Some call the music of Other Lives folk, but it's wider than folk—pieces are more orchestrated. The longing in the acoustic passages isn't orchestrated, however; the longing is innate, and lives in the voice of Jesse Tabish. Sounds of Other Lives are like an old piano, weathered but not threadbare. Live, the Stillwater, Oklahoma, five-piece continually shift instruments—violin, cello, keys, trumpet, clarinet, drums, bass, and guitar; they move yet remain fused. This past February and March, the band opened for Radiohead and even had Thom Yorke remix a track. Something Other Lives do embodies déjà vu. The ninth song, "Desert," from their second album Tamer Animals, for instance—as it unfolds, you imagine a late October day. You take a book you've never seen before off a shelf in a used bookstore and randomly flip to a page. What you read is familiar, too familiar, because you wrote it in a previous life. You had worked for Norfolk and Southern Railroad as a conductor and had recurring dreams that you were an ant. Then you felt a need to visit the Onon River in Mongolia, where you met someone, married, and settled as a pear farmer. Jesse Tabish spoke. He was in Stillwater, not Mongolia.
Everything you say is now on the record. So talk dirty. Tell me something disgusting, with as much profanity as possible.
Let's just straight up shit-talk. Really slam some people.
Talk shit on Thom Yorke right now.
[Pauses.] That guy. Man. Okay. I can't [laughs]. I don't have anything bad to say. It's impossible for me to shit-talk him.
He has no talent whatsoever.
He's never influenced me, ever.
What have you been in your previous lives? Maybe you were Genghis Khan. Maybe you were an ant. I take it from the name of your band that you believe in reincarnation.
Not necessarily, but I'm not opposed to it either. I've given reincarnation some thought, yes, but I don't totally subscribe to it. If I have had previous lives, I'd like to think that I was some sort of animal—something that had a 20-minute lifespan. Some sort of small fly.
Who's the actor in the video for "Dust Bowl III"? How did it come together? How did the director work it?
That video was actually the winner of a contest. We decided that we'd have somebody else make the music video, and there were so many amazing videos that came in. We had nothing to do with the direction or anything—it came in, and we were like, "This is the one." To see other people's interpretation of our song is really cool. I don't know who that actor is.
Where does the title of your album Tamer Animals come from? Does it come from you being an amoeba in a previous life?
It came from my friend Adam Wright, who is a poet. He gave me a book of poems that he'd written called Tamer Animals. It instantly hit me. And it spoke to some of the themes that were in the record—humans and their environment, and how the two affect each other. I asked him if I wrote a song, could I use that as the title. Then I rushed home and wrote the song.
How did it come about that Thom Yorke remixed it?
He approached us with the idea. I was floored. What an honor—to have my favorite artist remix one of our tracks. I love the way it turned out. We've never really experimented as a band with that dance/DJ sound. We gave him the stems, and he did his thing. He did a version while we were on tour with them—it definitely made me feel like the cool kid at the dance party. To hear it in that context, with his touch on it, was a real high point. He continues to put out such incredible, futuristic work.
You all are about to leave for tour. How do Other Lives adapt to the mobile existence of life on the road?
We leave tomorrow for Denver. We've toured so much this year—more touring than I've ever done in my life. I've gotten used to always being on the go, to being in new places all the time. The last couple months touring over in Europe, we were getting pretty tired.
What's Stillwater like? How do the people of Stillwater compare to the rest of the world?
I think people are people wherever you go—Stillwater is a typical college town, stocked with perpetual 20-year-olds. I'm almost 30 now, and it's getting to a point where my friends and the life I once knew here have kind of moved on. The town is not what I once knew it to be, but it's quiet here; I like that.
Where's the spot to eat? What is the state pancake of Stillwater?
There's this Thai place called Thai Cafe—I've eaten a lot of Thai from all over, and this place holds up. For the state pancake, there's Shortcakes. They have amazing breakfasts—it's like the greasy diner at two in the morning that you go to and then end up regretting in the morning.
What's some music out of Stillwater that you dig?
We just played a show with our good friends Colourmusic. They've been like our brothers for 10 years. We've made records simultaneously at the same time over the years. Wait, simultaneously at the same time is redundant. But you get it. We're close to them—we show them our songs before anyone else and play on each other's records.
How is the next Other Lives album coming?
We have an EP coming out called Mind the Gap that we did on the road—it might be out by the time this goes to press. Thom's remix is on there. One song kind of has an electric feel, but it's not really a direction we're heading, it just kind of popped up—we'll be playing it live. We released Tamer Animals a little over a year ago, so it's nice to have some material out there. And yes, we're working on the next record.
When you get to Seattle, you have to hit this place in the U-District called Thai 65. It's right down the street from where y'all are playing. Get the Avocado Curry.
I will definitely try to hit that.