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Interview: Ivan & Alyosha

A baby-faced William Shatner landed his first feature role in the 1958 film adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s final novel, The Brothers Karamazov, alongside the laser-like stare of Yul Brynner. The future captain of the USS Enterprise portrays Alyosha, the God-fearing monk who must contend with the skepticism of his non-believing brother, Ivan. Too bad the flick never found its way onto Tim Wilson‘s Netflix queue. At least then he could fib with greater ease about reading the book. After all, his band only takes its moniker from one of the cornerstones of Russian literature. It wouldn’t hurt the Seattle foursome to set up an internal book club to get acquainted with the siblings from which they derive their namesake.

When confronted with the question he must field from anyone with a middling interest in the SXSW folk-pop standouts, the vocalist takes a deep breath and, as if remembering he’s not under oath, says, “I should just lie.” Without any prompting, he expels the ugly truth in a voice barely audible above the swoosh of the road as he maneuvers on the Seattle freeway, “No, no I have not [read the book].”

Appearing: 4/27 at Schubas (3159 N. Southport) Chicago.

In his defense, Wilson must contend with a two-year-old at home, so Goodnight Moon takes precedence over an 800-page tome (“I read an article in Vanity Fair the other day,” he offers as proof of both his literacy and truncated quiet time.) and he did conquer “The Grand Inquisitor” chapter, “’cause that is where the band name comes from – that section of the book – that’s where Ivan and Alyosha have it out.”

The idea for the name didn’t originate with Wilson. That honor goes to “I&A’s guru” Eli Thomson. The Everest bassist and producer (Delta Spirit) suggested it in drummer Frank Lenz’s (Richard Swift, The Weepies) Huntington Beach, Calif. apartment back in 2007 when Wilson and guitarist Ryan Carbary first joined musical forces (Wilson’s brother Pete and high school pal Tim Kim entered the fold as the band’s bassist and additional guitarist, respectively, in time to record 2011’s Fathers Be Kind EP). “We were like super young and just kind of stoked to be making music and impressionable . . . and to me it kind of sounded like Belle And Sebastian and I was way into them at the time, and I was like, ‘Alright, it’s done!'”

The parallels between the themes explored on the band’s first full-length, the honeyed and terrific All The Times We Had (Dualtone), and Dostoyevsky’s classic reach beyond mere fluke.

“It was unintentional, but I’m the kind of person that believes everything kind of happens for a reason and the icing on the cake as far as the band’s story,” Wilson admits. “Somebody the other day asked me if one of the songs on the new record, ‘God Or Man,’ was about Ivan and Alyosha in the book because one’s a believer and one’s an atheist. I said, ‘No, it’s not about that, but, man, it certainly could be.’ Because I think it’s kind of a constant question, at least for me and a lot of other people that I talk to, that, who’s guiding? There’s obviously something happening beyond ourselves, but sometimes it feels like we’re so influenced and even made or broken by other people. But I’d love to think that also I’m here to do something specific and purposeful.”

For the full feature, click on the issue cover or grab a copy of Illinois Entertainer, available free throughout Chicagoland.

Janine Schaults

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