Ivan & Alyosha
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Ivan & Alyosha

Seattle, Washington, United States | INDIE

Seattle, Washington, United States | INDIE
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Though Ivan & Alyosha band leader Tim Wilson may not have read the entirety of The Brothers Karamazov, from which he took his band's name, he shares a fondness for words with the books's author, Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

But Wilson sets his stories to music.

Ivan & Alyosha have a folk, pop, Americana, indie rock and country sound--but above all else, the Seattle quartet tap into a sound and feeling that is wholly rooted in the warm, rainy embrace of the Pacific Northwest. The band's new EP, Fathers Be Kind (Missing Piece Records) was recorded in a barn just 30 miles north of Seattle. The EP highlights Wilson's rich vocals with acoustic arrangements that span between back wood romps and introspective ballads, and keenly penned lyrics about love, nature and spirituality.

After breaking out at last year's South By Southwest with a spot on NPR's "Top 100 of SXSW" list, the band has been on a steady uphill climb. Their song "Easy to Love" was featured on NPR's "Song of the Day" in 2010, and the band has been touring since.

"We're putting the pieces together and making it work," said Wilson. "We've had some exciting opportunities that we've taken part in, and we still have some to get to.

"I think I would have quit this a long time ago if it was something I could get away from. But I just can't get away from it. It's a part of me, and I will do this for the rest of my life," he said.

The young band has been going strong for two years. On their first EP, The Verse, The Chorus (Cheap Lullaby Records), the group only consisted of Wilson and guitarist Ryan Carbary. Not long after the EP's release however, guitarist Tim Kim, bassist Pete Wilson (Tim's brother) and touring drummer James McAlister filled out the current lineup.

"I think it's just been a natural progression," said Wilson. "We never wanted to add band members just to add band members. We always wanted to make sure it was the right fit first, then worry about the musical side ... that time spent together rehearsing and playing a lot of shows has just been crucial to developing the sound of this band."

Ivan & Alyosha are preparing to set out on their longest tour yet, 29 dates that take them from Seattle through Nebraska, over to Iowa, down to Tennessee, back to New York, and then all the way to California via SXSW in Austin. Interestingly, the tour kicks off on Tuesday, Feb. 15, at Reef.

"Being on the road is a challenge, for sure. But I think as along as everybody's on the same page and we're all having fun, it's great," said Wilson. "Before we go on stage we get together and basically say, 'Let's play like this is the last time we'll ever play.' We like to get rowdy and have fun. Also, we do four-part harmony. It's fun to play in front of people and sing harmony with your friends, but we just try to play it loud, play it fast and hope that people enjoy it."

Complementing the four-part harmonies are Wilson's highly literate, personalized lyrics and his crisp singing voice. He draws out each consonant and vowel for maximum effect, while varying between hushed tones and billowing crescendos to add an extra layer of emotion to his meticulously crafted songs.

"Does she get inside your head / all the stupid things that you've said / she's the only reason you get out of bed / beautiful and lovely is she / wouldn't find one who would disagree / standing beside every decent man /there's a better woman," from "Everything is Burning."

"I try to write in a pretty specific language," said Wilson. "Things that people will understand but kind of articulated in new ways. I always love listening to artists or songwriters who can say something in a very simply way, yet articulate some profound things within the simplicity. I take however much time I want to pick words and phrases and lines that best articulate what I feel. I like being able to take the time and think about what I'm saying. I've never really been super drawn to bands that I don't know what they're talking about."

And while Wilson is drawn to literary language, he doesn't bother with it so much when asked to describe his own band's sound.

"Maybe folk-pop might be the best way to describe it. But at the same time, to us it's just kind of like, everything falls under the rock 'n' roll genre. But that's very broad and wide. It doesn't really mean anything anymore. So it's definitely folky but kind of melody-based. Pop music really."

When Ivan & Alyosha come to Boise they'll be bringing their families with them, including Wilson's newborn child. His newfound fatherhood and the struggles therein are reflected in the title of Father Be Kind, and it's a subject that constantly weighs on the songwriter's mind. It's not easy raising a family, especially when balancing a career as a young, up-and-coming musician.

