Formed in 2004 as Kunek in Stillwater, Oklahoma, the band released one album before emerging as Other Lives in 2009 with their eponymous debut, produced by Joey Waronker of Atoms for Peace. Since then, members Jesse Tabish, Jonathon Mooney and Josh Onstott have recorded Tamer Animals, Mind the Gap EP and now their newest release, Rituals, out via TBD Records.
Following a move from Oklahoma to Portland, OR, Other Lives’ sound has transformed from its folk roots into a more tightly layered, rich experiment in rock. Their new album, Rituals, also marks the slimming down of Other Lives to a three piece of Jesse Tabish, Jonathan Mooney and Josh Onstott. Since their 2011 release, Tamer Animals, the band has toured in support of S. Carey, Bon Iver and Radiohead after the album’s title track was remixed by Thom Yorke.
Supporting Rituals, Other Lives performed “English Summer” in Los Angeles for our House Arrest live music series, and singer Jesse Tabish talked with us about the two year process of its making.
Where are you from?
Stillwater, OK. Population 45,000.
When did you start playing music?
My mother introduced me to piano at the age of five, and soon after I started gravitating towards the guitar.
Who influenced you growing up, and who influences you today?
I grew up listening to The Beatles and Neil Young. They had a huge influence on me early on, then eventually I started getting really into punk music. Now I mostly draw from classical music for influence, especially contemporary.
How and when did you decide that this is what you were going to do?
I knew around the age of 14 that I was going to play music for the rest of my life.
What’s your story of getting started as a musician?
I played in punk bands as a teenager, then around the time I left high school I started making instrumental music and formed a band called Kunek. That was 13 years ago, and we’re still playing music together as Other Lives – most of us at least.
“LA is definitely one of a kind
in terms of the number of great musicians
in one place. It’s something else.”
— Jesse Tabish
How does it feel to have finished your latest album, Rituals? What was the process like?
It was such a relief once we finished Rituals. It took almost two years to make. The process included stripping down songs to the melody and chords, then building the instrumentation up one by one in the studio. We were very interested in technique on this record and wanted to explore new instrumentation we hadn’t used before, particularly orchestral instrumentation. We ended up recording about 25 songs, then narrowed it down to the 14 on the record.
One of the most influential and renowned modern American composers (born 1937), known for his repetitive song structures, classicism, and as a leader in minimalism – a label he attempts to distance himself from.
Who would you most like to collaborate with and why?
It would be a dream to collaborate with a composer like Philip Glass. He’s been a huge influence over the years, and it would be amazing to see his process.
Do you write on the road?
I do write on the road, mostly with a MIDI keyboard and laptop. Being on the road gives you a lot of freedom and time to be creative.
What’s your favorite book, film and music right now?
Right now I’m reading a book called The New Music by Aaron Copland. It’s a historical account of classical music near the end of romanticism. It’s very interesting to get a composer’s account of classical music history, though a little more biased of course.
What are your interests and passions outside of music?
Reading and running.
How do you feel about the rising creative scene in LA? How does it compare to Portland?
I honestly don’t feel like I have a real grasp on any of the scenes in LA or Portland, but LA is definitely one of a kind in terms of the number of great musicians in one place. It’s something else.