Opening for Ivan & Alyosha was Kris Orlowski, a singer/songwriter also hailing from Seattle. Kris immediately created an intimate performance, playing soft and beautiful melodies, harnessing his dynamic and powerful voice in a plethora of ways. Halfway into his set, he asked the already decent sized crowd to gather in the middle of the room and allow him to play unplugged in the middle of the circle. What should have felt a bit awkward and bit too close comfort felt natural and normal, with Kris playing his tunes to each part of the circle with a soft intensity. He liked talking to the crowd just as much as singing and playing guitar, having many laughs with the audience. Kris then finished up after a few more songs on the stage with what he called a “French exit” where he, without speaking a word, simply finished his last song, unplugged and left the stage. The crowd loved it, and he left to a great deal of applause.
A few minutes later, the five-piece rock combo that is Ivan & Alyosha stepped on stage, welcomed by a wave of ecstatic applause from the now full U Street Music Hall. The band went directly into it, only stopping to talk and greet the band after 2 songs. Everyone in the band was good-natured and smiling, ready to play some music for the eager crowd. The band started with the first two songs of the new record first playing “Something is Wrong” and then thundering into their ballad “Bury me Deep,” filling the small venue with their driving sound. The band was at home playing live music, and excelled in delivering an enthralling and captivating show, keeping the audience on the tips of their toes in excitement. What I noticed most about the band was that they were having a fantastic time, and had no qualms being human in front of the audience. Tim had more than a few conversations with the crowd, bassist Pete Wilson playfully throwing his beer glass at guitarist Tim Kim (no one was hurt). I think throughout the show, every single member of the band besides drummer Cole Mauro stood up on top of the same guitar amp, dancing around.
The band was having a great time, and so was the crowd. Tim remarked halfway through that while the band thought a show in Cambridge was their best of the tour, that DC might be better yet—which got the crowd even more excited. Halfway through the set, Mauro’s snare drum broke, which Tim announced to the entire crowd, laughing as he went and ssad they would have to change the set a bit, not worried at all. Following this, just Ryan and Tim stayed on stage, and played the last song of their new album, “Don’t Lose Your Love,” a slow, but romantic song that captivated the audience. After this, the rest of the band came back on–including Mauro with a new snare drum—and jammed out through a few different songs from the old album and the new. Perhaps the most anticipated song of the show, “Running for Cover” was played towards the end of the set, and surely blew the crowd away. The song retained its beautiful harmonies and gentle lyrics, but with it came a third dimension to the song that could only be experienced live, the bass rumbling, guitars thrumming and drums crashing, giving “Running for Cover” an epic performance. Other songs that were fantastically performed were “Let Me Go East,” “Modern Man” and “It’s All Just Pretend.” The rest of the set was also pretty amazing, and really spoke to the true sound of Ivan & Alyosha as a rock band.
Ivan & Alyosha’s performance at U Street Music Hall revealed the band’s true skill in live performance, high energy, and enthusiasm for playing music. The band came right out after the show, manning their own merchandise table and mingling with the crowd.
I was able to talk to founding members Tim Wilson and Ryan Carbury before the show and asked them a few questions. Check it out below!
Could you guys briefly introduce yourselves and talk about your musical background as well as what you play in the band?
[Tim] I’m Tim Wilson, lead singer. I mean I’ve been playing music my whole life pretty much, I remember singing in choirs and stuff growing up and I discovered—I mean I’ve always loved pop music, and I discovered new kids on the block when in kindergarten when I got the watch, my aunt gave me the watch for my birthday, and like Michael Jackson, and Elvis, Stevie Wonder, and all that stuff. Anyways, just grew up listening to it and singing in school.
[Ryan] I’m Ryan Carbury, and I started the band with Tim 7 years ago…I think its 9 now maybe. I play Guitar and Keys.
Awesome, so to jump to the album, it just came out earlier this month. Listening to it, its markedly different than All The Times We Had, so could you just speak to the change in sound between the two full-length albums?
[Tim] I don’t know, it did sound like more of an indie record, but I don’t necessarily think we were doing that on purpose, I think like post production wise maybe in the mix it got a little dumbed down a bit, where we kind of recorded a hi-fi record and the guy who mixed it—and he did a great job—but he mixed it a bit more low fi, mid fi we like to call it. But with Pretend I think we tried to make more of a pop, or more of a rock and roll record production wise and have it be a bit more of an alternative record with a bit more drive. So definitely I think we’re not doing anything super different that what we’ve always done, the band has a sound and a feel, but I think we wanted to take it to the next level of almost where we kind of think we should be, you know sonically.
