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.