"It's certainly a struggle and a challenge, but we believe in it, and I think that there are other people who believe in it too and get what we're doing," said Wilson. "Right now we're the closest we've ever been to making this our career. There's always something that keeps us going. There always seems to be one more door that takes us to that next level." - Boise Weekly


After listening to 1,300 songs in preparation for South by Southwest 2010, Ivan and Alyosha's "Easy to Love" turned up as one of our favorite pre-festival discoveries.

That was a year ago, and at the time, the Seattle group had just one EP out, called The Verse, The Chorus. This past summer, Ivan and Alyosha members Tim Wilson and Ryan Carbary came to NPR with a few more bandmates — Pete Wilson, (Tim's brother), Tim Kim (heard here on acoustic and electric guitars) and drummer Cole Mauro. All charmed us with their Beatles-esque pop harmonies and sweet melodies.

The band's second EP, Fathers Be Kind, has just come out, so we figured this was as good a time as any for you to get to know Ivan and Alyosha's music. - NPR


Missing Piece Records
Artist: Ivan and Alyosha
Hail From: Seattle, Wash.
Song: 'Glorify'
Album: 'Fathers Be Kind' EP
Sounds Like: The Mamas and the Papas, Bob Dylan

In Their Words: "We enjoy having a drink, making love with our wives and singing hymns (not necessarily in that order), so we put it all together in one song. In the wrong context or in excess the things we're singing about can be destructive, but if done right can be very enjoyable. We strive to do (or not do) these things in a way that glorifies the Lord of above."
-- Guitarist Ryan Carbary
- AOL Spinner


Tim Wilson and his friend Ryan Carbary formed Ivan & Alyosha in the summer of 2007. Inspired by the works of classic writers, both musical [Harry Nilsson] and literary [Fyodor Dostoyevsky], Ivan & Alyosha's music is a perfect relationship of old and new folk-pop sounds. The Seattle-based duo is preparing for their SXSW debut and their debut full-length album on Cheap Lullaby Records. Spinner spoke with singer-songwriter Wilson about his band and the group's plans for Austin.


How did you guys form a band?

My friend Ryan and I pretty much started the band. I was in another band at the time, so I was writing other stuff, these different songs that he'd heard. He was like, "Let's do something with these songs." Eventually, I wasn't playing in the other band that I was in, so we just kind of went for it and started writing a record. We did our record a couple of years ago and kind of went from there.

Who does what in the band?

Ryan plays guitar. I sing and write the songs. Recently, we got a couple other guys, mainly my brother. Pete is writing and playing bass for this next record that we're going to do this spring sometime--May, hopefully. [At SXSW] there's going to be a couple more--a drummer, Gene, a Seattle guy and a really great drummer. Then our good friend Tim, he'll play guitar. He's also part of what we're doing, but not necessarily a songwriter. He plays a mean guitar though.

Where does the band name come from and how do you pronounce it?

"Eye-van" and "Alley-o-shah." We were looking for a name when we went down to Los Angeles, like, two years ago, a couple winters ago. The guy who produced the record, his name's Eli Thomson, and he's done Richard Swift, done a lot of great records. He was doing our record, and we were like, "We need a band name." And he was like, "What about Ivan and Alyosha?" He's a big 'Brothers Karamazov' fan. And we like that kind of stuff.

Do you relate to the story of 'The Brothers Karamazov'?

Yeah. We identify with the characters to some certain extent, with us starting out as two guys in a band--two brothers if you will. It's just liking those kind of differences between the two brothers. One is kind of a very spiritual person and the other is an atheist, and [we like] watching that relationship unfold.

How would you describe your sound?

It's like pop music, but pop music the way it was considered 26 years ago rather than what pop music is considered now. It definitely takes more of a folk turn as well. Pop-folk. We're vocally driven by the songwriting and melody.

Who would you cite as influences?

Personally, I love vocalists--Elvis, Frank Sinatra and Harry Belafonte. Harry Nilsson. Harry Nilsson especially as a songwriter. [I like] Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie. More recently, Wilco, Helio Sequence from Portland, Richard Swift, and all that good stuff.

Have you been to SXSW before? What would you put in a survival kit?

Never, this is our first time. We have done fests, but survival kits? I don't know. We don't know what to expect. We like survival kits, but we'd like advice. We have one showcase right now with the fest and we're trying to get some other stuff rolling.

