Promo photo by Jeremy Charles.
Things have changed drastically for Stillwater, Oklahoma-based band Other Lives since the release of its second album, Tamer Animals. Having been together for almost a decade, their debut album was greeted with overwhelming critical acclaim, but word about the album simply didn’t spread. Tamer Animals, which the band self-recorded and self-produced throughout 14 months, brought Other Lives something they never saw coming: fans.
Other Lives, which includes Jesse Tabish (vocals, piano, guitar, percussion), Jonathan Mooney (violin, horns, piano, percussion), Jenny Hsu (cello, backing vocals), Josh Onstott (bass, percussion) and Colby Owens (clarinet, percussion), has won over listeners through their beautifully written stories and melodies of orchestral/folk-rock. Today, the band has toured with Bon Iver, traveled to Europe and back, has earned a spot in Coachella 2012, and is about to embark on a tour—with Radiohead. A wonderful twist for a band who thought they might never make it.
Jesse Tabish took some time to talk about Tamer Animals, the gift of writing and the incredulity of touring with one of the world’s all-time favorite bands.
I remember when reviewing Tamer Animals, I mentioned it would appeal to Radiohead lovers, and now you’re touring together. Do you remember when you got confirmed to open? What were your reactions like?
Tabish: We were on a long, long drive and we kinda heard there might be a chance, but we got a phone call and it was pretty stunning. It was definitely a moment I’ll remember forever.
You’ve toured so much in the past year. Has there been a favorite show—or better yet, a show that’s become particularly memorable?
Tabish: We did some shows at our studio, and we’d been kind of holed up for 16 months, I think our friends and family didn’t really know what we were up to. And I just remember the first time we played from Tamer Animals and the first time people heard it, and it was just a really, really special moment, to be able to share that with our friends. But there’s been so many shows, a lot of good ones and a couple of bad ones too, but it’s been an enjoyable eight months.
Your fan base is growing bigger and bigger every day. What’s been the most surprising change so far?
Tabish: You know, I’m not sure yet. When you’re in the band, you’re kind of in the bubble, you know? We’re living day by day, but for the first time we’ve had our headlining tour at the end of last year and I think it’s the first time we realized we actually have fans. It was cool to see that the record’s out there and everything’s working out.
And you guys had been together for years until you finally started to become widely known—do you remember a particular moment when you thought or you realized, huh, people know who we are now?
Tabish: Right, totally, I mean I figure maybe it was in San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, that people came out to the shows and I thought, “Wow this is actually really happening.” It was very cool.
What are you most excited about from these upcoming months? Radiohead, Coachella? Going back home and sleeping for a straight week?
Tabish: I would definitely say Radiohead. I hope a little Radiohead magic can rub off on the band, I think they’re such a great example of a band who’s done it, and done it for all the right reasons and continue to this day to make such exciting music. I’m also excited to be around them and just kind of learn from a great band, to learn how to do it all.
Apart from Radiohead, is there another band you would love to tour with?
Tabish: There’s a couple of bands I think would just be cool, but I think Menomena is just fantastic, they’re a really great band. I think it would be a good bill.
If Other Lives were to suddenly disappear tomorrow—what would you take away from this experience?
Tabish: Well, I would say I really regret being in a band for so long. I should have quit 5 years ago, I’m so serious. You know, one thing, I mean I guess there’s been moments in the past 10 years when I have wanted to quit. But I would be really disappointed because this is the first time the band is actually a proper band, we’re functioning like a real band. So maybe I take that back.
I read that you’ve been writing songs since you were 8 years old. What music did you grow up with?
Tabish: The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. My mom was a pianist, so I also grew up with a lot of classical music. And still, I don’t know, I just remember always wanting to write music or being interested in it.
It’s in your blood.
Tabish: I would say so, I think it is.
Now when you’re on the road, what do you listen to?
Tabish: I always get so tired of my iPod and recently I’ve been listening to Pandora, and whatever comes up, I always stumble upon new artists. I kinda get bored of listening to music that I’ve heard too many times before.
A theme in Tamer Animals was nature. Is that generally a recurring theme in your writing?
Tabish: It is definitely one of the themes, and I think I’m really interested in the relationship of human and environment and how they affect each other.
What else do you write about? Is it only songs?
Tabish: You know, the interesting thing is I always write the music first. I start out with the musical idea. You know, sometimes I’ll try to be in a certain setting or landscape and try to capture that, but after that, then lyrics come in and I try to make that work, and then I put in a meaning to them afterwards.
Any plans for future albums? If so, will you guys continue to self-record and self-produce?
Tabish: That’s something we’ve been discussing a lot. I’ve been writing a lot the past few months, especially on the road. I think on the short term, we’re gonna put together an EP for this fall. But we do want to record this in a different way, and to be honest we haven’t quite figured out how or where. But I definitely want to self-produce again but I wouldn’t ever shut out working with someone else either.
What makes you happiest?
Tabish: Writing music. When I’m by myself, writing, that’s it for me. When I’m at that place, it makes me really happy.
Watch the music video for “Tamer Animals” from Other Lives below.