Album cover

Allure's Last Ride

On June 30, 1994, myself and four friends piled into an Acura Integra and a Nissan Pathfinder with little more than a Thomas Guide spiral atlas of California and a few addresses. Three shows in support of Indian Summer and a recording session with Matt Anderson had been booked, but beyond those destinations, little else was planned. Accommodations, budget, and food were secondary concerns. Our priorities were making friends, making noise, and making a record, in that order, and certainly to the detriment of the band. Even an extra hour of sleep might’ve saved Allure.

Allure was the first band I ever fanaged—that fraught limbo between fan and manager where no one is getting paid, authority is constantly questioned, and the likelihood of any kind of breakout moment is nil. We had no official arrangement, just my unflappable energy and their semi-coherent brand of early emo tied us together. Led by high school junior Sam Steinberg on guitar and vocals, the quartet was filled out by scene jester Jeff Pinn on bass, classically trained Tim Tetiva on guitar, and wildcard intellectual Craig Erickson on drums. They had Indian Summer’s recipe of loud/quiet, arpeggiated guitar, and screaming memorized, albeit with their own youthful twist. Inspired by the adulation, or tired of my ceaseless prodding, Adam Nanaa agreed to let them open Indian Summer’s Southern California tour leg in July 1994. We were 17.

We were all so young. This was really the first time that we were on our own without adults. There was this sense of our first real freedom. —Craig Erickson



With the cars jammed to the sunroof with gear, we set off towards Santa Barbara in the late afternoon, myself and Tim in the Acura, Craig, Sam, and Jeff in the Pathfinder. We had just one map between us, the plan was to stay close and if separated to take the Stroke Road exit and sit tight. “That's an admission of what was going on in Allure,” Sam said. “I think Tim had only been in the band a couple months by the time we went on that trip. And then he's in a different car. It isolated someone who may have already felt a little bit like an outsider from the band.” Somewhere around Gilroy, Tim’s lead foot lost the Pathfinder, an easy feat considering Jeff’s pile of teenage speeding tickets and threat of a suspended license hanging overhead. Four hours later the Acura pulled off the 101 and the waiting began. I taped up a sign that read “ALLURE” with a giant arrow pointing towards some unknown locale to the right. An hour passed, then another. Worry began to creep over the Santa Ynez Mountains and dark fantasies of their whereabouts were discussed. Finally, just before 1AM the Pathfinder appeared. They hadn’t even seen the sign.

Our one and only planned sleeping arrangement for the long weekend was at the boyhood home of Jeff Capra, guitarist for the recently deceased Manumission and the newly formed Embassy. How his parents tolerated the fire hose of bands crashing in their living room every weekend was an unanswered question—we never met them. Capra’s bedroom was a mini Library of Alexandria, a near-complete history of post-hardcore in a 12’x10’ box in Goleta. Flyers, records, and zines spilled from every corner, and I stayed up much of the night taping and convincing Jeff to give me an Embassy song for my nascent Eucalyptus compilation. Allure rolled out sleeping bags in the living room, the same spot where Indian Summer’s alter-ego From Ashes Of… recorded their only song. No one had fallen asleep as the sun began to rise—a combination of wrestling, steamrolling, and an impressive watchlight lazer show kept us awake. Our punishment was served at 8AM when we were politely asked to vacate. The first show was nine hours away.

Groggy and in the same clothes from the day before, we descended on downtown Santa Barbara looking for trouble. There was little to be found on State Street before 9AM, so we migrated toward the frigid ocean and reverted to the children we really still were. Karate Kid crane kicks, rock climbing, stone skipping, and crustacean examination filled the morning. Tim even stepped in dog shit. We stumbled into a thrift store and I bought a t-shirt I still miss. It read: Quilcene, Washington: A Town That Will Not Be Forgotten. The sun finally cracked the fog around 2pm, and somehow we were not tired. Yet.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union hall hosted that evening’s event—which in addition to the headliner Indian Summer included Embassy and San Diego’s Julia. Allure was the opener. “You know, we weren't the best band,” Jeff offered. “I felt like we were lucky to be playing with these bands.” There was no stage, the sound system little more than a four channel board and two speakers for the vocalist to scream over. Kent McClard’s Ebullition sold the latest hardcore wares to college kids in the back of the room. I hawked hand-dubbed copies of Allure’s four song demo tape and a few t-shirts we’d screened at the next table over. When they took the stage Sam introduced the band as, “Allure, from Quilcene, Washington.”

