Analogue Music | Ivan & Alyosha

Ivan & Alyosha

By Matt Conner

The music industry feels different than before to Tim Wilson.

As Wilson and his bandmates in Ivan and Alyosha prepared to make music again for the first time in a few years, they found their footing as they went. Streaming on such a broad scale was new when they were last on the scene, and after a few years off to reflect and recuperate from a "disappointing" stretch, Wilson says the return has felt like a "different world."

Fortunately, meaningful art has a way of finding its way to the surface, and Ivan and Alyosha are back with a new label (Nettwerk) and a set of spiritually moving songs that reach deep and encourage at a very real level. The band's aim has always been the heart—even as far back as their earliest work. In that respect, they're as tuned in as ever.

Analogue: Releasing new music into a quarantined world is not what anyone pictures. How are you coping?

Tim Wilson: Good question. Even just practically, we had some plans to release our full-length later this year and that is now a question mark. Touring is something we obviously had to postpone to the fall and hope and pray it's far enough out. It's a challenging time for sure. I mean, it's certainly easy to get discouraged but that's a valid reaction. But also after that initial discouragement, what do you do other than try to really make the most of it or innovate in this time. If we can't tour, what can we do? How can we connect? How can we release music?

When we stepped back into this a couple years ago and rebuilt our team and signed on with a new label [Nettwerk], we said, 'Man, this feels like a different world. Everything has changed.' The world has changed and will continue to change—that's the constant. What do you do with that? Try to find the silver lining it all.

Analogue: So what are some of those things you're finding?

Tim: There are a couple things. We haven't been as productive on social media as we could have been. It wasn't anything we had to do early on as a band and, in my first band, it didn't even exist. So I think we're more engaged there with fans and we're trying to open up a bit, I think. We've been doing the Instagram Live thing every Friday night. Instead of a record release show for the new EP, we'll do an online thing.

Then on the more entrepreneurial side, we were fortunate to have a big shipment of vinyl come in before this all took place, so we have the new 10" double EP on vinyl that was printed a while back. They sent us a few hundred copies of that, so I've been slinging that stuff in our store. Whereas an online store for an indie band—I could be wrong here—stays pretty dormant, we've got a release to sell, so that's been keeping me busy. I pack that stuff every day and take it to the post office.

Analogue: You mentioned the break you guys took earlier. Did you think it was completely over in that stretch or did you realize it was a break?

Tim: I don't think we thought it was over forever. I think we were just so... disappointed. I think that's the right word to use. [Laughs]

Analogue: In what?

Tim: From early EPs to two full-lengths, we would just put them out and road dog it and then hope and pray that opportunities would open themselves to us or that success would follow. To a degree, looking back, they did present themselves, but it was a lot of hard work. That's nothing new, obviously, but you get to the end of whatever it was—a big long tour or something—and you're back with a couple thousand bucks in your pocket, maybe. You're also owing a lot of people a certain amount of money. You just go, 'What was that all about?'

"The world has changed and will continue to change—that's the constant. What do you do with that? Try to find the silver lining it all."

It's impossible to see, whether it's being on the road or releasing music, what sort of impact it's making or not making. There are more analytics now with streaming and all that. You can see in real time who is listening where, but as far as what's going on in terms of the connection you want to make and the difference you want to make, it's impossible. So I think we came back from touring quite a bit and we just couldn't see beyond our own disappointment and exhaustion.

I don't think we knew whether it was over or not, but over time, I think as we could get perspective and see the value in the songs we were making and the time we'd put into it, I think we eventually came to the point where we saw that it's worth our time and that it's a valuable endeavor. When it came down to it, we wanted to record more together. It inspires us and we know it inspires other people. That's the simplicity in it after a lot of nonsense and disappointment. It was just, 'Let's just make more music together because that's what we love.'

Analogue: Can you take us to those early moments of making music again? Were they joyful moments?

Tim: Yeah, I think they were. What sparked it all was Ryan, our guitar player and house engineer and producer, and Pete, my brother who writes quite a bit, started to share ideas. We would get together to play these corporate shows, which were the only shows we were playing because, again, we owed some people money. We would get together at these shows and they'd start playing these songs they were working on and that's what really sparked the inspiration.

One of the early ones was "Everybody Breaks" and then Pete showed us a song "Labor On." From there, we would start getting together in the winter around a fire pit and just drink beer, sit around, and listen to new songs that everyone was working on. There was some purity in that, you know? We didn't have management or booking and it was clear then that our previous label was not going to put out the music. There was a freedom there and no pressure to deliver.

From there, that's when we decided to jump in and record. It was around those moments together, whether shows or a fire pit, that we decided we were going to protect these songs until we were happy with them and proud to show them to a new label or management or whoever.

What we did was go on to complete the collection of gear so we could record it ourselves. Whereas in the past, we would rent a studio, hire a producer, go through all of that. We'd never really nailed that process, so it was a chance to do it on our own terms, basically.

Analogue: What was the balance of excitement and fear when you step into what you'd always outsourced?

Tim: I don't know that I can speak for the whole crew but it almost less fear stepping into an environment where it's just the five of us.

Analogue: Sure.

Tim: There's almost a safety there as opposed to who we've worked with before. Those guys were all awesome and expensive which meant the stakes were pretty high. To finish the last full-length, we went down to Sunset Sound in L.A. and worked with Joe Ciccarelli for two weeks and I would say the stakes were pretty high in that moment. As far as the joy in that process, I'm not sure I even recall. [Laughs] It was more about not trying to screw it up or trying to make sure everyone was moving in the same direction. Although sometimes we don't get anything done with just the five of us; other times we do. But it feels right when it's just the five of us sitting around to lay the groundwork. There's really no fear in those moments.

Analogue: Looking back at how you've handled all of this—protecting things like you said you wanted to do. Now that you're on the other side, did you make the right decisions there? Was it exactly what you thought it would be or did it do what you'd hoped?

Tim: I'd like to think that it's exactly what we needed to do. If I'm perfectly honest, I think what we were able to capture will translate more so than some sort of reach for perfection. The honesty we were able to accomplish... when I say honesty, I mean there's honesty in the writing and even production-wise. Even these days, and it's not a judgment at all, but I hear a lot of pop production even in indie stuff—like tuning vocals, a lot of synthetic instruments, drums to the grid. I don't love that stuff because it sucks the life out of it for me.

But I think there's a certain honesty in the songs, in the production, in the delivery, in the performances. I think that will translate and therefore I'm happy that we made those decisions early on to protect those ideals.

VISIT: Ivan & Alyosha