ALO | Credit: Jay Blakesberg

Formed in junior high as Django, experimenting with their sound at UCSB, and now preparing to go on tour in the Spring, ALO (Animal Liberation Orchestra) recently released the first single — “Sparrow,” inspired by the goddess of music — ahead of the launch of their long-awaited album Silver Saturdays, which came out on March 3. 

I talked to Zach Gill, pianist and original member, about the origins of ALO (founded with fellow band members Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz, and Steve Adams, with Ezra Lipp currently joining them) and where that has led him to now. 

“We came down from the Bay Area as a band and we played almost every weekend in Isla Vista,” he shared. The band parties are a crucial part of UCSB’s music scene, and students flock from all over to get a taste of live music on Friday and Saturday nights. Gill and his bandmates were right in the middle of that. While at UCSB, Django became the Animal Liberation Orchestra and the Free-Range Horns, which then got shortened to ALO. 

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“We started changing names almost weekly. We were changing directions a lot — there was a lot of new musical stuff happening. At some point, we were the Animal Liberation Orchestra and the Free-Range Horns … and at some point, it just got shortened to ALO.”

When graduation day rolled around, ALO already had a self-produced album and was filling up Santa Barbara clubs. They had reached college success, and it was time for the real world. The band members moved back to NorCal, speckling the Bay Area. In 2002, they began to tour, really launching their careers as professional musicians. 

While at UCSB, Gill met fellow singer-songwriter Jack Johnson in the dorms. Although in competing bands at first, Gill is now Johnson’s keyboardist and is signed to his record label Brushfire Records. So what creative freedom does that bring? Being signed by your longtime friend?

“It’s a pretty cool thing … Jack gives everyone complete artistic control over what they want to do, which is amazing.”

Silver Saturdays, also a product of Brushfire Records, perfectly encapsulates the “knowing someone your whole life” feel. Group cohesiveness shines through in every song, and there are more group harmonies and songwriting than ever before in ALO’s long history. The four-member band would write separately and then meet in a garage, where the at-home writing would develop into a new song. According to Gill, it was just four people in a room jamming at its core. 

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“We’ve been a band for so long that we can sometimes rely on the fact that we know each other really, really well … we had just watched that Beatles documentary. What I was taken by was how much their process was like our process. With rock and roll, there’s no guidebook. So I thought it was pretty encouraging; we’re on the same path and it’s a process of working it out in the room.”

The main concern: making sure to not overwork a song. ALO first played songs on tour to give them a road test and would then come back to the garage to finally record them, reluctant to work on them too much. 

“We wanted to capture as much authentic magic as possible.”

And that’s exactly what they did — the entire album was recorded live in the garage with every bandmate bringing something to the table — musical theater, jazz, bluegrass, and classical Indian percussion, to name a few. 

“When we come together, it’s the amalgamation of four people bringing all their personal, individual experiences, and trying to use it like a team to make something magical happen.”

Gill’s favorite songs off the album are the last two: “Divine Fall,” which turns into “Goodnight Song.” 

“There was a real sense like, ‘Hey, we pulled it off.’ I can hear it in the recording, and it makes me happy.”

ALO launches their spring tour on March 10 and from there will treat both coasts, and some cities in between, to their rock sound, but more importantly, their family feel. 

“With both ALO and Jack’s band, it blurs the line with family and friends and fans.”

ALO’s Tour D’Amour includes a stop at SOhO in Santa Barbara on March 16. For tickets visit


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