all sorts of musicians and you’re sort of busy every night and just being that way makes you a better musician. It makes you excited about music.”
For the last seven years, ALO has embarked upon a tour across California known as the Tour D’Amour. The annual excursion has a few traditions that have remained consistent over the years. It’s always in February, the theme is always related to love, and it’s always a benefit for an organization having something to do with music education. ALO finds new ways each year to get their fans involved in the love theme.
“We’ll do fan contests sometimes where people pull for the best love theme covers and then we’ll play that cover at a show. We’ll do a Barry White song, we do Al Green…just sort of like love-themed stuff,” said Adams.
This year’s proceeds will go toward a music program out of Santa Barbara called Girls Rock SB! For more information on that, check out their website
www.girlsrocksb.org. Taking profits from their live performance and giving back to music programs is something the whole band feels passionate about.
“We just realized how important it is to have these programs,” said Adams. “If it wasn’t for these programs, who knows if we’d even be doing what we’re doing.”
Animal Liberation Orchestra will perform this Saturday, February 9th at the Chico Women’s Club along with support act, The California Honeydrops. This all-ages event begins at 8PM and costs $22.