IVAN & ALYOSHA

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- May 2013 - 

HAVE A BEER WITH IVAN & ALYOSHA

Meet Ivan & Alyosha, a Seattle combo comprised of core members Tim Wilson (lead vocals and acoustic guitar), Ryan Carbary (guitars, piano and vocals), Tim Kim (electric guitar and vocals) and Tim’s brother Pete Wilson (bass and vocals), plus a revolving assortment of friends and collaborators on keyboards, drums and other instruments. The band has spent much of the past two years on the road, traveling the highways and back roads of America, often with wives and children in tow, building a loyal fan base with high-energy live performances. We had the pleasure of sitting down with the band when they played Schubas Tavern on April 27, 2013, to talk about what it's like being on the road, being away from family and most importantly, coming home to Seattle. 

Kristen from A Beer with the Band: For people who aren’t familiar with you guys, how long has Ivan & Alyosha been together? How did the band form?

Tim Wilson: Ryan [Carbary] and I met about seven years ago and started making music a year later. We met through old band mates of mine, and I was writing very different material at the time—pop songs. Ryan heard them, said he wanted to record them. We made one record together on our own and signed with a little indie label that put it out, but we knew that we wanted a band. At the time, TK [Tim Kim] and Pete [Wilson] were playing in another band…and when that band stopped, we were like, “Let’s do this.” TK was already playing guitar at that point and I was playing bass. So, he learned how to play bass, I strapped on an acoustic, and probably about three years ago, we made a record and got on the road.

Kristen: How long have you been touring on this stretch?

Pete Wilson: About three weeks now. Before this stretch we were at home, and before that we were on the road for about a month. We were doing shows at SXSW, which was awesome. We played about 17 or 18 times. All the shows were really well-attended. It was chaotic and we didn’t get to see as many bands as we wanted to, but it’s always a fun week of constant work.

Kristen: What do you think about the festival scene?

Pete: I love it. The more people that are going out and supporting musicians and seeing them play live, the better. The reality is, the more festivals that pop up, the more work there is for bands… And a lot of times at these festivals, we get to see buddies of ours in bands that we don’t get to see all year. You go to SXSW it’s an opportunity to check-in and see how everyone’s doing.

Kristen: You’re originally from Seattle. What’s your favorite thing about the city?

Pete: My favorite thing about Seattle is the Ballard neighborhood. It’s this really cozy, old school neighborhood on the Southside of downtown. Really good coffee, tons of pubs, a really good music scene. There are always friends of ours out and about there. I used to work in Ballard, and every time I think about what I want to do spending a day in Seattle, it’s always walking around there.

Tim: I think the best thing about Seattle is the summer. It’s gorgeous. The water is right there, the mountains are right there, it’s just a beautiful place to live. It’s fun to tour and see the country, but it’s always nice to go back. It feels like home there. All of us grew up about a half-an-hour north in the suburbs…Snohomish, Everett, Lynnwood…The town we were born in is this place that’s kind of frozen in time. It used to be a big fishing town, a lot of paper and lumber mills, and now all of that’s gone and everyone is trying to figure out what to do with it. It used to be thriving and industrial, but that doesn’t exist anymore. They just tore down the last lumber mill.

Kristen: Let’s talk about what music you have out. You recently released an album All The Times We Had.

Pete: Yeah, it’s our debut full-length album. Before that we put out two EPs, and Tim and Ryan put out the first one around 2009 or 2010.

Tim: We put it out in 2009 on our own, Cheap Lullaby Records put it out in 2010, and then Fathers Be Kind came out in February 2011. We almost put out the new full-length in 2012, but we ended up signing with Dualtone Records and we pushed it back a few months.

Kristen: How do you feel like you’ve evolved from that first EP to this full-length?

Pete: Well, we went out on the road after Fathers Be Kind came out and we road-tested a lot of those songs, played them live, and we knew that we wanted the feel of the record to emulate our live shows and energy. I feel like that helped us hone our sound once we got into the studio. The recording process happened pretty quickly.

Tim: I feel like we actually got to spend some time with the material. In the studio before [with the first two EPs], we were still writing parts, but this time, a lot of the songs were already built. We just needed to go in and execute them. We’ve all grown up…There’s something to be said about developing the band and developing your craft. There are people that are 50 years old that are masters at this, and I still think there’s probably an element of the unknown to creating music. You constantly have to be sharpening your craft, your songwriting and your performance. Nobody tells you how to do these things; you just learn how to do them.