[Ryan] I mean you kind of nailed it on the head. I think its just more representative of what we do live, where All the Times didn’t really represent what we did live and I think we made the same records—maybe we pushed it a little more on this one but I think we kind of made the same record but was translated folksier, was mixed that way.
[Tim] Yeah, I mean, you never know, right? I feel like we used to talk more about like ‘oh we want it to sound like this, we want it to sound like that but—
[Ryan] —well and when we’re referencing stuff to kind of what we’re into and what we want it to sound similar to, I feel like it’s the same things on both records.
[Tim] But for whatever reason, maybe the type of songs they were, they just…ended up that way.
I have difficulty describing your sound. How would you guys describe your sound if someone asked you to put it in a few words?
[Tim] I think there’s a lot of varied influence in the band, but at the end of the day, I think again maybe with this record in particular, we were kind of like—somebody could maybe describe like, reaching, you know? Kind of for that next level in a sense, and I feel like again that’s kind of where we’ve always felt we belonged maybe? People talk about the song, “Modern Man,” and say it sounds like an octane baby b side or something, which is a huge compliment, but its like yes, that’s kind of what we were going for!
[Ryan] It’s backhanded because it didn’t make it on the A side.
[Tim] but at the same time we recorded a song called “In The Ground,” which is like a total folk song…there’s folk songs there’s rock songs, there’s ballads, honestly its kind of the same to us, but I think we write pop songs and we try to translate that in kind of a rock band way live.
[Ryan] I think whenever we are asked what kind of band the band is, I think we just say we’re a rock band that tries to write good pop songs and has harmonies. That’s basically the answer.
How would you describe the driving force for this album?
[Tim] I guess the title that we landed on, Its All Just Pretend, was kind of the theme all along and we didn’t know it, but whether we’re talking about relationship in “Tears In Your Eyes” or “Let Me Go East” which is like a story of a crazy woman and a guy who just wants some companionship and she keeps on running off. Or “All This Wandering Around” where your just trying to figure your thing out and try to make some sense of this crazy life. I think at the end of the day, yeah, its all just pretend was kind of the theme we landed on and the title, and the song is amazing and I just think we’re all trying to figure it out, but none of us really have our stuff together, as much as we’d like to think we do. In just a broader sense there’s a lot of freedom in acknowledging how little we know and how awesome we’re not.
Do you guys have any kind of pre-show tradition?
[Ryan] We say, 1…2…3 the garden.
[Ryan] Put our hands together. In reference to Madison Square Garden, as a goal.
[Tim] Yeah, we say the garden because—I don’t know, I feel like its still a goal, I would say—I think we live in a strange world where we’re like an indie band by default and its hard to really make sense of whats really going on in the music industry—but I do think Madison Square Garden is not the craziest of goals, I feel like we could be there someday. Anyways, we say the garden, 123 the—le jardin.
What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you guys as a band?
[Ryan] Well it’s not a crazy fun positive thing, but…all our stuff got stolen in Atlanta a few years ago. Like van and trailer, and that was one of the more crazy things that’s happened in my life, just because it’s a big loss.
[Tim] We’re still dealing with the fallout from that. Yeah, that’s probably the worst thing that ever happened.
Ouch. Sorry to hear that. Whats something more positive?
[Ryan] I mean the best thing; I think just generally just playing with awesome artists that we get to open up for or whatever and getting to know them, become friends. And that’s kind of a fun bonus of the tour that you don’t see all the time.
What has your favorite venue been, whats the favorite show you’ve played?
[Tim] Cambridge, Massachusetts was great. T.T The Bear’s Place. Good little venue, just a great crowd, probably the best of the tour since Seattle.
[Ryan] You wanna know the worst?
[Ryan] Just kidding. I’m not gonna tell you. No comment.
Without dropping any names, what happened to make it the worst?
[Tim] Talk-y. Just chatty-y.
[Ryan] Oh yeah super bar chatty. We had fun. They didn’t.
What’s your dynamic as a band?
[Ryan] I would say, we don’t know how to do anything else, because we’ve just kind of been musicians all our lives and I think the goal is providing for family. We’re grateful that we get to play music as a means for a job.
[Tim] Yeah, sometimes people are like ‘oh man but you’re doing what you love man’ and that is true. But. It’s a lot of hard work, and if it was just about the music, that’s not….enough. Artistically, you know? We play a show, but like sometimes its–I want people to stick around, say hello, sometimes we’re almost more comfortable doing that and we want to meet people too. Cool you like our band, but connecting with people is cool too. And the fact of the matter is that you have to make money to be able to do it. In the indie world it’s kind of a strange balance where it’s just hard to make too much. You almost have to make too much to make it work. It’s hard to get there. But we’re super thankful that we get to do it, that we get to be a band, but we also have to do it to send some dough home, basically!
Sweet, thanks so much guys.