Interview: Other Lives

Other Lives is an indie rock quintet from Stillwater, Oklahoma. A baroque arrangement of strings, electric keyboards and horns on their lush 2011 album “Tamer Animals” opened the door for them to support Bon Iver on tour that spring. This year they played with Radiohead for the North American portion of the King of Limbs tour, which culminated with Coachella 2012 and two gigs in between in Mexico City.

Death and Taxes met with Jesse Tabish, the multi-instrumental leader of Other Lives, after the group performed on Friday at the Gobi Stage at Coachella to a massive audience.

How does it feel to play before thousands of music lovers in extremely hot weather? Were you miserable, or did it make you feel exhilarated?
Jesse Tabish: You know, it’s funny. About a week ago I was really sick. I was really ill and whatever, but with today being hot it doesn’t matter. For some reason, from that moment when you get on stage — I’ve even had to pee so bad before a show —suddenly everything is forgotten. Having an experience with real people and being there in that moment, you forget about all kind of ailments. It’s a really strange effect that comes over you.

Would you say it’s like submitting to your instincts or muscle memory?
JT: Yeah, and there’s this adrenaline that comes in. And it doesn’t matter about bad monitors or shitty sound. You’re trying to get to something. You know, we’ve been doing this over and over again for the past year, so you kind of get into this rhythm of it being a part of your day. It’s a very cerebral kind of thing. So, I don’t really know what I’m trying to say other than it’s a hypnotic part of your day. It’s normal in the best way.

It must be like reaching some form of enlightenment, where you’re experiencing something with other people that’s beyond thought.
JT: That’s exactly what it is. I like that you said beyond thought, because after a while you’re not thinking anymore and you’re just believing and feeling it and, well, what a fantastic place to be! And it doesn’t happen every night, brother. It doesn’t. But when it does happen, you recognize it for what it is, because it’s what it should be.

By playing four gigs between Coachella and Mexico City over the last eight days, tens of thousands of music lovers have seen you play. You have to see this intensity in a positive light not only for yourself but also for everyone in indie rock, wouldn’t you say?
JT: You know what, I’m very happy to be a part of the music time period right now, because it’s a very word-of-mouth kind of old-school way of music again. There’s so much music out there. Anyone can promote themself in a heartbeat, right? But it’s really come down to this very real thing of playing shows again. Nobody’s bought and sold. Music listeners are so savvy and so smart, and I love them for that. They’re not easily fooled.

The cream does rise to the top better these days, and maybe it’s because big brother has diminished in the music industry?
JT: I agree with that. And that pool has gotten larger and larger. Look at Bon Iver. He won a Grammy, how fantastic! That world has grown and grown larger than what it was 10 years ago, because the big corporate companies don’t have ownership on art like they used to. Artists, they’re not into it. It doesn’t allow them what they want to do.

You can also look at the success of Record Store Day and how it’s become something of a national holiday.
JT: I know, man. It’s grassroots. There you go, man.

Your head must feel like it’s in the clouds, and not because of the heat, but from playing with the likes of Bon Iver, Caribou, Radiohead, and all the others at this festival. Do you expect that these experiences will affect how you write your new record?
JT: Yeah, completely. It doesn’t affect the actual notes I’m gonna write, but it affects a kind of different idea of wanting to connect with larger audiences. Obviously, right? Because it’s not about the dollar; it’s about getting a positive message out to more people. It’s so simple. So, Other Lives hopes to go there and put out a positive message to more people. If that happens, I don’t know, but we hope to progress the idea.

But this is an education that you’re gaining on the fly, which otherwise would be inaccessible, I guess you can say.
JT: You have goals. A year ago we started out hoping that we would just be able to play for 200 people and now it’s risen. But it’s about getting it out to more people. It’s such a silly, simple idea. That’s it.

It’s almost the most elementary thing you could want as an artist.
JT: I wish I could be poetic about it, but I’m not. It’s about getting a good message out and putting people in a positive place.

The band must be pretty psyched about the success you’ve seen this past year and that it’s coming out of all your hard work.
JT: We’re very happy, but we take what has happened and now take it to the next idea, you know, and progress the positive experience and try to make it more positive.

Are you planning on staying at Coachella for the duration?
JT: Yeah, I think so, man. I’ll go see Godspeed again for the second time and see Radiohead again for the eighteenth time. That show doesn’t get old.