By Andi Berlin
photo courtesy of Girlie Action
"Alaska!" - Former members of Sebadoh, Folk Implosion and the Red Aunts comprise the somewhat surly, though ultimately loveable Alaska! These California-based rockers will bring their drone-inflected indie rock to Club Congress on Tuesday. Just don't ask them to sign anything.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, April 21, 2005
Guitarist and vocalist Imaad Wasif considers his band's music to be so personal that he doesn't want to share it with anybody else. While this attribute may be considered a virtue in indie rock circles, it sure doesn't help to make friends on the outside.
A primary member of the ironically named, California-based Alaska!, Wasif seemed to be an important person to talk to in order to find out a little more about the band. After calling me back about 45 minutes late and then requesting I find a private room so nobody else could hear, I started getting scared.
Wasif, like the other two members of the band Lesley Ishino and Russ Pollard, cares a great deal about the music. But when it comes to relating that passion to another person, Wasif was generally vague and, at times, downright disinterested.
Most questions were met with a single sentence answers, one word or an extremely awkward minute of complete silence.
What makes Alaska! unique is that all three of its members have taken part in other prominent bands throughout their careers. Their lineup includes members of briefly successful Folk Implosion, the lo-fi kings Sebadoh, and female '90s punk rockers The Red Aunts. At one time during his career, Wasif even toured with both Folk Implosion and Alaska! at the same time, taking 10-minute naps between sets to clear his frame of mind before he went on again.
But when I asked him about it, Wasif is quick to skirt this important historical period in his music.
"That's actually, I mean that's kind of not what's going on now. It's a thing of the past," he said. Next question.
When I tried to talk about his current musical trends, he also avoided any potential of meaningful dialogue by passing the question off as not worth his time.
"(Playing) is just what I do. I don't think of it in terms of how it measures up or how it fits in terms of the larger equation of music." Next question.
For a musical visionary or at least someone with a distinct sound that speaks for itself, this might be an adequate answer, but Imaad Wasif from Palm Desert, Calif., is no David Bowie.
As time wore on, the "indie rock star" became even more obtuse. The sentence-long answers started turning into single words and then nothing at all.
When asked about his influences, Wasif chose to sit in silence for about a minute, and then finally sputtered out, "Indian classical music."
Prodding for more information, I tried to ask him what he took from that style that influences Alaska!'s sound today.
He replied with the apparently obvious answer: "Drones."
Wasif also had little or nothing to say about a range of seemingly interesting experiences any musician or person in a band would normally cherish: the formation of his all-star band with other famous musicians, performing shows with the late icon Elliot Smith and his current tour (which included a car crash). All were met with an annoyance and almost a slight animosity for even being asked.
Alaska! is a great band. They may not be any good at promoting themselves, but as most rock stars say, "It's all about the music."
Alaska! is coming to Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Tuesday. Doors open at 9 p.m. The show is 21 and up. Tickets are $5 in advance and $7 at the door.