Every Valentine’s Day, the Animal Liberation Orchestra tries to land at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club for the central date of its Tour D’Amour, a “love themed tour” that the band embarks on every year during the month of February. Tonight, the quartet will do just the same for its fourteenth Tour D’Amour, performing a setlist that mixes its back catalogue with songs from its latest release, the four-song EP “Creatures Vol. 2: Fire.” Be it numbers from its latest recording or songs from earlier in the band’s 22-year history, bass player Steve Adams told the News-Press that his group’s songbook is “probably all love songs in one way or another.”
“I think most of our songs come from a place of love and trying to understand the world and ourselves,” he said.
Among the many subjects the band has written about from this place of love is music itself. One of Mr. Adams’ favorite ALO songs to perform live is “I Love Music,” a track that the band recorded with singer-songwriter Jack Johnson, who graduated from UCSB in the same class as Mr. Adams, keyboardist Zach Gill, and guitarist Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz. As three-fourths of the band’s lineup attended college in Santa Barbara and Mr. Gill currently resides in Goleta, Mr. Adams said the today’s gig is something of a “homecoming” for ALO.
This Tour D’Amour will be the third to feature current ALO drummer Ezra Lipp, who replaced the band’s longtime drummer Dave Brogan in 2018. With the exception of Mr. Lipp, ALO’s members have known each other since they were junior high school kids in the Bay Area. There, they played in a band throughout their teenage years and decided to continue their group at college when they all got into UCSB, going by the band name Django for most of their years at the university.
In one of the other dormitories on the college campus, there lived the members of another band called Soil, which included future singer-songwriter superstar Jack Johnson. Though it wasn’t something Mr. Adams and his bandmates requested, their dorm mates pitted Django against Soil, and Mr. Johnson’s dorm mates pitted Soil against Django. When the two bands finally met however, the future ALO members and Mr. Johnson hit it off, starting a frienship that would become rekindled after they all graduated school in 1998. To this day, Mr. Gill also plays keys in Mr. Johnson’s backing band and each ALO album since 2006’s “Fly Between Falls” has been released on Mr. Johnson’s record label, Brushfire Records.
During Mr. Adams’ last year at UCSB, he and his bandmates made one major change to the band by changing the name from Django to Animal Liberation Orchestra. As the bassist recalled, he, Mr. Gill, and Mr. Lebowitz were all students in UCSB’s music department and played in various orchestras so they decided to give their group a name that was akin to that of one of their school ensemble’s, but with a bit of college-aged playfulness.
“We just thought it would be fun to have a quirky version of that,” he said.
He added that a band’s name especially sounds funny when that group is just starting out.
“I’m sure if you said ‘The Beatles’ to someone before The Beatles were famous, they’d think, ‘Oh, that’s kind of a funny name,’” he said.
Though ALO has played most of the songs from “Creatures Vol. 2: Fire” like “Ridin’” and “Baby Blind Spot” in a live setting, Mr. Adams remarked that as of his conversation with the News-Press the band had not yet performed the song “Fish Eye Lens.” Though he couldn’t say for sure, he expects the song may get unveiled to the Santa Barbara audience tonight. After hearing these new tunes mixed in with songs they’ve accumulated over the past two decades, Mr. Adams hopes their long-time fans leave the show with fond, nostalgic feelings.
Tickets for ALO’s gig at SOhO tonight cost $30 and can be purchased online at www.sohosb.com. The show starts at 9 p.m. and doors to the venue open at 7 p.m. SOhO Restaurant & Music Club is located at 1221 State St Ste. 205.