Other Lives | Still Waters Run Deep

otherlives sqOne thing we’ve always tried to incorporate in our music is composition.

 

 

prof other-lives

On March 9, 2012, I found myself at Scottrade Center for a concert. The concert I came to see was upstaged by the show the opening act put on. From the mezzanine, I felt as if I was peering down into the orchestra pit at Powell Hall. That was the effect hearing Other Lives for the first time had on me, so much so that the feelings/emotions I’d expected would be elicited by the headliners, Radiohead, were exhausted before the band took the stage. I immediately set about finding out as much about them as possible. The music was so stately and impressionistic it felt foreign, such that I was awed to read they were from Oklahoma, a state with which Missouri shares a border. I was in slight disbelief, and then again a part of me was elated that this region had another feather in its cap. It helps to remember that the Flaming Lips, who seemingly come from Mars, are from Oklahoma as well. It pays to check your biases at the door.

At this stage in their career, Other Lives are receiving their due praise. They’ve even become critics’ darlings of a sort, as evidenced by their many appearances on NPR.

Jonathon Mooney was kind enough to answer a few of my questions in light of the release of Rituals, Other Lives’ new album, and a headlining show in St. Louis at Off Broadway on Tuesday May 19.

For those who are less familiar with your band, when and where did Other Lives form?

We formed about 13 years ago in Stillwater, Oklahoma. We originally started playing instrumental music in our living rooms. Eventually, we started incorporating vocals, and soon after that we began to play shows as the band Kunek.

Was there a reason for the name change, and did that impact your approach to making music, as well?

The main reason for the change was the parting of ways with an original band member. He was a really big part of Kunek and we felt it appropriate to change the name.

What’s influenced your approach to songwriting and recording over the previous three releases?

In a way, the previous three releases seem very separate from one another. We’re constantly changing in an effort to not repeat ourselves, and to not get bored, but one thing we’ve always tried to incorporate in our music is composition. In the Kunek record, the lack of definitive song structure with very abrupt turns comes from starting out playing instrumental music heavily influenced by classical. The self-titled record went a little more folk, mainly because of the constraints in the recording and production process, which led us to record on our own for Tamer Animals in an environment where we could have the appropriate amount of time to incorporate composition into our music.

How would you describe the growth of the band and its notoriety?

Slow, but we’ve never been in any hurry. In hindsight, the growth of the band seems like a linear progression over 13 years, just slow and steady.

Have there been any increased pressures on the band to deliver a big record after touring arenas opening for Radiohead on the King of Limbs tour?

Not particularly. There was certainly some pressure felt when opening for them because we’ve been such huge fans, but after the fact it wasn’t really a consideration while moving forward, just a really wonderful memory.

What was the process of writing and recording Rituals? There are a lot more grooves on this album.

Jesse [Tabish] had a lot of song ideas going into the making of this record, and we would take one at a time and deconstruct it and experiment with instrumentation and arrangement. We layered everything one by one until we felt like it was complete. Many times, we would have to go through several drafts of the recording to finally get it right.

What impact does being from the Midwest, if any, have on your perspective as professional musicians? Does it impact the way you feel toward audiences when you play dates in the region?

I think it taught us patience more than anything. Growing up in a town like Stillwater, we were never in any hurry to “make it,” because when you live in a quiet town in the Midwest, you have all the time in the world to make music; you could easily make it by working 20 hours a week and spend the rest of the time working on music, so in a way you had already “made it” because we were in an environment to work on music to heart’s desire without having to make money doing what we love. That allowed us to dream more, and work until we got songs to the point we wanted them, and not worry about deadlines.

With such a gorgeous and cinematic album, do you have any special plans to promote its release with videos, or with the staging of the live show, tie-ins with other media, etc.?

Definitely. We’ve released videos for two songs on the record, “Reconfiguration” and “Two Pyramids,” and we’re working with directors on a couple more. | Willie E. Smith

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