It'd be easy to pigeonhole Oklahoma music as solely focused on red dirt country (see: Cross Canadian Ragweed) or dust-bowl folk (see: Woody Guthrie) were it not for the contributions made by the likes of the Flaming Lips, Evangelicals, Starlight Mints and Stardeath & White Dwarfs in recent years.
Another act that will surely help that image transformation: Other Lives.
Born out of the bustling college town of Stillwater (perhaps more well-known for being home to Eskimo Joe's than to Oklahoma State University), Jesse Tabish and the crew he has assembled to form his band craft a picturesque and skillful brand of chamber-folk. In fact, their second album, the upcoming Tamer Animals (due on May 10 from TBD Records), is a pastoral and intricate collection that many North Texas residents might more closely identify with what the beards of Denton are doing than what we tend to think goes on north of the Red River.
Currently, the still-young band has the good fortune of opening a few shows for The Decemberists, as that group of world conquerors fills room after room on their headlining tour in support of their well-received new release, The King is Dead. And it just so happens that the sold-out House of Blues stop on the Decemberists tour tomorrow night will be one of the shows Other Lives will open.
Given that, we spent some time over the phone this week with Other Lives leader Tabish to talk about ceding creative control, writing songs for the studio instead of the stage and how the concept of a band is just too traditional. Check out our Q&A after the jump.
Other Lives -- "For 12"
At least here, in Texas, many know Stillwater to be a hotbed of country and roots rock. What type of indie-rock community is there in Stillwater?
It is a very small, but close group of musicians. We share a studio with Colourmusic, who have been working simultaneously with us over the last eight years. They have been great friends and have been an inspiration.
Your songs are so intricately prepared and detailed from a musical standpoint. When you're formulating a song for the studio, how much of your thought goes towards how that tune will sound in a live setting, in front of a crowd?
No thought at all, actually. We did the opposite, and tried to be idealistic and adhere to the music or to the song. We figure we would deal with the consequences later. To me, the writing of music has always come first.
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As the primary writer for the band, you have so much control over the music. What's it like for a guy with such a specific vision to work with a producer who may not share your vision at all times?
I've had it go both ways, but I think overall, in my experience, the artist knows best. That's not to say an outside perspective is not welcome.
You provided an intriguing quote recently. You said that you would rather the group "be more of an ensemble than a rock band." What's the difference?
I guess an ensemble can be any number of people or instruments. In the context that I spoke of, I meant the traditional rock format. Bass, drums, guitar, etc...
Given that you are looking to get away from the traditional concept of "a band," you seem to still appreciate the traditional concept of the full-length album. So many are saying that the album as an individual work of art will soon be dead, but your new album is an impressive, cohesive document. Are the rumors of the album's demise premature?
I do still believe in the traditional idea of the record. I feel it is the only medium that I know of that can be used to express a complete body of work, which I believe is still relevant in music today.