A Praise Chorus

Posted January 13, 2011 in Music

In 1998, Jimmy LaValle, a member of San Diego post-rock instrumental group Tristeza, began exploring music outside of his band’s genre, as many other artists do. Over the years, his project, The Album Leaf, took on a life of its own, putting out five full-length records and appearing on various television shows.


The Album Leaf, now in its 13th year, has also led to a world of collaborations for LaValle with the likes of Sigur Rós, Conor Oberst, Interpol’s Sam Fogarino and Adam Franklin of Swervedriver. Currently touring with Matthew Resovich, David LaBleu and Brad Lee, The Album Leaf has performed as anywhere from a four-piece to a 10-piece band. The Album Leaf’s next stop is in Riverside to play at UCR’s on-campus venue, The Barn, as part of this year’s The Barn Series on Wednesday.


After a short hiatus, The Album Leaf released their latest album, A Chorus of Storytellers, last year. The record marks the first full-length seen from the band since 2006, and LaValle and gang are still touring the album.


“When we play shows we pretty much play everything but the first record,” says LaValle. “I feel like there are no rules [that say] that when you’re on tour for a record that you have to play strictly from that record. It also seems like it’s kind of that time to go out and do stuff again.”


Since the release of A Chorus for Storytellers, The Album Leaf faced some changes in lineup, including the induction of drummer David LeBleu from New York. And with LaValle relocating to Santa Cruz from his hometown of San Diego, live performances have had to face some tweaks.


“I’ve been kind of rewriting older songs to do some different kind of shows that are coming up. After the bulk of touring for A Chorus of Storytellers, I had a kind of lineup change. Our drummer lives in New York City and sometimes it’s not the most financially viable thing for him to come up for every little show that I want to do. I also live up north near Santa Cruz now too and the rest of the guys live in San Diego, so we’re all kind of spread out,” says LaValle. 


“For many years it was a four-piece, so it’s not that crazy to go back to a four-piece. Before, it was a four-piece with someone who was primarily trained in guitar, and now it’s different because he’s primarily trained in bass and he’s a little bit of a guitar player, but he gets the job done.”


With over a decade writing for and performing as The Album Leaf, LaValle has seen members come and collaborators go. Over the years, the band has remained true to its root sound, but The Album Leaf of 1998 isn’t exactly the same Album Leaf of today.


“I kind of feel—this isn’t the right word but I’ll use it anyway—stuck or I feel confined in a way—and I think it’s a little harsh to say—but to my own ways and sound and bringing in other people kind of lets in a little more life to the songs. Working with other people keeps it fresh with a fresh set of ideas or fresh mind or approach into songs,” says LaValle. “I’ve definitely noticed that I’m, in a good way, not catering to the normal indie-rock/hipster kind of people solely anymore, which was how it was in the early days with the more obscure kind of crowd, or the crowd that is directly thought about when you think about indie music. I’ve reached out to a fan base that’s very broad as far as personality and people [go]. It’s good.”


The Album Leaf at UC Riverside’s The Barn, 900 University Ave. (W. Campus Drive, Bldg. 358), Riverside, (951) 827-2276; www.fineartsticketoffice.ucr.edu, www.thealbumleaf.com. Wed, Jan. 19. 7:30PM. Tickets $15 ($5 for UCR students).


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