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Other Lives interview

| July 31, 2009 | 0 Comments

Other Lives
Dining Out

otherlives

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The five members of the Stillwater, Oklahoma-based collective Other Lives know this all too well — especially when mired in the relentless pace of touring the country in support of the band’s self-titled debut album. Frontman Jesse Tabish is almost rendered speechless at the thought of not pouncing on a steaming plate piled high with the incredible, edible egg on a daily basis. “Oh my Lord, breakfast is like — that’s it. We seek out breakfast like it’s . . .” Tabish trails off. “My thing is like whenever the first meal of the day — it doesn’t matter what time — it’s always breakfast and it’s always breakfast food. Like, I need eggs.”

Appearing: Friday, August 7th at Lollapalooza and later that night at Schubas in Chicago.

The band even compiled a top-three list of stellar breakfast joints on its Myspace page — such is its devotion to the meal. The Tin Shed Garden Café in Portland, Oregon holds the top spot while Café Brazil in Dallas and La Bonita in Portland follow close behind. Chicago is inconspicuously absent from the roster.

“I don’t know if we’ve had a proper breakfast in Chicago,” Tabish admits over the phone from his home in Oklahoma. “We always get the Chicago pizza and it destroys us. Like two pieces and you’re completely done and you feel it in the morning, so yeah, I think that’s why we never have breakfast [in the city].”

Tabish and his multi-instrumentalist traveling companions need the sustenance on the road due to the strenuous nature of the band’s live performances. Despite an elegiac, mellow vibe permeating the album’s 11 tracks, Other Lives knocks it out of the park on stage — a conscious (and much-welcomed) decision on the band’s part. Whether it’s a death-knell marching cover of Leonard Cohen’s “The Partisan” or the band’s own “End Of The Year” — an alluring genre and tempo shapeshifter — Other Lives combines orchestral bombast with precise pop sensibilities to create hypnotizing mini-masterpieces. Forget about trying to take a quick bathroom break or making a beeline for the bar mid-song — your feet and ears will have a different agenda, as those in attendance for Other Lives’ oft-buzzed about South By Southwest ’09 slots can attest.

The record’s standout track, “Black Tables,” unfolds into a stately crescendo after two minutes of undulating piano that should aurally accompany the interactive definition of earworm just to clue the curious in to the phenomenon’s meaning. The musically astute folks over at ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” took notice and prominently featured the song in the primetime drama’s fifth season opener — half a year before the public could even get their hands on a physical copy of the album.

The first thing one notices about Tabish is the unruly mop of hair covering both his head and face — an effort matched only by ’70s-edition Cat Stevens. The second thing is his clear, authoritative vocals — think a cross between John Lennon and Rufus Wainwright at his least nasal — which meld exquisitely with cellist Jenny Hsu’s Lisa Hannigan-esque backing vocals.

Ironically, Tabish kept his pipes under wraps for the early part of his career when the majority of Other Lives recorded primarily instrumental epics under the heading of Kunek. “I had terrible stagefright and I wouldn’t sing around the band for the first year,” Tabish reveals. The unlikely frontman found his voice by the time Kunek released a record (2006’s Flight Of The Flynns) and has since grappled with the phobia that even still plagues a veteran like Barbra Streisand. “I think just playing 60 dates this year or whatever, it really helps. And I don’t really deal with those issues anymore,” Tabish explains.

— Janine Schaults

For more than just a teaser, grab the August issue of Illinois Entertainer, available free throughout Chicagoland.

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