Pete: And it’s always changing, how it’s supposed to be done.

Tim: You start a band, and seven years later, you have something…maybe.

Kristen: How does the writing process work? Do you collaborate on everything?

Pete: Whether it’s an idea or a demo, someone will bring it forward. Usually, it’s a natural process of what works and what doesn’t. We all get excited about the same things…If we like a song, we record it; if we don’t, we might re-visit it later. There’s a lot of stuff we’ve written that we’ll put on the backburner and we’ll hear it later and we’ll say, “That’s pretty cool.” It’s always good when you can separate yourself from the material a little bit and come back to a song you wrote five years ago and make something of it.

Kristen: It can be really hard to separate yourself. Taking that distance and time away from what you’re working on can be an important part of the process.

Pete: Yeah, and the way I see it, if I’m writing a song and we all start working on it, it’s no longer my song, it’s the bands song. In that way, it becomes a little easier to separate yourself. It’s no longer me in my bedroom writing something; it’s all of us working on it together. That’s one of the cool dynamics of being in a band.

Kristen: Time for a cliché question. Where does the band name come from?

Tim: Russian literature. The band name comes from a book called Brothers Karamazov. I think at the time, we didn’t know what that meant or all the specifics about the book. It was just a band name someone suggested to us and we liked it. We liked it, but it was also kind of the only thing that seemed remotely cool at the time.

Ryan Carbary: We had to make a website and an email, so we needed a name to go along with it.

Kristen: It’s funny to me. A lot of the bands I’ve asked that question to end up saying, “We don’t really know. It just sounded good.”

Tim: The name happened almost on accident. We were writing naturally about a lot of the themes in the book. The other day in Toronto, somebody was telling us that Brothers Karamazov is the greatest existentialist novel of all time. It has some pretty meaningful philosophical and spiritual ideas.  Fyodor Dostoyevsky [author] was this hyper-religious dude who was an early theologian in a way.

Kristen: There are a lot of spiritual elements in your writing.

Tim: Yeah, I guess what I’m getting at is we were writing about that stuff anyways. So, when we found out what the book meant, it made a lot more sense to us, and in my opinion, that didn’t happen on accident. It was probably for a reason that everything added up. As a band, we end up writing about almost whatever we want: our wives, our kids. We’re just dudes who are just trying to make a buck for our families. There are a lot of spiritual things that we think about and deal with and I think there’s certainly a gospel influence to our music. We’re not afraid to write about whatever. I think most bands aren’t and shouldn’t be. Nothing is off-limits.

Kristen: You recently toured with The Lone Bellow. I had the opportunity to interview them when they played Evanston SPACE in February. They’re the greatest people. How was touring with them?

Pete: They’re family now. We had the best time. Touring is a grind. You drive a lot; you have late nights and early mornings. It makes it so much easier when you get along with the bands that you’re touring with. The Lone Bellow are obviously doing really well right now. They’re writing great songs, they’re great live and they’re wonderful people to be around.

Tim: It was a stacked bill for sure.

Pete: Yeah, with Chris [Carrabba from Dashboard Confessional] opening the show every night with Twin Forks and then The Lone Bellow…I think we’ll remember this tour for the rest of our lives for sure.

Ryan: We’ve made lifelong friends, and that’s not an exaggeration. At least I hope not. I feel like we really connected with them. It’s strange without them here tonight [in Chicago at Schubas].

Tim: I was talking to Chris a couple of nights ago, and he’s obviously been around a while. He had so much success with Dashboard Confessional and a bunch of different bands, and he said, “The camaraderie on this tour doesn’t always happen.” He was like, “This is maybe one of three or four tours that it’s been this tight and just a good hang.” The more we do this, the more I think I realize—and I’m not talking about me, but the people on this tour—it takes a unique person to do this and to survive in it. A guy like Chris is someone we can learn a lot from. And even The Lone Bellow—they’ve only been on the road for a month now as pretty much a new band, and we’ve learned a lot from them, too. It just takes a unique personality and a unique work ethic, a certain amount of patience, and you kind of have to settle in, relax and talk to everybody. When we go home we hide, but when we’re here, we’re here to play. Put your head down and go.

