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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Reconfiguration—A Visual Transformation of Music by Other Lives

L-R: Josh Onstott, Jesse Tabish, Jonathon Mooney. Photo: Amanda Leigh Smith/YONDER
By Jane Jansen Seymour

Indie rock band Other Lives brings a cinematic expansiveness to music, and now a team of theatrical designers is providing a setting on stage befitting the sound. Conceived by producer Rebecca Habel and director Terry Kinney of Mixtape Productions, Reconfiguration: An Evening with Other Lives will be presented October 9 & 10 in the majestic Howard Gilman Opera House, as part of the Next Wave Festival. With a format similar to a symphony, ballet, or theater piece, the performances offer an inventive way to experience a band in concert.

Mixtape Productions, based in Brooklyn, is dedicated to creating collaborations between musicians and theater artists. Habel and Kinney visited the Other Lives band members to learn about their passions and influences, with the mandate that any imagery would emanate from the movement of the music more than the lyrics. Kinney laid out a three-act structure for an audio-visual narrative based on the group’s Oklahoma origins utilizing the band's back catalogue. From a conversation with songwriter Jesse Tabish about his recurring themes, obsessions and inspirations, Kinney sketched out a diagram showing a "script" focusing on boyhood.

Concept diagram by Terry Kinney, in conversation with Jesse Tabish 

The core trio of Other Lives—Tabish (lead vocals, guitar) along with Jonathon Mooney (piano, violin, guitar, percussion, trumpet) and Josh Onstott (bass, keys, percussion, guitar, backing vocals), joined at BAM by Daniel Hart on violin, vocals, and guitar and Danny Reisch on percussion—recently moved from their hometown of Stillwater, OK to Portland, OR to record their third album, Rituals. This relocation had a profound effect on the impressive 60 new songs written over 18 months for the new collection. 

“There was a spirit of change," Tabish says. “We had done [2011’s second LP] Tamer Animals, which was very close to us and about our home. So the next record was about the spontaneity of travel and being isolated. For the first time in our lives we were moving off on our own, away from our families and kind of coming into our own.” Other Lives also released a self-titled debut album in 2009. The band has toured with Radiohead and Bon Iver and is currently on a world tour in support of the new album.

L-R: Josh Onstott. Jonathon Mooney. Photo: Amanda Leigh Smith/YONDER
Other Lives appeared on LA’s KCRW last spring to play songs from Rituals live for the first time. Tabish explained how he’d come up with a "demo demo" for each tune to take into the recording process, where it’s completely deconstructed with input from his bandmates. “It’s about taking the idea and filling in space,” said Tabish. The album was produced by Tabish, Mooney, and Joey Waronker (Beck, Atoms for Peace, Eels).

Listening to “Easy Way” and “For the Last” from the session, there’s a mysterious cinematic build as Tabish’s vocals introduce his storytelling vibe. Layers of trumpet and violins over the guitars establish an orchestral interpretation; the drum kit provides a steady backbeat. There’s plenty of multi-tasking by the five musicians, and the band members are also known for switching instruments during shows. It's easy to imagine how these atmospheric songs, ripe for visual interpretation, will fill the historic Opera House at BAM.

Reconfiguration: An Evening with Other Lives plays the Howard Gilman Opera House October 9 & 10, and tickets are still available.

Jane Jansen Seymour is a music writer for New Music Matters (

1 comment:

  1. Your work article, blogs I mean over all contents is must read stuff.


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