Experimental folk band, Other Lives, takes listeners to Mars and back
Imagine yourself immersed in the soothing tenor of some indie-folk crooner wistfully cooing over acoustic guitar and player piano punctuation marks. What do you see? An endless sea of golden grass, waving in the wind? Or do you see rugged, snow-capped peaks, speckled with evergreen stubble?
What about the barren surface of Mars?
If you are picturing an interstellar fighter pilot swooping low over dusty red craters and weaving through crimson canyons, you may be a fan of Other Lives, who are set to bring their other worldly, indie-folk sound to Don Quixote’s on Nov. 1. The music video for this Stillwater, Okla., band’s song “For 12″—off of their 2011 LP, Tamer Animals—finds frontman Jesse Tabish cruising over a Martian-like landscape, stopping to behold the beauty of the rust-colored desert.
In a way, the sense of wonder Tabish’s character reveals with his thousand-yard stare isn’t all that different from the awe the singer/songwriter says he and his bandmates have come to find in their own backyard.
“It wasn’t really until this record that it hit us how beautiful it all is—the desert feeling of the plains here,” Tabish says of the geography and geology surrounding the town where he grew up. Other Lives plays a very “cinematic” brand of folk rock, reminiscent of Balmorhea, an Americana version of Mogwai. “For us, with Tamer Animals, it was really about exploring the landscape of our home, Oklahoma.” And they did so, successfully.
Tamer Animals would serve as an ideal soundtrack for taking in any great, natural expanse. Listening to the record, I was reminded of the two family road trips I took to the Grand Canyon, Zion, Glacier and Yellowstone national parks. As horns and strings rise and fall, as the piano’s heavy chords resound and reverberate, and as Tabish lets out a mournful howl—reminiscent of Fleet Foxes frontman Robin Pecknold—I can remember all those magnificent vistas, and all the peace they brought me from the back seat of the family SUV.
Tabish is heavily influenced by the post rock bands Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Sigur Ros, as well as by the experimental soundscape pioneer Phillip Glass. For Tabish, music is “more about the emotion than trying to write a tune,” he says. “What we’ve always strived to do is to approach songs like movie scores.”
Just as you might imagine a composer like Glass would write, Other Lives is very meticulous. They never “jam” on songs, Tabish says—rather, they slowly build their compositions, brick by musical brick, trying out versions of the same chords on various instruments to get the feeling just right.
And this time around, the band was able to pursue their deliberate method of song-building unhindered by the temporal plain.
The two records they made before Tamer Animals—an EP and a full length, each self titled—were done in the studio, under intense time constraints and the stare of engineers on the other side of the glass, none of which was conducive to the creation of art, Tabish says.
After those experiences, the singer says, the band made a “very conscious decision” to avoid that situation. “We’re going to work on it until we think it’s done,” he said. And so they did. Other Lives worked on their songs for close to 14 months before even entering a studio.
It was worth the wait. After connecting with producer Joey Waronkner, a former drummer for Beck, Elliott Smith and R.E.M., the band emerged with a dreamy spectacle of a record and ultimately caught the ear of Radiohead frontman, Thom Yorke, who made his own spooky remix of the album’s title track.
“It was really humbling,” Tabish says of the acknowledgment from Radiohead, who are labelmates with Other Lives on TBD Records. “It was one of the highlights of my year and career.”
Other Lives plays at 9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1 at Don Quixote’s, 6275 Hwy 9, Felton. Tickets are $12/adv, $15/door. For more information, call 603-2294.