It would be easy to file the Animal Liberation Orchestra in the ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ zone.
The emerging jam band is close with singer-songwriter sensation Jack Johnson. Keyboardist Zach Gill and Johnson were college pals who went on to become professional musicians.
The laidback Johnson became a star, who never forgot his friend.
“Jack is a great guy, who has certainly helped us,” vocalist-bassist Steve Adams said while calling from Boston. “We can’t say enough about Jack.”
Johnson has turned up without notice to jam with ALO at their shows. He has produced their albums, including the act’s latest, ‘Man of the World,’ which dropped in February.
ALO, which will perform Friday at the Theater of Living Arts, spent a month in Johnson’s Hawaiian studio last spring. “We were just going out to use Jack’s studio and he hung around a lot and offered so much of his expertise and we said, ‘do you want a production credit?’ He helped us so much so he should be connected to this project. It became a real collaborative process from the music down to the lyrics. It’s always a pleasure to be around Jack. He has great ideas and it’s never a stressful situation.”
The new ALO material is funkier than anything the band has released to date. The tunes are more free-wheeling and reflect the group’s live performance.
“I think that’s where we needed to go with this album,” Adams said. “It might sound like an easy thing to do but it isn’t. We just had the right approach. The songs didn’t come prepared. The songs came out of jams. It all just happened very naturally. Even the words just came right on the spot. It was a refreshing way to make an album. We captured what was going on with us in that very moment. It all just flowed. We nailed everything down within three weeks. I think spontaneous is what we’re all about.”
It’s been over three-years since ALO, which also includes vocalist-guitarist Dan Lebowitz and drummer David Brogan, has played Philadelphia. Gill and Brogan released solo albums while Adams and Lebowitz focused on side projects in 2008.
“It’s good to get out there and stretch your boundaries,” Adams said. “We each decided to do some other things and that worked out for us. But we know that we’re going to come back eventually (to ALO). It’s something that means a lot to us. So it feels like it’s been forever since we’ve been back to the East Coast. It’s good to be back here. We’re excited about headlining the TLA. We opened for Galactic during the last tour in (2007). We’re grown as a band. You can see that if you check us out.”