They didn’t have that many songs. No more than a dozen had been written and they only played four: “Rise and Run,” “Finding Father,” the recently-written “Weeds,” and their most accomplished work “Little Engine,” an emo retelling of the classic American folktale of optimism and hard work, drenched in octave chords, blast beats, and screaming. An Allure set generally ended when Craig’s drum set did. “I was just playing as hard as I could, giving it as much as I could,” he said. “My drum set would usually come apart and multiple pieces would be scattered round the room. I didn't sit around as a drummer and play for two hours a day to sharpen all my technical skills. We played two or three times a week with the intention of fatiguing ourselves so much that all we wanted to do was eat pizza and tell jokes.”

As Indian Summer was winding through their set, we began to pack up the cars and discuss our options for respite. Casa de Capra was full, and despite Sam’s plea into a dented Shure SM58 for a place to stay we were effectively homeless for the night. With the next show in the San Fernando Valley, we set off into the darkness and hoped that some girl I’d met the previous summer would be home and up for five odorous guys crashing in her living room. “She’s in Europe,” her mother grumpily informed me when we rolled into Ventura County at ten minutes to midnight. We tried getting a room at a nearby Carnival Inn, whose proprietor took one look at our under aged posse before sending us on our way. After getting kicked out of one parking lot for sleeping in our cars, we tried sleeping in K-Mart’s asphalt dreamland. Finally we headed to the venue—a suburban church in Simi Valley—and waited for the promoter to show up and let us in. We brushed our teeth with garden hose water remnants—it was the cleanest we’d been in two days.

The show began promptly at noon, with Allure turning in an underwhelming opening three song set. “No one told us to play a short set,” Sam recalled, “but we were just too tired.” Tensions in the band were high, especially between Tim and Sam, whose drama played out in dueling guitars. “I intentionally started to play more dissonantly and more aggressively in order to complement his more beautiful guitar playing. At some point Tim decided that he didn't like that idea.” The rest of the show was a continuation of the previous night, in the exact same order, with the addition of Drew Gilbert’s Claremont-based Floodgate. Not that any of us watched much of it, we were too busy arguing about how to spend the next 20 hours before our scheduled session at Matt Anderson's Bankers Hill studio in San Diego.

A compromise was made to drive two hours east to Whittier College where Sam’s penpal Emily Dalton and her friend Mindy Cutler were playing a radio station under their Switched At Birth banner. An afternoon of brutal LA traffic later we arrived at the empty, private liberal arts campus, stinky, tired, and a little bored. Switched At Birth’s sloppy riot grrrl set only served to ratchet up the tension, as Jeff and Craig both angled for Mindy’s attention. By dark we were rejiggering the cars so that a dejected Craig could ride in the Acura down to San Diego. Sam and Jeff were invited to the Cutler family’s City of Industry home and agreed to meet us the following morning at Bankers Hill. Mercifully, Julia guitarist Jeremy Miller came through with a carpeted floor in Santee for us to crash on, resulting in the six most luxurious hours of the entire trip.

Matt Anderson was already a legend in 1994. In addition to fronting the peerless post-hardcore/proto-screamo quartet Heroin, he co-founded Gravity, the scene’s most important record label of the era. After learning the basics of multi-track recording from Vinyl Communications’ Bob Barley, he set up his own makeshift studio in a derelict building on Third Avenue, just a few blocks from Balboa Park. Anderson’s fully DIY operation was a deep inspiration to the label I was trying to start, and the idea that Allure would join the pantheon of great records cut by him felt like a nod of approval. In reality, it was just another job for him, one that he’d apparently forgotten to put on the calendar. 

Our fractured caravan miraculously arrived promptly at 10AM for the four hour session, but Anderson was immune to our incessant knocking. While I searched for a payphone, the band walked to Balboa Park for a come-to-Jesus moment about the state of Sam’s guitar playing. “We decided at that point that Sam wasn't going to play guitar on the session,” Craig recalled. “So we were just kind of discombobulated.” Not having any luck with the phone, we resumed banging on the door, and eventually a shirtless and half awake Matt Anderson cracked the studio’s seal and squinted at us while I reminded him who we were. I’m not sure what we were expecting on the other side of that entry way, but Bankers Hill was the least professional studio any of us had set foot in. Debris from Gravity 7” assembly was everywhere. A bare mattress on the floor confirmed Matt’s earlier whereabouts. Cockroaches scurried as the band set up their meager gear. I forked over $100 for four hours and watched all hell break loose.

“Matt looked really tired and unhappy to be there, which I never questioned,” Sam said. “When you're a teenager, you enter these situations where people are kind of disappointed to meet you. One of the reasons Allure didn't make it that far was because we weren't good at networking. We probably could have had a better social interaction with him. Not that he would have signed us to Gravity or anything of the sort. But he was definitely not a bad person to know. And we didn't do anything to make him not disappointed in meeting us.”

