A few days before the release of their sophomore album, "It’s All Just Pretend," Where spoke with Tim Wilson, the lead singer of Ivan & Alyosha, about Seattle’s influence on creating music, his favorite spots to see live bands in the Emerald City, and what he looks forward to when returning home after a tour. Ivan & Alyosha kicked off their tour in May at Neumos.
Congratulations on your record release. When you’re writing, does Seattle and growing up in the area influence you?
There’s obviously a rich history musically in this area and most of us grew up being fans of that music, not necessarily inside it as far as an artist or anything. The bands that we grew up listening to, Nirvana, Mudhoney, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, stuff like that, was certainly a huge inspiration in viewing music and writing. In some sort of weird way, music that comes out of here is mostly just normal kids making music and then becoming some big famous band like all of the bands we had in the ’90s. In a weird way it felt like we could do this too because music comes from here. There’s that, and then obviously it’s a beautiful place to live as well, which is totally inspiring.
How is this new album different from the first, "All the Times We Had"?
Musically, I don’t think we set out to necessarily do anything specifically different. I think we just wanted to keep on pushing ourselves to do better, write better songs, record a better record, get better performances. In that way it’s a bit more of a mature rock record because I think we’ve just developed as a band together. There were three of us writing on this record, which made the mix really strong to me, in my opinion. We also have a full time drummer, which we’ve never had before. It’s always been great guys, but hired hands nonetheless. The guy in the studio isn’t necessarily the guy you’re going to see on the road. It changed the record, and is going to change the live experience, too.
You started your tour in Seattle. What’s it like to play for your hometown fans?
Playing at home, well to be quite honest, can be a little nerve wracking. I think in the past, just as a local band we kind of put all our eggs in the local show basket—and we’ve had some great shows. We’ve sold out some great rooms. I think we’re trying to take a little more of a relaxed approach this time. We love Neumos, we love the sound, we can do it all ages and its just kind of a smaller club feel which will hopefully make the band more comfortable. We usually, as well, have a bunch of friends come up. We’ve had strings and all these other things to kind of supplement what the band is doing, but this time its just going to be the five of us playing our set and then we’ll hang out with everybody. We’re just trying to be a five-piece rock bank.
What are your favorite spots in Seattle to see live music?
I love The Tractor, I love the Sunset, I love, even Conor Byrne, all those great places in Ballard. But then beyond that, honestly I love going to Benaroya and hearing the symphony or seeing something outside. Going to the Gorge, going to Marymoor or Concerts at the Mural or whatever. I like music outdoors, I think it sounds better—and in multimillion-dollar buildings, suited for orchestras.
What are some good spots to go for a drink after a show?
You could go next door at Neumos, which is probably where we usually go. I used to live in Greenwood, so there’s a great place in Greenwood called The Yard, which I love. I’m kind of a pub guy. I love Kells. I had my wedding reception at Kells a couple years back, at Pike Place Market. We usually go to like Dick’s Burgers after a show because you’re usually starving.
Do you have any favorite summer music festivals in the area?
We went to, as a family, went to Timber last year, it’s out in Carnation. The last two summers we went to Timber. We played one summer and then just were there hanging out this past summer.
When people think of the Seattle music scene, they either go immediately to grunge or to Macklemore, but it’s so much more diverse in terms of sound. Is there anything, to you, that is signature Seattle?
This might be an over-simplification, but to me it’s all the same. A lot of that stuff that has risen to the top of the pile; it’s just good. We’re fortunate that either there’s some great labels here, a lot of people watching Seattle to see what comes out of here. Listing to KEXP is huge, even just like national tastemaker for any music, but I think a lot of people are watching and I think for the most part there’s a lot of quality stuff coming out of Seattle and to me it’s all the same: Macklemore, Pickwick, The Head and the Heart, Brandi Carlile. It’s like music is music, whether its hip hop or death metal, I guess. I listen to a lot of different types of music. It’s hard to define genre, I guess. There’s so much blending of genres these days. To be honest, hip hop has is so influential just across the board. You hear it in the production now. In my mind you hear a lot of more modern production, beats-type production. Anyways, right now certainly the hip hop yeah, is probably the most influential thing for sure.
What do you look forward to doing and eating when you’re back home after touring?
It’s beautiful here, so when it’s like a sunny day, Green Lake. We live up in Edmonds, so go to the waterfront, get some ice cream, its pretty chill up here in Edmonds. I like being outside, you know. As far as food, we have great wine in Washington, great beer, great pizza. If I could eat junk food all day long I would. But you know. That’s kind of what I look forward to. My wife’s cooking.
Any favorite record stores?
Easy Street, that’s a great store. So I used to work at the Starbucks across the street from Sonic Boom, and I’d pretty much go into Sonic Boom on every lunch break and daydream about having a record on the shelves. Sonic Boom in Ballard is probably my haunt.
Any other Seattle bands people should check out?
Our friend’s in a band called The Weather. There are so many great Seattle bands right now. Brandi Carlile just put out an amazing record called The Firewatcher’s Daughter. There’s a great band called Pacific Gold, and Mikey and Matty, a great band.
"It’s All Just Pretend" is available on CD and vinyl and also on iTunes.