Other Lives: Making mood music for modern times

dmenconi@newsobserver.comFebruary 24, 2012 

  • Who: Other Lives, WIM

    When: 9 tonight

    Where: Local 506,

    506 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill

    Cost: $12

    Details: 967-9053 or

    catscradle.com

Based on his group's evocatively visual music, you'd think that Other Lives frontman Jesse Tabish must have a movie screen kind of mind. The Oklahoma group's latest album "Tamer Animals" (TBD Records) has a majestic, larger-than-life sweep that makes you imagine sepia-toned shots of armies charging at each other across a misty landscape. And yet he is seldom thinking of films while writing.

"I always have a Beatles tune in the back of my head, but those never seem to make the records," Tabish says, laughing a bit. "Even though I write some varied things, what I seem to gravitate toward is darker music where the instrumentation is most important. Certain moods and styles come with that."

Some of those moods and styles sound as if they came from Middle Earth, while others are more along the lines of spaghetti Westerns. In particular, the "Tamer Animals" track "Old Statues" could almost pass for an Ennio Morricone movie soundtrack with lyrics added.

"Oh, I love all those old Westerns," Tabish says. "I had a box set of Ennio Morricone stuff, and I just ate that up for about a year."

Tabish is out with Other Lives on a tour that comes to Chapel Hill tonight. Like their fellow Oklahomans Flaming Lips, Other Lives have a stage show that is complicated to take on the road. Replicating the sound of a good-sized orchestra with only five musicians takes "a horse-trailer full of gear," according to Tabish.

Still, that's a challenge to be relished. By the time Other Lives had finished making "Tamer Animals," they were in the grip of a cabin fever that could only be cured by playing in front of people.

"We didn't actually play any of these songs together in a room until after the record was done," Tabish says. "So we get to see it in a new capacity, too. It's kind of a whole new set of challenges, seeing the music come to life in another way. We're all eager to actually feel the songs rather than intellectualize them."

Menconi: 919-829-4759 or blogs.newsobserver.com/beat

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