Alyeska’s Fuzz Pop Soars High on “Absaroka”
When Alaska Reid has a vision, there's nothing that will stop her from seeing it through until the end. The 20-year-old singer was pushed and pulled in so many directions by the music industry—bigwigs trying to prime her into the next pop star or suggesting she sound more like Sheryl Crow—that she decided to self-release her debut EP, Crush, with her band, Alyeska. The eight-song collection showcases Reid's penchant for experimenting in the genre of pop, which was fortified by producer John Agnello (Kurt Vile, Dinosaur JR and Phosphorescent) behind the soundboard.

The EP was one of the last albums recorded in the legendary Magic Shop studio, where Bowie laid down his final masterpiece, Blackstar, and Arcade Fire laid down The Suburbs. During the session, Reid held onto one track, "Absaroka," which she's releasing as a stand alone single.

Like its Wyoming mountain range namesake, the track climbs high through nearly three and half minutes of fuzzy guitar riffs and Reid's reverb-drenched vocals, reaching its peak near the two-minute-mark as a frenetic instrumental bridge explodes through the chorus.

"I wrote this song in the van when I was traveling back from playing some shows in the Pacific Northwest," Reid explains. "We were taking a highway off the Eastern side of the Sierra Nevadas. It was so stunning and strange, and it made me very thoughtful and lonely. We passed a Bunny Ranch, which blew my mind because I just had no clue what that was. We all started watching YouTube interviews with the Bunnies. Regardless, we stopped at this lake that had all these military explosives buried under the ground. It was a beautiful clear lake that had become untouchable. A place like that lake is so surreal that it drives me to think about how nothing ever seems to have a clear resolution. I ended up just wanting to go home to my own mountain range, so that's why I named the song 'Absaroka.'"

by Katrina Nattress

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Alyeska – “Tilt-A-Whirl”
There’s an innately youthful feeling on “Tilt-A-Whirl,” the lead single from LA-based band Alyeska’s debut EP Crush — a fresh, untouched quality, like that of newly fallen snow. That’s its only connection to winter, though, as the song is filled with summer imagery bound to cause pangs of nostalgia. A jumpy bassline leads vocalist and guitarist Alaska Reid into a sort of conversation with a boy, telling him to speak now or never if he’s really got a crush. Lightweight guitars and mentions of the county fair and summer sky set the stage for the starry-eyed chorus,”think about me while we’re young.” Reid shared some background on the track:

“Tilt-A-Whirl” is an ode to the small county fair in my town. My friends and I would look forward to going every year, we’d see boys we had crushes on, and scream about the creepy carnies or the way your feet turned black with dirt in your yellow flip flops. We would giggle uncomfortably at the porno posters the carnies hung in their booths and the rotting state of their teeth. And then there were the rides — The Zipper, The Hurricane and my favorite, the Tilt-A-Whirl. The dirt in the midway was pocked with pools of vomit and discarded glow sticks and the carnies would spray you with giant squirt guns, trying to lure you into playing their game.… It was sort of a running joke, that it was your “coming of age” if you got squirted in the chest by the carnies. I just wanted to convey the sparkle and the excitement of when I was young against the neon glow of the county fair as well as the grit and the darkness lurking around the edges. Listen to “Tilt-A-Whirl” below, and check out last year’s single “EverGlow” if you missed it.

Crush is out 3/3 and was produced by indie rock veteran John Agnello. According to Alyeska’s publicist, it was the last thing recorded at the Magic Shop, the NYC recording studio where David Bowie did Blackstar and Arcade Fire recorded The Suburbs.

by Kim Ilkowski

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L.A. Dream-Pop Outfit Alyeska Premiere Replacements-Inspired Track 'Motel State of Mind'
The LA dream pop trio Alyeska is readying its debut EP Crush, a heavenly cluster of songs produced by John Agnello at New York’s legendary Magic Shop studio. On this New Music Friday, we venture out of lower Manhattan into the memories of frontwoman Alaska Reid, to bring you the group's latest single.

"Motel State of Mind” is a swirling cyclone of drums and Reid’s feathery voice, jolted by an unexpected low-end of guitar fuzz. “My mom actually asked me if this song was about 'illicit behavio'” -- like ‘truckers, hookers and cooking meth,’” Reid tells Billboard. “I told her no -- I was just trying to rip off the Replacements.”

Alyeska’s latest was actually the final record recorded at the Magic Shop, capping off a lineage that recently included David Bowie’s Blackstar -- and, further back, LPs from the legendary NY likes of Lou Reed, Sonic Youth and Blondie -- before it was priced out of its SoHo home. Agnello, too, carries an impressive production résumé of indie rock heroes like Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr. and Kurt Vile. But instead of paying homage, the final Magic Shop release pays it forward, giving life to Alyeska’s brand new dreamworld.

2017 Pitchfork Festival Lineup Includes PJ Harvey, Dirty Projectors, Avalanches, Vince Staples & More Reid does allow: “Maybe a song about all those things [that my mom mentioned] would be more interesting than me incorporating the word ‘linoleum’ into the lyrics, and talking about someone who disappointed me.”

