Other Lives are set to release their highly anticipated album Tamer Animals on May 17th on TBD Records and are rehearsing every day for SXSW and their upcoming tour with S. Carey of Bon Iver. Be sure to catch them at their stop in San Francisco at Cafe Du Nord on May 25th! You can purchase tickets for that Bay Area show here. They answered some questions about the new album, the songwriting process, and they even shared some new lyrics.
Is there any specific reason for recording the new album in your hometown? Does being in your hometown for the past 14 months provide inspiration in a way that another place could not?
The first reason was time. This record took us over 16 months to write, produce and record and it was full time job. We did it a song at a time so we were constantly recording ideas to see what worked, because on this record it was the only way to know if it would work since it wasn’t a record that was written in a room with everyone playing together. Instead it was one thing at a time. I’m not sure how much 16 months in a studio would cost out west, but probably more than we’d be willing to pay. Also, we have a great studio space where we are very comfortable and a town that is very hospitable to creativity. We couldn’t imagine doing it any other way.
What are some of the major themes covered by the new material?
A common theme is the observation of the relationship between nature and people. Even geographical observations. For example, Dust Bowl III is one of 3 songs about the Dust Bowl (the other two didn’t make it on the record) that we did is and it fits with the observational theme of nature and people that is throughout the record. We’ve been really intrigued with the imagery of the Dust Bowl as well as the connection we have with the history being from Oklahoma.
In the bands opinion, what are some of the major differences between the self titled and this new record? Any new things/instruments that the band decided to record?
In this record we approached each song with the realization that just because we play a certain instrument doesn’t mean it belongs in the song. We explored a lot of new mediums, sometimes to the extent that we would practically write ourselves out of the song.
Are there any particular songs the band is extremely proud of, perhaps certain sections of songs (verse, chorus, bridge) that stand out?
Dark Horse is really important to us because it was the first song we used the new medium and approach on. Also, after we recorded the song was when we realized we could do this record ourselves. It was the first song we went at with our new mindset for this record, there’s no guitar, barely any piano, no bass guitar and once it was done we realized that there’s nothing in the way of us doing what we wanted to do.
Can you share with us some lyrics of a new song (besides For 12)?
Here’s the verse to Tamer Animals:
Solitary motion in the wake of an avalanche
Deer in the headlights, there goes a weaker one
I was listenin to Fascades, I don’t care enough to see the way
Do you hear the silence, I was far too late.
Joey Waronker (drummer from Beck) assisted with the self-titled debut. Has he assisted in the creation of the 2nd album? Are there any guest appearances from members of other bands on this album?
We approached Joey about a year into the record and showed him what we were up to. He really liked it and we made plans to have him come up and work on some percussion stuff and just hang out. Eventually during our collaboration we decided to mix it with him. Over the last few years we’ve become good friends with Joey and have always enjoyed working with him. He has a great ear and really knows what he’s doing.
What are some of the short term and long term plans for Other Lives surrounding the release of the new album in terms of tours, videos, singles, etc? Will Other Lives play support or headline soon?
Right now we’re rehearsing everyday to prepare for sxsw. After that we’ll start touring in May until who knows when.
After a great tour with The Decemberists and lots of positive feedback, it may have felt like new material or a new album had to be released soon. I’ve noticed you guys are taking your time. How important is it to not rush the artistic/music creation process?
We believe it’s extremely important not to be rushed in the creative process. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to work hard. This record was a full time job during the whole process and it still took as long as it did. We’re very happy with the record, and the fact stands that it wouldn’t have turned out the same if we hadn’t taken as long.
People that make great music are usually fans of other people that make great music. What albums is the band currently spinning? Any bands that are off the radar for blogs/media that we should know about?
Listening to a lot of Phillip Glass – “Glass Works”, Stravinsky – “Firebird”, Max Richter, Ravel, Brian Eno and The Ramones – “Self-Titled”.
In the Songwriters On Process interview with Jesse, he mentions reading A People’s History and sharing a lot of the political views as the author. I also noticed “Paper Cities” seems to be about the division that war can cause? What is “Paper Cities” really about? And can we expect some politically oriented songs on the new album?
We do have a lot of strong political views but we made a conscious effort not to be too outspoken on this record but instead be more observational. The purpose of this record is not to communicate an opinion but instead to convey what we want to hear in music.
Photography by Jeremy Charles