But we had dreams. I needed “Little Engine” for Eucalyptus, and there was talk of finding another band to split a 12” with. “We were in the kind of shape where I think four songs was the most we could have recorded,” Sam reflected. “At that point, the tensions were pretty high between us. I think a big part of it was simply that we just weren't sleeping. We were not thoughtful in the selection of songs that we picked. We picked ‘Weeds’ solely on the basis that we liked the drumbeat that Craig came up with. It's just a piece of shit. It's terrible. As the session evolved, it got worse. We acted like fucking crybabies. Tim and I had a big argument about my guitar playing. And then Tim had to record the second guitar track on ‘Finding Father.’ It was excruciating.”

“That's the difference between those two kids,” Jeff reflected. “Tim was serious about the guitar, Sam was serious about being an artist.”

It was hard to watch my friends throw this opportunity away, but having never produced a session I was out of my depth. Beyond standing behind the mixing board nodding while Matt did his best to keep the session from spiraling out of control, I was fairly useless. “If we'd had an extra hour of recording time, it would have been a different thing,” Sam posited. “Or if we'd had an extra hour of sleep, it would have been a different thing. But he did capture where we were as a group at that time: exhausted and frenetic.” A quick mix to DAT was realized while the cars were being packed. None of us could be bothered to listen to our rebel sound of shit and failure. 

The tour’s final show was a stone's throw from the U.S.-Mexico border, upstairs at the Chula Vista Record Store. Nerves were frazzled before Allure’s first note rang out, with Craig and an inebriated patron trading barbs about footwear as the band loaded in. A minute into the show he’d started a mosh pit of one, drunkenly flailing across the maroon carpet before finally punching a random spectator. But where most of this tour had been spent tearing Allure apart, this incident brought the band and the scene together. After forcefully throwing this lunatic down the stairs and into the parking lot, Allure finished their best set of the run, perhaps their best set ever. A crew of skinny emo kids kept him at bay while Nuzzle, Julia, and Indian Summer played to a couple dozen more in that sweltering, mirrored room. Almost everyone in attendance helped Adam, Seth, Marc, Eyad, and their roadie Mark “Alf” Pearsall pack up their van for the long haul across the desert to their next show in Phoenix. “They had this van that looked like they could die in it,” Sam remembered. “They had salt tablets to prevent dehydration if they got caught up in the desert and didn't have enough water.” A last minute invite to join them in Phoenix was tendered but the idea was quickly shot down. “I felt really insecure about the idea. If we go further away from home together, there's a chance that we're going to fucking hate each other more,” Sam continued. “But in retrospect, we probably should have gone. Our cars were pretty reliable.”

Instead we returned to Jeremy Miller’s apartment in nearby Santee, where Sam insisted on sleeping in the Pathfinder out of fear of a feline-induced allergy attack. And while the band didn’t break up that night, it certainly felt like the end of something. Having no plans for the Fourth of July we trekked back to the San Gabriel Valley to El Monte, where Emily Dalton was offering up her pool and a living room for an impromptu show. Some version of Allure played that night, but it wasn’t the band that I’d set out with half a week earlier. “It was a bummer to see all of that happen in four days,” Sam reflected. “I didn't even know there was so much tension in the band until this trip. But all those bands back then broke up after a tour. That was the story of the entire scene. Allure wasn’t immune to it.”

Allure did end up playing a final show a few weeks later. Shroom Union was limping towards home after a long and brutal U.S. summer tour and agreed to play Allure’s Almaden Valley practice space for a handful of kids and a few bucks for gas. None of us knew that we were watching both bands' last performances, it was just another in a series of under-attended shows that were beginning to define our local scene. We were all aging out, searching for something beyond skateboarding and screaming.

“The music was starting to sound a little different, we were evolving,” Craig said. “We started as kind of like a pop punk band and then got progressively more hard. As we got louder, we got more emotive. But we were being pulled into different directions, I was going to college and Tim, Sam, and Jeff had different things going on in their lives. Allure could only exist at that time.”

“We were just in the transition of becoming an actually okay band. We were on the verge of something but we couldn’t hold it together,” Sam said. “It’s a little bit painful to me now. Maybe more painful than it was at the time. You don’t know at 17 that you’re not always going to be in bands with your best friends.”

—Ken Shipley, July 2024, Los Angeles

Post script:

Allure’s Bankers Hill recordings were originally scheduled as the second release on my nascent Tree label in 1995, but the band had other ideas. In a fit of adolescent madness, they destroyed the master tape. "We didn't think that was our best effort,” Sam said. “We were trying to protect ourselves from eventually changing our minds about those recordings."

But minds do change, and thankfully my pack rat tendencies have once again saved the day. The reference cassette Matt Anderson dubbed for us on July 3rd 1994 had been squirreled away in a box for the last three decades, and the Eucalyptus DAT that Bart Thurber helped assemble the following year had a pristine version of “Little Engine.” Small miracles aside, there is a bit of wow, flutter, and hiss throughout this master that were incurable with modern technology.