Other Lives Are Tamer Animals: An Interview
Other Lives is an extraordinary, folk-rock band from Stillwater, OK. Their latest release, Tamer Animals, was about sixteen months in the making, and that effort shows in the immaculate, full arrangements and soaring melodies of each track on the record. Frontman Jesse Tabish is responsible for the razor-sharp songwriting that carries the album through. Tabish was nice enough to have a brief chat with me, and here’s what we talked about.
ELM: How’s your tour going?
JT: Great. We just played Butte,MT, and we’re on our way to somewhere.
ELM: You don’t know where, though?
JT: *laughs* Uh-uh.
ELM: I read that it took you about 16 months to write and record Tamer Animals. What was the hardest part about making the record?
JT: The hardest part was finding time. We always knew that if we worked on it hard enough that we would be able to accomplish what we wanted. So that wasn’t a worry, but the time, after 16 months, it can be a little taxing. Knowing when to pace ourselves or take a little break was the most difficult thing to figure out.
ELM: I also saw that you’re a Philip Glass fan. What do you like about his work?
JT: I really appreciate the subtlety of what he does, but, you know, to be honest, I love the way it makes me feel. There’s a real meditative quality and I like to just close my eyes and just drone out to him. It has that meditative quality where the listener becomes a part of it.
ELM: I read that you like to write in the van while you’re on tour. What is it about being on the road that inspires you?
JT: I initially really worried about being in the van and writing, but it’s kind of the less-is-more thing. When you’re confined in this place with one instrument, I’m able to be in my own world even though it may seem confining. There’s a challenge to it. The driving, and there’s constant scenery. There’s something about it that works with me.
ELM: My favorite song on the record is “For Twelve.” Can you tell me more about that?
JT: Actually, I wrote theme of it for my sister’s movie and then I loved the theme so much that I turned it into a tune that I kind of had some vocal melodies from this other idea I was playing along, and the two just happened to come together nicely.
ELM: And what about “Weather?”
JT: It was actually the very first song that was written for this record. It was written in maybe 2OO9, and it was the first day I got home from our first tour, and we were done touring, and it kind of started the whole project in a way.
ELM: Who are your favorite writers?
JT: I like Steinbeck a lot. I’ve been on a kick with him. Vonnegut, I love Vonnegut, Howard Zinn is one of my favorites.
ELM: If you could raise awareness about any social cause, what would it be?
JT: I don’t know. That’s a tough one. There’s a lot of causes out there. We have a friend who kind of started this charity organization called I Empathize, and he has–it’s kind of self-run–but he basically goes over to East Asia and helps go get children out of child prostitution, and so that’s something that our band is wanting to promote.
ELM: What did you learn about music from being on the road with the Decemberists and the National?
JT: I’m not sure. You know, it’s great to see a band in their element and putting on a real proper show, and they have an entertaining quality to them. Seeing a band play in front of three thousand adoring fans is quite a spectacle. But I don’t know; they’re different bands than us. I’m not sure. I’m a big fan of both of them for sure.