Say "Ahleuchatistas" Three Times Fast
Half jazz enthusiast, half political activist, all rock 'n' roll
By Marisa Demarco
Guitarist Shane Perlowin didn't know when he answered a classified ad in the paper looking for people to make "'out-of-this-world music' ... whatever that meant" that it was the beginnings of a project that would achieve national recognition. "I don't think we really expected it to be as well-received as it was from the start," he says.
Before all the acclaim, Perlowin joined Derek Poteat for an improv-based band that lasted six months. Then they found Sean Dail banging away in a grindcore metal band at a house party. Asheville, N.C., 2003: Ahleuchatistas was born.
What's in a name? This one looks more difficult to pronounce than it is: Ah-leu-cha-tees-tas. The name's part-Charlie Parker reference (he's got a song called "Ah-Leu-Cha"), part-Zapatista. The moniker holds with the music, the spirit of jazz filtered through a post-punk, brutal rock filter.
It's no accident that the suffix was hacked off a band of indigenous revolutionaries in Chiapas, Mexico. In spite of the instrumental nature of the work, Ahleuchatistas chooses to remain politically engaged. "We've been explicitly anti-war in what we put out," Perlowin says. "I think it's easy for a lot of instrumental bands or noise bands to be abstract and nihilistic." Song titles like "Remember Rumsfeld at Abu Ghraib" and album art depicting Muslim women cowering as bombs fall overhead fill in where political lyrics would usually be. "We live in challenging times, and I think there is a relationship between keeping vigilant in a progressive fashion and expressing politics through the arts," he says.
The Ahleuchatistas like it clean and fast, with hair-trigger changes and no distortions on the guitar, using notes to send the message instead of effects. That stripped-down sound has become part of Ahleuchatistas identity, like a painter's blue period. "We basically have a limited palette," says Perlowin. "It takes on a style of its own because you have to use those colors as creatively as you can to keep it interesting." But at the end of the day, Perlowin holds no delusions about what he's doing. Call it what you like—art rock, avant rock, progressive rock, brutal rock, Perlowin keeps it simple. "I'm not trying to be enigmatic. I pretty much call it rock and roll."
Get riddled with bulletholes at the Ahleuchatistas' rapid-fire set at High Mayhem Studios in Santa Fe at 1703-B Lena Street. Uninvited Guests open the show on Monday, July 9, at 9 p.m. Entry is free with the purchase of a High Mayhem CD or there is a suggested $5-$10 donation at the door.
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