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Ivan & Alyosha
A friend told me she couldn't stop listening to this new band from Seattle: Ivan & Alyosha.  I gave it a listen and LOVED it!  The first EP Fathers Be Kind was recorded in a barn which gives it a very warm and organic texture.  Vocal harmonies are also a strong component of their writing style.  You might enjoy Ivan & Alyosha if you're into Fleet Foxes or Pavement.  American Songwriter, Alarm, and NPR’s All Things Considered recognized Ivan & Alyosha's talent with diferent mentions including Top 100 of the SXSW.  Ivan & Alyosha just finished playing a few dates in Ontario and Quebec this November along Canadian  band Hey Rosetta! and plan to be back in the New Year.  For more info about this band and tour dates, visit: IvanAndAlyosha.com    
Interview by: Valerie Bastien

Valerie: Tim and Ryan, it sounds like you started your band after working with different musicians and realized that the best musical connection was present between the two of you.  What made this particular writing team special that you couldn’t find with other musicians?  

Tim: I think what it came down to were the songs, particularly the kind of songs I was writing at the time.  We had both been in bands that were a bit more experimental musically, more about the vibe and instrumentation than the quality of the song.  So I just started writing pop songs.  Ryan heard them and came up to me at a birthday party of a friend and said, “I heard your songs, I really like them, we should record them together.”

Valerie: Your last EP Fathers Be Kind came out almost 1 year ago.  It was really well received notably by the National Public Radio who included it as part of their Top 100 of the SXSW.  That must have been really exciting news at the time; how did this kind of exposure contribute to your current success?

Tim: This last year has been really amazing.  We put out a record that we did on our own, in a barn and we are super thankful that people liked it, especially the support we have received from Public Radio all over the country and NPR music.  The success of the record also gave us the opportunity to tour with amazing artists like Brandi Carlile, Aimee Mann and John Vanderslice

Valerie: Tell me a bit more about the title track Fathers Be Kind; what is this song about?  

Tim: My brother Pete actually wrote that song.  To me it’s a song about not losing one's innocence, about being a man, about taking responsibility for yourself and those around you no matter what hand you’ve been dealt in life.  I love the chorus lyrics, “You know that the light at the end of the tunnel is dim.  Don’t answer to the mediocre lives that have gone ahead.  Paving the way for the innocent to crumble.  It's our children’s children and those who have yet to belong.”  There’s something strange going on in the world right now, I feel like a lot is changing, some good, some bad.  It seems like too many people don’t have the energy to be kind anymore, people don’t know how to interact anymore, we are so plugged in, focusing on the wrong things.  Fathers be kind is about rising above the negativity and giving people the best you have.

Valerie: I really like Everything is Burning.  Tell me how this song came about…  

Tim: We wrote Everything is Burning at my older brother's apartment in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles.  The hills above us in Griffith Park were burning while we wrote the song, but the title was actually inspired by an art piece of the same name done by a friend of ours.   Ryan was engaged at the time, I had recently married, we wanted to write about our ladies, but also about women in general.

Valerie: Living For Someone is probably the most upbeat song on the album; explain what you wanted to convey with this song.

Tim: I remember writing this song a few years ago, kind of right in the middle of all the craziness of the recession.  I remember looking around at all of my friends and my family and all of the wonderful things these people around me were doing and being inspired by them.   It’s a song about focusing on your blessings not your burdens, it’s a song about dreaming big, it’s a song about how there’s nothing new, it's all happened before, and if we just take a second to stop and think we would see that we actually have it pretty good.

Valerie: Tell me about another song that is close to your heart on this EP.  

Tim: Glorify is certainly a favorite, I think its just a really great song and it just kind of came to us really quick.  The chorus of the song actually started as a joke!  Ryan was just strumming an acoustic and singing along to warm up.  We ended up writing the whole thing in about an hour or so.  It’s our best attempt at a Johnny Cash bruiser gospel song.

Valerie: Vocal harmonies are an important factor contributing to your unique sound.  You have a beautiful, light tone and you remind me of  Ryan Tedder from One Republic.  Describe the music writing process for Ivan & Alyosha; what comes first, the lyrics or the music?  Do you add the harmonies as you go or at the end as part of the arrangements? 

Tim: Usually the harmonies are an after thought but certainly something that just happens naturally when the four of us get together.  I could (and do) sit in a studio for hours in front of a mic and sing harmonies.  As far as the writing process goes, its almost always music and lyrics simultaneously.  Rarely do I just write lyrics or poetry, or just write music, or hooks or whatever.  I keep an idea in my head for months sometimes before sitting down and writing a song.  It has to be a complete idea both musically and lyrically before I can really make sense of a song.

Valerie: What are your plans to maintain the fan base you have acquired through the last few years?

Tim: Put out great records and tour tour tour!  We love meeting people on the road, its my favorite part of what we do.  At the end of the day our fan base comes down to making long lasting relationships with the people that support this band.

Valerie: You will soon play with Canadian band Hey Rosetta! on tour; what are you looking the most forward to in the next few weeks?  

Tim: Snow!

Valerie: How is the experience of finally getting some recognition in the music business changing who you are and how you approach music? 

Tim: Hopefully it won’t change how we approach the music, or who we are as people.  I do feel like we are getting better and better at what we do.  Our understanding of the business, how to put together a song, the recording process, touring without going totally insane, our knowledge continues to grow, change, and inform the more we do this.


Valerie Bastien is a vocal coach, teacher, musician and freelance journalist.
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