Do you have any road essentials?

A GPS, for sure. [We use it to find] Starbucks. Starbucks is essential.

Do you have plans post-SXSW?

We were going to try and work on this record in March, but March is turning out to be busy. So we're going to track a record sometime this spring. We're really excited about [it] and we feel like it is material that's really good. We're just excited for people to hear it. We're going to work on a record and we're going to go on the road again like late May, do a West Coast thing, and that's pretty much it. I'm having a kid in a couple of months, so that's going to be crazy.
- AOL Spinner


"I stopped trying to be cool a long time ago," says Tim Wilson. "I think the biggest enemy for many young bands can be self-consciousness. You have to be free of all that to truly be a part of what you're doing — to perform and to write what you feel, otherwise you're trying too hard. It's posing, and people see right through that.”

Wilson is the frontman for Ivan and Alyosha, a burgeoning folk-pop outfit from Seattle with a Dostoyevsky-inspired name and earnest, philosophical lyrics to match.

The band started out in 2007 as a duo of Wilson and guitarist Ryan Carbary. And in 2009, they released their first EP, The Verse, the Chorus — which spawned the hummable sleeper hit “Easy to Love” and gained enthusiastic praise from NPR.

“In 2010 we added some band members, built a studio, toured a decent amount, signed on with our manager, went to SXSW, I had a kid,” Wilson says. “It was a little crazy.

“I feel like we’re building up some steam now as a band, and we plan to release projects more frequently, starting with our first fulllength this summer.”

The first taste of that album will arrive shortly in the form of Fathers Be Kind, a five-song EP that showcases some of the best new songs in their repertoire. It hearkens back to ’60s and ’70s Americana — a sound that calls to mind faded color photographs and Super 8 home movies. The lyrics are straightforward, usually taken directly from Wilson’s own life lessons.

“The way I write has always been a bit more specific than poetic,” he says. “I’ve never really gravitated towards artists who write in an ambiguous way.”

It was Wilson’s own entry into fatherhood that inspired some of the subjects of the new songs and in turn the title of the EP. Cynics be damned, he’s particularly fond of one verse from “Living for Someone” that runs: “Now I just quit my job/ and sold my fine possessions/ Expecting our first child/ amid the great recession.”

“Cheesy?” he asks, rhetorically. “To some, maybe. Heartfelt? Absolutely. Especially with all that’s going on in the world, this is a song about living beyond one’s circumstance, and I’m happy with some of the themes I was able to articulate.”

Perhaps more surprisingly, people often get the band’s literary nod to The Brothers Karamazov.

“Nine times out of 10, people are familiar with the book. Or at least Dostoyevsky,” Wilson says. “We usually get asked, ‘Which one’s Ivan and which one’s Alyosha?’ [But] the influence of the book on the band is a bit more broad and thematic than it is specific to each band member.”

Ivan and Alyosha play with Champion Birdwatcher and Goodnight Venus • Fri, Jan. 21, at 9 pm • Aclub • $5 • 21 • 624-3629 - Pacific Northwest Inlander


Seattle four-piece (yes, four-piece) Ivan & Alyosha are gearing up to release their new Fathers Be Kind EP this February and have just unveiled live footage of a new track, "Glorify." Taking their name from The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky's philosophical final novel that famously takes on religious ideology, the band evokes a wisdom beyond their years with warm harmonies and lush melodies throughout the 5-track EP. Think of a literary-minded cross between Local Natives & Fleet Foxes. Watch the band play EP-closer "Glorify" below and join us as believers.

Fathers Be Kind EP will be released February 1st via Missing Piece Records.
- FILTER Magazine


Seattle band Ivan & Alyosha are a band to look forward to seeing while at SXSW this year in Austin. Their contemplating lyrics, filled with divinity and disbelief, help develop a sound for the band that gives listeners an "in" on Ivan & Alyosha's personal journeys. Ivan and Alyosha handle their folkie tunes with a rustic energy on stage. After seeing these guys' set last month in Santa Monica, CA, what really resonated from their set was their genuine attitude carried throughout the set. Read up on some more word on the band in this interview with the lead vocalist, Tim Wilson.





