We caught up with Other Lives’ songwriter and frontman Jesse Tabish at North London venue The Lexington to discuss his chamber-pop project’s current release Tamer Animals, touring and classical music.
Hailing from Stillwater, Oklahoma, just five minutes from untouched plains and a vast expanse of the American Mid-West, Other Lives formed from a period of transition in Jesse Tabish’s experimental solo project Kunek. “[That] was my first project which started off as very instrumental before turning into something with lyrics.” It wasn’t something groundbreaking or original he is keen to admit: “I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel or anything“. But for someone with such a love of instrumental and classical composition it seemed the next logical step to somehow merge those worlds with that of songwriting.
“I didn’t study music at school, but I was a guitar teacher for nine years and I love classical music: Philip Glass, John von Rhein and one that I really love is Johann Johansson. Those particularly of the minimal style really influenced [Tamer Animals] alongside Ennio Morricone who did all the Westerns soundtracks and compositions.” Classifying himself much more as a musician than a lyricist Tabish describes his approach to lyric writing almost as a literal ‘roll off the tongue’ kind of method. “Lyrics for me just come out of natural things I say. Sometimes when you’re just singing; these natural syllables and phrases come out so you’re almost singing the words before you know them. I always follow that because I think ‘Well that’s the way it should be then.’ I like to think I form word and then meaning around that.”
There’s a running darkness and cinematic hue to Other Lives’ sound, one that at times recalls film noir and landscapes, something which Tabish recalls he almost always has in mind when composing. “I’m always looking for a landscape, and for that films are quite an influence“, he states citing There Will Be Blood as one of his favourite movies and soundtracks; a fitting compliment given Radiohead’s current praise for ‘For 12’. They’re none too short of celebrity fans and fellow musician followers as Jesse rhetorically exclaims over spotting Yann Tiersen at a recent gig: “I really hope he liked it.”
With Tamer Animals the band’s first official release in the UK and Europe there is an air of confidence and gratefulness, and speaking on their reception for album and tour alike Tabish remains ever humbled. “I just feel lucky to be able to be over here and tour, the drives are certainly shorter“, he jokes. “I definitely feel like I was ready on the second record [to tour Europe and the UK], Tamer Animals is something I’m very proud of and that I want people to hear. With our last record we were just getting our footing in some ways, whereas this time I just want to play it.”
This follow up to 2009’s eponymously titled debut (a Stateside only release) charted sixteen months from fruition to completion. A project of such length that the band put down to experimentation with self-production and engineering – feats they had never attempted previously. With the songwriting and composition taking up most of this period the recording process became a quick six week stint at the band’s own studio where it was produced by the five members, and later mixed by Beck’s drummer Joey Waronker. “We said at the beginning ‘we’re not going to worry about how to play this live’, but then after we recorded it we had this sort of situation where we had to consider how we were going to do this.” As it happens, for a band graced with multi-instrumentalists whose members on occassion swap instruments onstage and in extra special occasions play two at once, there never seemed to be a dilemma surrounding recreating the sound or even altering it. Tabish explains that they don’t wish to divert too much from the recording, maybe only embelishing with a few interludes here and there in order to “keep the set growing and alive…you don’t want to get into a repetitious tour. The record [is] our road map and we just [follow] that“.
With opening slots for The National and The Decemberists behind them, Other Lives are back to the US to tour the West Coast with Bon Iver in Autumn, followed by East Coast dates with Mates of States before returning to the UK just before Christmas. “I’m OK just hoping around England eating breakfasts…do a pub tour maybe. I’m all in for the English experience.”
Other Lives UK tour dates:
Oct 18th London Shepherds Bush Empire (w/ Chapel Club)
Oct 20th Bristol Cooler
Oct 21st Cardiff SWN
Oct 22nd Liverpool Leaf
Oct 23rd Dublin Academy 2
Oct 25th Glasgow Captain’s Rest
Oct 26th Middlesbrough Westgarth
Oct 27th Leeds Nation of Shopkeepers
Oct 29th Nottingham Bodega
Oct 30th Manchester Deaf Institute
Nov 22nd Brighton Audio