It’s a Friday night at The Parish and there’s a good size crowd on hand for Other Lives, even though they are an opening act tonight. The band’s sophomore LP, Tamer Animals, has been making waves and there’s clearly some buzz building around it. Other Lives has recently played KCRW’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic” show in Los Angeles, which is most fitting as the band may well epitomize the concept of the show.
The Stillwater, Oklahoma band brings a truly eclectic sound to the table, with almost everyone in the band playing multiple instruments to help bring out a lush and often hypnotic vibe. Singer/guitarist/pianist Jesse Tabish is the ringleader, but he’s got a diverse crew around him and the band’s multi-instrumental skills impress throughout their set. “I’d rather us be an ensemble than a rock band,” says Tabish at the band’s web site. “That’s my goal—to get away from those traditional ideas.”
Other Lives have definitely obtained this goal, as the sound coming from the stage is anything but traditional indie rock. An early song in the show finds quadruple threat Jonathon Mooney moving from guitar to trumpet to xylophone, while cellist Jenny Hsu plays some violin too. “For 12”, one of the highlight tracks from Tamer Animals, stands out with cello from Hsu that lends the tune a vintage Moody Blues vibe. Tabish’s vocals have a haunting quality that recalls the spacey imagery from the song’s video, where he plays an astronaut on what seems a stark journey. Mooney plays violin here too, and the song takes on an orchestral quality that sounds like it comes from a group with far more than five members.
The new album’s ambient title track is another winner. Tabish plays acoustic guitar while Mooney starts off on xylophone before he and bassist/organist Josh Onstott both pull out bows to play their axes. The trick visually recalls Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, but the sound is again more orchestral, although drummer Colby Owens lays down a solid beat to propel the tune which builds in majestic fashion.
Tabish takes a moment to note how the band has really enjoyed being on tour with The Rosebuds, whom he describes as “amazing”. Other Lives close their set with a tune that builds toward a big climax as they throw in a wide variety of sonic layers. Mooney breaks out the trumpet again, Onstott adds additional percussion and Tabish delivers some trippy vocals, all of which captivates the room.
It feels like there were more than a few people who were on hand primarily to see Other Lives, but it doesn’t take long for The Rosebuds to command the room. The Raleigh, North Carolina band is based around the singer/songwriter team of Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp, and their melodic rock sound has an infectious quality. “Second Bird of Paradise” is an early highlight from the band’s new album, Loud Planes Fly Low. The tune has a deep bluesy vibe that recalls Widespread Panic to some degree with its soulful sound. Crisp takes the vocal on a more rocking tune that conjures something of a Concrete Blonde vibe, but with some psychedelic keyboards added in. It’s clear that the band has a diverse variety of influences, drawing the audience in more and more with each song.
One of the top moments of the evening occurs when Josh Onstott from Other Lives sits in for “Come Visit Me”, a mid-tempo rocker featuring Crisp’s airy vocals over some ambient keys. The song features a variety of sonic layers, making it obvious why these two bands are a great match. Onstott helps pump up the song on bass, as the group takes off on a crowd pleasing jam.
“Woods” pushes the energy higher still, a big rocker where Howard takes the lead vocal and Crisp adds sweet harmonies. There’s a bit of an ‘80’s new wave pop vibe too, but with more of a rock sound thanks to the big choruses. The band scores again during the encore with “Nice Fox”, where acoustic guitars, piano and harmony vocals mix to craft a pop gem that could fit right along with Arcade Fire or Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes.
Onstott from Other Lives earns further cred when he was sighted after the show at The Liberty Bar, a popular East Sixth Street watering hole for the rock ‘n’ roll crowd. When this reporter takes the opportunity to commend him on the jam with The Rosebuds, Onstott asks whether it came off okay, noting that it was was an impromptu jam and showing the chord changes written in ink on his arm. It certainly isn’t the first time a musician has used such a cheat sheet for a hastily arranged performance, and it’s actually further endearing. Don’t know the song? So what, write down the chords and jam out, that’s called taking a chance, having some fun and earning what the kids call “heady points”.