Just read news on your SXSW invitation. What are you all going to do between now and then?
Tim Wilson: We are shooting acoustic performances of a batch of our songs this week; they'll be online soon. We have a few shows in the the Northwest in January and will end the month taking a trip all the way to Halifax to play the In The Dead of Winter Festival on January 29 opening for an amazing songwriter named Jenn Grant. Also just confirmed our CD release show here in Seattle for February 4 at Columbia City Theatre, a beautiful old venue that Ella Fitzgerald and Fats Waller played in the '40s. Probably the biggest thing we're doing before SXSW is gearing up to be on the road for a few months starting February 15. We're playing Folk Alliance conference in Memphis in February. Mark Olson is keynote speaker there - we toured with Mark earlier this year (he was awesome to spend time with and we're excited to see him again). And we get to play the legendary Mountain Stage radio show in Charleston, WV, on the same bill with the Low Anthem AND Lucinda Williams, two acts we love. We'll end up back on the East Coast in the beginning of March and will spend some time back at our manager's house in NJ while we play some shows in NY (sleeping in his family room and playing Wii).

SXSW in Austin is an interesting way to explore a city and meeting new people, but the trip down there is also a good opportunity for site-seeing. As alum of SXSW, are there any particular spots you're looking forward to hitting up on your trip down there? Anything you're looking forward to revisiting in Austin?
Our trip to Austin will start about a month before SXSW. We start in Idaho, head to Colorado, Iowa, then off to Tennessee, West Virginia, New York, then head West to Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, then south toward Texas! We are pretty excited to see parts of the U.S. we have never seen. Here’s hoping the weather holds! As far as Austin goes, we love South Congress, the people, the good barbeque, and the great weather. So happy that we get to be a part of SXSW again this year.

After your last Fall tour, were there any on-the-road necessities you ran into or situations that you hope you've learned from and experience you hope to carry on into your journey to Austin?
Showers! We travel in an RV, which is amazing and super comfy, but it doesn’t have a shower. So, although we save on hotel costs, we are constantly trying to figure out where our next shower might be. We usually hit up friends, maybe a fitness club, and we recently found out that truck stops have showers for $1.25. Many times we have to settle for a quick rinse in a Starbucks bathroom, so if you meet us on the wrong day, our apologies...

Tell me the first three things that come to mind when thinking of your band's growth and experience so far.
I’m so happy to be playing music with my friends and working with really amazing people that believe in this band. Secondly, it’s encouraging to think back on our accomplishments and all the doors that have opened for us the last few years. Lastly, I know it’s a long road and we have so much work to do, shows to play, records to make, people to meet, Tweets to Tweet.

Your EP, Fathers Be Kind produced by Eli Thomson, tells some heart-felt lyrical stories. Could you tell us more about how these songs came together?
Our first record, The Verse, The Chorus, was produced by Eli Thomson. With our new EP, Father Be Kind, we wanted to put our best foot forward so we chose what we thought were our best five songs and made the record on our own. Not only was the record self-produced but we recorded it at our own studio which really allowed us the necessary time and space to make the record we wanted and needed to make. We’re really proud of what we came up with but excited to get back in the studio as soon as we can for our full-length.

Where does a name for a band like "Ivan & Alyosha" come into content with the group?
Ivan & Alyosha was a name that was given to us a long time ago by Eli Thomson. At first we just thought it was a great band name, but now having read some of "The Brothers Karamazov," the name has taken on different meaning. The fact that Ryan (Carbary) and I started the band is always something that comes to mind. People usually ask us, “which one is Ivan and which one is Alyosha?” Ryan and I don't really share much with the actual characters in the book but we’ve certainly been inspired conceptually by "The Brothers K." One brother is a believer and the other an atheist, and they have have some profound conversations about spirituality and religion, humanity and relationships. In our own way, we're trying to explore these same questions in our songs. - FILTER Magazine


Song: "Glorify"
Artist: Ivan & Alyosha
Album: Fathers Be Kind
Label: Missing Piece Records
Release Date: Feb. 1, 2011
Rating (Skip, Stream, or Buy): Buy, but you can stream it first right here.

