For the musicians we love, we do incredible things. We support their art every time they pass through town, and we tuck their LPs under our arms to transport to friends' houses with the intention of making other converts. There's the strained cotton of the overly worn band T-shirt we can't bear to remove from the clothing rotation, or that one song that elbows its way onto every mix we make. This love can take many forms, but there is an invisible threshold—a personal Maginot Line, if you will—that usually involves ink and skin; when your appreciation manifests in a tattoo, that is devotion taken to a whole new level.
The loyalty of many the Album Leaf fans has crossed that very threshold. Following the lead of frontman Jimmy Lavalle, supporters have inked themselves with the band's logo (a tastefully drawn single leaf). Explains Lavalle, "I got my tattoo, then we played a show in Austin, and this girl had the tattoo as well. Then it just started this thing." After an online gallery of tattoo-holders was posted (currently over 40 participants are represented), Lavalle decided to reward such unwavering commitment by admitting those with the tattoos into the Album Leaf shows for free, for life. It's a similar concession to the one once made by another San Diego act, Rocket from the Crypt, and Lavalle recognizes the gravity of such fandom: "It is a tattoo, and I feel like I should honor it."
Attaining the level at which fans progress from fleeting to permanent has been a decade-plus climb for Lavalle and the Album Leaf. Originally a modest, unassuming solo exercise in precise instrumentals—a masterful counter to the dramatic flair of his other instrumental band, Tristeza—it spawned into a massive project that took Lavalle away from everything else, leading to collaborations with members of Sigur Rós, a record contract with Sub Pop, and countless other accolades. They have scored far too many television shows to mention here, and have been at the forefront of a minimalist post-rock movement. The sun has long since set on solo instrumental days: Lavalle now sings, supported by a skilled backing outfit that evolved from hired guns to integral components of the songwriting process.
This week, the Album Leaf head north to Bear Creek Studio, outside Seattle, to start a new recording, their first as a full outfit. The results of this recording session will see the light of day later this year, perhaps to convince another segment of the fanbase to make their dedication permanent.