Give “Motel State of Mind” a spin below, and check out Alyeska’s previous offering, a childhood carnival reverie called “Tild-A-Whirl,” over at Stereogum.

by Chris Payne

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We’re sitting at a red vinyl booth in the back corner of The Prince, a dim and moody Koreatown bar. Alaska Reid and Ben Spear of hard-hitting dream-pop band Alyeska sit across from me, Reid in the Los Angeles uniform black leather jacket, and Spear wearing a flannel shirt and an earring in one ear. They surprise me, though: they aren’t your typical LA band. This clicks for me later when Spear gestures to Reid and says, “This girl eats raw elk in Montana,” and she holds up a large lump of white enamel, an elk tooth strung around her neck, then goes on to tell me about growing up in a town so small that when a classmate brought a cow and a rifle to show-and-tell, it was “no big thing.” Reid orders bitters and soda. Spear orders a whiskey ginger. He fishes a fly out of her drink and wipes it on the red tablecloth as we start talking about their new music. They’re getting ready to put out an EP, Crush, at the end of March, that they recorded about a year ago with John Agnello at The Magic Shop in New York. Yes, that’s the studio in which Bowie recorded Blackstar, and countless other greats including The Rolling Stones, Lou Reed, Suzanne Vega, and Sonic Youth made music history. Alyeska were the last to record there before the studio shut down, probably to be replaced by “a SoulCycle and a Bloomingdale’s,” Spear jokes, referring to Soho’s extreme gentrification since The Magic Shop’s more humble beginnings in the ‘80s. According to an article last year in The New York Times, individual parking spots across the street from The Magic Shop sell to condo residents for a sweet $1 million. So, the magic may have faded from Soho’s Crosby Street, but not before Alyeska recorded this heart-melting album, the sound of which pays tribute to many of the musical greats who shared those studio walls before them.

Both Reid and Spear’s favorite song on their forthcoming EP is “Motel State of Mind.” Reid writes the lyrics and shapes the skeleton of each song before filling it out with Spear on drums. They have yet to pin down a permanent bass player. Reid says that “Motel State of Mind” drew its breath from her love for an Alex Chilton cover of Loudon Wainwright’s “Motel Blues.” On Alyeska’s motel song, Reid’s vocals float in a wispy falsetto countered with the occasional biting Kathleen Hanna drawl. Spear’s drums follow Reid’s shifting tones with light ‘90s alt-rock percussion turning to quick, blasting beats through the chorus. Reid’s dirty electric guitar drags the genre away from pop and toward the rock and roll that she listened to growing up (and that her father still quizzes her on to make sure she can hold her own in a music conversation—and my God, she can.)

Their song “Coyote” is lined with subtly dark musings offset by the catchy, driving melody of a pop song. “Oh, coyote,” she sings, “you’re alone ‘til you succeed.” I ask her what’s behind it, and she explains, “I’ve been doing this for so long that I feel like I’ve sacrificed a lot of things. I’ve never been to a high school party. I’ve only ever been doing music since I was fourteen. And it is kind of a lonely thing in many ways…it is really fucking lonely.” She isn’t one to wallow, though. She laughs at herself as she admits “I spend a lot of time alone, just practicing guitar in my pajamas…trying not to be crazy and meditating.”

Spear echoes her sentiment and adds, referring to her use of “crazy,” “I think sometimes that word is used for someone who’s a little bit more in touch than they should be—more than their own good. A little bit too aware.”

At first, I can’t decide if Reid is too young to have become cynical yet or if she’s just existing in a space beyond cynicism. She’s talking about her experiences as a woman in the music industry, from sound guys assuming she doesn’t know anything about gear to downright predatory encounters, but her affect isn’t sad; it’s forceful, strong, not wholly optimistic, but aware of the problems that exist and not giving them the time of day. Her biggest fear is her work not being taken seriously: “I really want to try to hone my skills to be the best musician that I can be, because people say, ‘Oh, you’re a great guitar player,’ like ‘for a girl’ is implied. I never want to get congratulated for being good ‘for my gender.’”

Spear adds, “What I’ve noticed is a lot of times people think you don’t know what you’re doing with equipment and guitars, and it’s very bizarre. It happens all the time. I’ve walked into guitar stores with her, and people just start talking to me, and I’m like, ‘Fuck you, dude. I don’t play guitar. Talk to her.’” We order more drinks. Our conversation lightens. It follows this amusing cycle of me asking a question, then Reid and Spear beginning to answer it before they quickly fall into a laughing back-and-forth banter, recalling old stories like inside jokes between very old friends. At one point, seemingly out of nowhere, Reid begins singing a song, trying to remember the lyrics, and Spear chimes in, filling in the words he remembers. “Grits ain’t groceries,” they sing together, then “Mona Lisa was a man,” and then it devolves into something mumbled and hidden under the loud techno music coming from The Prince’s speakers. The bar’s shitty dance music doesn’t fit the ambiance—the place is mostly empty. It’s oddly charming. Every ten minutes or so, Reid will stop, hit the table, and say, “That’s off the record!” That’s oddly charming, too. When we’re talking about their musical influences, Spear lets slip that he used to listen to ska as a kid. Clearly embarrassed by his confession, Reid shouts, “No! Off the record!” They’re a loopy and endlessly amusing pair, and I’d dare anyone to try not to have a good time around them. Their chemistry bleeds through to their music, and I’d argue that that’s why their music is just so goddamn good.

Story / Monica Wolfe Photos / Kristy Benjamin

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