Like all Ivan & Alyosha songs, "Glorify"--the first song released from the band's upcoming Fathers Be Kind EP--is sweet and charming. It's got a gently strummed but steady guitar and Tim Wilson's clear, uncomplicated vocals. These same qualities were what made 2009's The Verse the Chorus so consistently good and the single "Easy to Love" so lovely. But that consistency also meant that Ivan & Alyosha's debut wasn't very diverse in its songwriting: all the tracks had tinges of 1960s-style pop with steady, guitar-led rhythms.

Listening to "Glorify," though, it's clear how much Wilson's songwriting has grown and matured in the last two years. The song owes to more 60s folk than pop: the opening harmonica and the story-telling nature of the lyrics feels like something out of a Bob Dylan song. The harmonies sound nearly choral, the perfect compliment to the song's themes. "Glorify" is tongue-in-cheek look at religious belief, exploring skepticism and hypocrisy with the chorus: "Glorify the Lord, my son/ with your whiskey and your gun." It manages to balance charm with a bold message while maintaining a hummable tune, showing that--even with a harmonica and folky style--Ivan & Alyosha still know the makings of a hit. - Seattle Weekly


Best Comment Overheard in the Crowd: When Ivan & Alyosha launched into "Easy to Love" during their late-afternoon Tractor set, I saw a woman turn to her friend and ask, smiling, "Where have I heard this song before?" And whether she truly recognized that band's single or not, that woman stumbled upon Ivan & Alyosha's charm: their pop songs sound like they should already be hits. The band played a few songs off their upcoming EP (now due out in January) during their set, and those new tracks echo the easy appeal of "Easy to Love." With gently booming bass, rumbling guitars, galloping drums, and lyrics about the good things in life, they've found the formula for pop gold. - Seattle Weekly


When Tim Wilson visits the Greenwood Public Library, the branch nearest the home he shares with his wife and 6-month-old son, he heads to the biographies first. Buried on a back wall—the one farthest from the entrance—behind rows of nonfiction are stories of musicians whom Wilson, the lead singer of local pop band Ivan & Alyosha, respects. He's read Elvis & Me, Priscilla Presley's take on her marriage to the King—whom Wilson calls a "compelling person, but not a model for good living"—and Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas, a collection of interviews with the U2 frontman and worldwide do-gooder."When you're young," he whispers, leaning against a bookshelf, "it's inspiring to see other people doing what you want to do."

This interest in reality—in stories of celebrity lives—is an unliterary taste for a band named after characters in Dostoevsky's existential masterpiece The Brothers Karamazov. There's a simple explanation for this: Wilson and Ryan Carbary, Ivan & Alyosha's other primary songwriter, didn't choose their name—the producer for their sweet, lilting debut EP The Verse, the Chorus suggested it, and they liked the way it sounded. Wilson admits he's attempted, but never finished, that namesake novel.

Maybe that's because what's happening to the 29-year-old these days is more compelling than any fictional narrative. In March Ivan & Alyosha played South by Southwest; a month later, NPR described their single "Easy to Love" as a "propulsive, sweetly booming ode" and "irresistible." They toured with Jayhawks founder Mark Olson in August; and next month, Ivan & Alyosha will release a still-untitled EP around the same time NPR releases the band's "Tiny Desk" concert.

Wilson's interest in real stories—which he says stems from his childhood, when he used money his mom gave him for a school book fair to purchase guides and maps to celebrities' homes instead—inspires most of his music.

"Selfishly, [I write] about what I'm going through right now," Wilson says.

Most of Ivan & Alyosha's lyrics often carry the same upbeat, positive outlook as their sparkling, '70s-inspired pop instrumentals: "Easy to Love" is about the triumph—not the customary love-song decline—of a relationship. "Some bands write about the bad things in life," Wilson says, walking through the politics section of the library but paying little attention to the books. "I write music to capture the good things."

Sometimes, though, there's a realistic angst behind Ivan & Alyosha's optimism. Two songs on the new EP —"Fathers Be Kind," written by Pete Wilson, Tim's brother and fellow band member, and "Living for Someone"—are about the balance between "purging your dreams to live a life of duty and obligation" for the sake of family and "creating something meaningful" artistically. That's the kind of philosophical, literary drama that would make even Dostoevsky proud. - Seattle Weekly


A young Seattle duo with a moniker inspired by Dostoyevsky characters, Ivan and Alyosha — whose real, less literary names are Tim Wilson and Ryan Carbary — just released an utterly charming seven-song debut EP titled The Verse, The Chorus. On the surface, the duo's greatest gift is its charming, good-natured modesty: "Easy to Love," for example, chugs along simply and unassumingly while gathering up every scrap of goodwill a song can muster.

But there's more to "Easy to Love" than mere likeability. A propulsive, sweetly booming ode to love as a feat of endurance, the song lays out a matter-of-fact guide to surviving hard times — "When the sky turns black / and we know it will from time to time" — before it even gets to its simple but irresistible chorus. Wilson throws in a self-deprecating reference to the source of his past relationship woes: "I know you're good / You know I try most of the time." But "Easy to Love" really boils down to little more than the kind and clear notion that being in love, and staying in love, makes nothing seem insurmountable. - NPR


Discography

Fathers Be Kind; LP (2011)
The Verse, The Chorus; EP (2009)

Photos

Bio

There’s a scene in Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov where the main characters Ivan and Alyosha discuss the existence of God. Ivan, in particular, questions the idea of God. Alyosha, on the other hand, is a monk, a believer, some may say, a holy fool.

Talk of faith and exalted things is rare in indie rock today. Enter Seattle band Ivan & Alyosha. Throughout their second release, the five song Fathers Be Kind EP, the band chart their own course between divinity and disbelief.

“I left my family and my home/to fight the battle on my own
I stole a car and drove away/but in my hate St. Paul did say
‘Glorify the Lord above/with your drink and making love
Glorify the Lord my son, with your whisky and your gun.”

Ivan & Alyosha began as the solo outlet for Tim Wilson but in spring 2007 the band formed after Tim met Ryan Carbary through a former band mate and mutual friend. Ryan and Tim began playing and recording together and a trip to Los Angeles to work with Eli Thompson (Richard Swift, Delta Spirit) spawned the name Ivan & Alyosha. According to Tim, Thompson is a huge Dostoevsky fan and the name stuck. With that, Wilson and Carbary released The Verse, The Chorus, their debut EP on Cheap Lullaby Records (Joan as Police Woman, The Silver Seas, Teitur). The stand out track “Easy To Love” earned NPR Song of the Day honors as “a propulsive, sweetly booming ode to love as a feat of endurance.”

The name Ivan & Alyosha is apt for a band cutting its teeth. As Ivan in Brothers Karamazov moves through the novel with doubts, Ivan & Alyosha navigate the indie rock world contemplating their path as a band. Tim says he writes songs about what’s current in his life. He recently married and had a son. Songs like “Living for Someone” and “Fathers Be Kind,” reflect Ivan & Alyosha grappling with the idea of being in a band and trying to fashion a career. Not only to follow their dreams but to earn a livelihood and support their families; a feeling he expresses in the former song, “Expecting our first child / Amid the great recession”. Despite the uncertainty, Ivan & Alyosha’s soulful folk tunes suggest a band inspired, hopeful and longing; a band unafraid to probe their collective faith and doubts.

Plus, things are different this time around. Tim and Ryan are joined by two others – Tim Kim and Pete Wilson, Tim’s brother. The band built a studio in a barn at Ryan’s parent’s house in Snohomish, 45 minutes outside of Seattle. Snohomish provides an idyllic setting with a charming main street lined by bars and little distraction. Self-recording their upcoming EP allows the guys more time together to create and perfect the new songs. Recently the band spent a week in New York playing gigs at 92Y Tribeca, Maxwell’s in Hoboken and Brooklyn’s Littlefield. They also took a trip to NPR Headquarters in Washington DC to record an NPR Tiny Desk Concert, and opened a run of shows for the Jayhawks’ Mark Olson.

In the Brothers Karamazov, when Ivan asks Alyosha to renounce his beliefs, Alyosha refuses. Rather, he kisses Ivan on the lips. Seattle’s Ivan & Alyosha are not nihilist indie rockers but a new brand of tender dreamers. And non-believers be damned! God, or no God - these guys are no holy fools. They have their music to prove it.