Kristen: It amazed me when I was talking to Zach [Williams, lead singer for The Lone Bellow] and he has kids and a baby on the way. Many of you are married with kids or kids on the way. How is that being on the road?

Tim: Three of us are married.

Pete: My wife and I have a two-month-old [Lennon].

Tim: And we’ve been touring for two months.

Pete: He was born the morning of our CD release show in Seattle. Luckily he came ten days early, but we left two weeks after he was born. Then we were home for a week, and then we were gone. It’s sad only being in his life for a short amount of time. Tim also has a son and one on the way.

Tim: Two nights ago in Cincinnati, I was talking to this guy in the army and he kind of likened it [touring in a band] to army life. A lot of those guys feel like they have to do what they do. It’s what they’re good at, it’s what they know, and a lot of them grew up in it. As a band, we’ve been guided into this place where we don’t know anything else at this point. Other than coffee. We could be baristas.

Kristen: Tell me about the best advice you’ve ever received.

Ryan: I don’t know if this is necessarily advice, but Chris said something the other night about being on the road. It’s very wearing and it can get hard, but it’s all very personal. He will clean my guitar on the side of the stage and set up pedals for me…stuff he doesn’t have to do. He just has the right heart about things, even though he’s huge, for him, it’s still all about the people and not about being a rock star. I think when things get hard and you want to shut down, it’s good to have people like that around. He’s a good role model.

Pete: It’s kind of backwards that his band is opening up for us, because Dashboard Confessional, that was like high school for us.

Tim: I remember being at a lecture in high school and the author who was speaking said, “Be interested in everything.” It made a lot of sense to me. Something I continually tell myself is “Be interested in everything,” and also, “Be interested in everyone.” The better part of what we get to do is talk to people, and it makes you forget about yourself and your own narcissism. It’s always good if you can put the focus on someone else and their story…We know what we do and everyone wants to talk about it, but  to be honest, it gets old. When we go home, it’s like, “How was the road?” and I say, “Fine, let’s not talk about it” [laughs]. But that’s the great thing about having kids, too. It takes the focus off of you and puts it on someone else. You forget about you and it gives you piece of mind. I think for the most part, if you’re satisfied with what you’re doing and happy with yourself, you can love and support other people.

Pete: Tim, that sounds like something Lisle would say. Lisle is our dad. My wife threw me a man/baby shower a week before Lennon was born, which involved a lot of tobacco and beers around the fire. My dad was there and he gave me this advice: “Don’t raise Lennon how you were raised, and don’t raise Lennon how Audrey [wife] was raised. Raise Lennon how you and Audrey are going to raise Lennon.” Coming from my dad, that’s pretty crazy. I feel like it should be like, “Remember what I taught you,” but instead, he was saying, “This is your family. You’re going off into a new venture.” I thought it was pretty amazing that he would stress raising my kids not how he raised me – and he and our mom raised us great.

Kristen: What’s the boldest thing you’ve done in the past year?

Pete: Leaving my wife and kid.

Ryan: I don’t know about the last year, but I think touring is a very bold thing to do. Not having any idea where the money is coming from. It’s a leap for sure.

Tim: For me, I think it was deciding to sign with a new label and push the record almost a year. That was a hard time for me…It was obviously the right move, but it was a hard decision to make. It was silence for eight months while we geared up for the release, and that was a hard eight months, but I’m so glad that we waited and that we’re here now.

Kristen: And what’s next?

Tim: We’ll be playing Summerfest in Milwaukee, which will be the biggest show we’ve ever played. It’s about 23,000 people and we’re opening for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. We’re playing a festival in Brooklyn, a winery on the west coast, and then in August, we go out with a pretty decently big artist who shall remain nameless. It’s a “she;” that’s all we can say. And we’ll be coming through the Midwest again in June

Pete: There are also a lot of new songs floating around. There’s a cabin that we go to north of Seattle where we demo stuff, and I think we’re anxious to get out there and work out the new jams. We’re still very excited to be touring on this record and it will be six months before the next single even comes out. We definitely want to stay in the moment, but we’re also excited for what’s next—working out the new jams, and trying not to play them live yet.

Click here to check out Ivan & Alyosha on the web, purchase All The Times We Had on iTunes, “Like” their page on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter.