Stillwater Oklahoma's Other Lives bring gigantic swells of beautiful, yet profoundly macabre moods to this session captured in one of our favorite urban hideaways. With a sound that could have been lifted from the finales of the best spaghetti Westerns, the band powers this performance with a bevy of exquisite instrumentation. Swells of autoharp, eerie cuts of strings, ghostly peels of harmonium and a percussive drive that gallops off into the sunset make for gorgeous compositions that lie somewhere at the intersections of classical and pop constructions. Along the way singer Jesse Tabish tangos with dark subject matter that cloud over "Tamer Animals", "Old Statues" and "Dust Bowl III". Touching on the meaning of human existence, mankind's apocalyptic capabilities of destroying our environment, and what simple sustenance might require in the future, our latest session is a deep and reflexive experience; one of the finest sessions we've had the chance to capture this year.
that one of pop music and the other is of classical music. And in no way I would claim to call myself a composer yet, but it's the idea of taking, you know, a lot of layers and talking about more of dimension and, you know, writing for eight or nine parts that kind of fit together. So I think that's a really interesting thing. Instead of, you know, how you use chords basically. And so, there's five of us, and how many things can five people do, you know. It's different from a pop song in the sense that that, it's like a lot of instrumental music as well, that it leaves the listener to participate more. You see, I mean, it's more of a, you know, they can kind of conjure up the setting and place and participate with it in sort of meditation. I awoke Troubled by awful sounds Where the sky was dim and city shinin' One by one We're turning the old statue Now I've seen All they have offered me Now my words will simply die One by one We're turning the old statue Oh the leaves of the grass Death beneath our feet has now given way there in the land mass Inhabits the earth the many long years of wondering Oh the water will part Clear us of this mess Restore our good name Grace us at our death And rise from above Suddenly you feel in the air Wake inside And all of the years you tried If my mind relents Then I will hide One by one We're turning the old statue Ahh, Ahh The thing is about Tamer Animals, my very good friend wrote a book of poems and he handed it to me and the copy of it, the name of it was called Tamer Animals. And I instantly called him up and I said, "You have to let me use that. " It's everything, you know, what we were discussing in the record of us as humans, you know, grappling with our environment and it with us. So, you know, I, like, went home and, like, wrote the song immediately, so...but it just said a lot to me. It kind of embodied the whole record. You know, all living things have the same fate. And sometimes I think, as humans, there's this disconnect of us as being an animal. You know, we're so technologically advanced, but, you know, sometimes we forget that we are a species on this Earth. Solitary motion In the wake of an avalanche Deer in the headlights There goes a weaker one He's listenin' to fast gaze I don't care now to see the way Do you hear the silence? I was far too late Living for the city And it's always troubling To keep it in the right lane I don't care about no scenery And you run from it and now you can't escape But it's all you see But we're all just an end to a simple thing And it's all you see It's all you see We're just tamer animals We're just tamer animals Solitary motion In the wake of an avalanche We took a hit there Tryin' to see if you hold it in And you run from it and now you can't escape But it's all you see But we're all just an end to a simple thing And it's all you see It's all you see We're just tamer animals We're just tamer animals We're just tamer animals Dust Bowl III is very kind of close to us because on one part it's about the Oklahoma dust bowl and, you know, that made sense because, you know, it was a time where, you know, people were unaware of what they were doing to their environment. And so I thought that also, you know, had a lot of modern context too, of us not being aware of our industry as well and, you know, not using the Earth properly. But then there's also a real human element to it and us, as people, just tryin' to get by. The lines on your father's face The skyline is not seen for many days It feels as though we'll never return back here The line returns to the dust Is there any way To get this weight off my skin And find another one Is there anyone To get this writin' off the wall Find another one Just like the wind blows into the great unknown We're on our way, we are on our way Moving west may bring us better days We're on our way, we are on our way Is there any way To get this weight off my skin Find another one Is there anyone To get this writin' off the wall Find a new one I'm most proud about, I think, who we've become as people, you know. We've been a band for ten years and we really like each other still, you know. There's a lot of love in our group and I think that says a lot because, I mean, I think we are proud about the record that we put out and so we want to do it every night and so there's that. That's what's kept us going for two years, you know, on the road.
There's no point in trying to unearth an obvious "single" in Other Lives' second album, Tamer Animals. Here's a better idea instead: succumb. Let every last song wash over you like proper long players once did, from the swift strings and pulsating hornsa technique learned from old Philip Glass LPsof "Dark Horse" to the richly orchestrated denouement of "Heading East," a cut that could have been cribbed from the early instrumental sessions of Other Lives' old band Kunek.
"The core of that band is still with me," says frontman Jesse Tabish, who founded Kunek with cellist Jenny Hsu and drummer Colby Owens. "In a lot of ways, it's still what I gravitate towards, songwriting wise."
Unlike their self-titled debuta studio-bound effort that was produced by Beck's longtime drummer, Joey WaronkerTamer Animals was tracked in the privacy of the band's own space in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Waronker eventually mixed the entire affair and sanded down its edges, but it took Other Lives 14 months to get to that point.
We're not talking about lazy Sunday sessions here, either. More like 11 songs that were carefully sculpted over time, with certain sounds creeping up when the record called for them, and nothing that's forced or rushed.
"Every sound has a purpose without being too indulgent," explains Tabish. "There's nothing like, 'Hey, let's rock out on this!' It's homemade in a way. For better or for worse, it's all our sound."
That sound amounts to one hell of a sweeping listenan atmosphere, a mood, a state of mind. So while you might find yourself going back to the minor-key melodies of "Dust Bowl III" or the Morricone-caliber arrangements of "Old Statues" more often than not, it's all part of a greater whole. And since Tabish prefers treating his vocals like an instrument, the lyrics are left open to interpretation.
To be honest, they don't even matter in the end. What matters is how Tamer Animals makes you feel; how it aims to hit you in the chesthard, like the Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Sigur Rs LPs that made Tabish want to write this kind of music in the first place. (If you can believe it, he played in punk bands as a kid and didn't resume the piano lessons he started in third grade until he was 18.)
"I'd rather us be an ensemble than a rock band," he says. "That's my goalto get away from those traditional ideas. It's not a strength in numbers kinda thing, either, where 12 people are on stage and five of them are playing the same melody. When the music calls for that many players, we'll go there. We'll destroy the band itself."
He's smiling as he says that. And frankly, so are we.