The members of the band alaska! often find themselves in an odd situation: many music fans are more aware of their previous bands and projects than their current one. However, the uniquely-named band (their official bio reads, "The name alaska! has nothing to do with the state. Rather, it's about the state of mind…") has set out to make themselves heard with their most recent album and current tour.
First, readers should know that the lowercase first letter and exclamation point are not misprints, the actual name of the band is alaska! Not so surprising when you consider that one of lead singer/guitarist Imaad Wasif's previous bands was called lowercase. Again, not a misprint.
The current lineup includes Wasif, drummer Lesley Ishino (formerly of all-girl punk group the Red Aunts), and bassist Kevin Rutmanis, who until just a few month ago was one third of the seminal punk rock trio the Melvins. Rutmanis came to alaska! after the recent departure of original bassist Russ Pollard (from the 90's indie rock group Sebadoh). Pollard played on the band's two albums, 2003's emotions and 2005's Rescue Through Tomahawk.
Other bands that the three current member's have been in over the years include the Cows, Tomahawk (a side project by the notoriously eclectic former Faith No More front man Mike Patton), and the new Folk Implosion.
Their latest album, Rescue Through Tomahawk is a sonically challenging creation that showcases Wasif's croon among a forest of fuzzy guitars and driving basslines. Ishino's punk-rock sensibilities shine while her beat holds together the melancholic, progressive noise that some have dubbed "scarf-rock, but heavier."
The album was two years in the making, and if at times it feels a bit anthemic, it may be because it came on the heels of a traumatic accident in which the band's van rolled during a snowstorm.
"We began playing songs as if our lives depended on it. When we walked away from the accident I felt we had been given another chance and we couldn't let it slip away. We needed to make this record," Wasif has said in reference to the incident.
Now that the album has finally been released, on Altitude Records, the band has turned again to the serious work of touring. "I'm getting really excited to leave Los Angeles," Wasif told the Collegian in a recent interview. "I like to come to Colorado because the crowd seems more open; they act like they're having fun."
"I love LA, but sometimes when you get a lot of people in the same place that are all focused on the same thing, it can get a bit pretentious. I mean, there are pretentious people everywhere, but so far I like the mountains because there seems to be less of that," Wasif added.
alaska! plays this Sunday, Sept. 18, at the Starlight, 204 S. College, with local rocker group Prolly. The show is all ages and doors open at 8:00 PM. For more information, visit www.thestarlight.com.