Interview – The Life and Times
A few years ago, a group of scientists recorded the sound of stars (really!). The technique called stellar seismology gives us a sound and that sound describes what the star is made from. It’s a sound that pulsates and stays with you.
So is also the sounds that The Life and Times gives us in every release. Called space rock (a term thrown around by several fans – specially us), their music is quite dynamic and atmospheric, where every instrument has a clear cut voice perfectly enveloping each other, like twine.
We had the pleasure of reviewing their latest offering, No one loves you like I do (review) and even better, we managed to get much cherished interview with Allen Epley (guitars/vocals). Without any further ado, here it is…
1.- Tell us the story behind No ones loves you like I do. Why are the songs are numbered days and is there an overlying theme tied to the album title?
The songs are numbered by days because when we started writing this record, we were all living in different cities (N.Y., Chicago and Kansas City) and didn’t have a lot of time to write together. So we would gather for a few days before we had a tour and rehearse. but we reallly wanted to make sure we didn’t waste time and were hoping to get at least one good song or idea per day, and it worked for the most part. Having a deadline made us work harder and really use our time together very well. We recorded every note we played and would just listen though later on and pick out the stuff that spoke to us.
There is a theme for this record and it began to present itself after ‘Day One’ was written. There’s a real sense of obsession and unrequited love, desperation and longing all though the record. Not sure why this presented itself so clearly this time but all of the lyrics happened very easily. Usually I have to pull teeth to get two lines out for a song, but whole songs would fall out for these tunes. I think i was inspired by some friends of mine who’ve had a historically troubled relationship and a lot of these lyrics do truly reflect their dealings with each other. It’s pretty fucked up.
2.- Is there any story behind the days’ numbers and the tracks being different? What happened to days Four and Seven?
Like I say, the days’ numbers reflect the order in which they were written, roughly. We felt like the album had a better flow this way instead of listing them chronologically. We also felt that having the days numbered forced people to listen more closely to the lyrics and decide what they might name the songs themselves. We thought if Bach or Beethoven could name their pieces Sonata No. 14 in D Minor then we could do whatever we wanted too also. Not that we carry the same weight as those badasses.
‘Days 3′ and ‘4’ got combined to create a proper ‘Day Three’. and ‘Day Seven’ sucked so we ditched it!
3.- I really enjoyed ‘Day eleven’, is there any particular story about this track you’d like to share?
‘Day Eleven’ is one of the tunes we created on our computer and not in the rehearsal space together. At the very end of one of our practice sessions I asked Chris to put down a few beats for me that I could write a song to. So we very quickly set up a stereo pair of nice condenser mics and he played like 6 different beats for me, each one was only about 20 seconds long though.
The beat for ‘Eleven’ really spoke to me so I edited the beats together in a certain order and just wrote the song that way. But it even went through another re-write very near the end of the process and that’s the version we included on the album.
4.- Any plans to tour outside of the USA this year?
Yes, we’re hoping to come to Europe in the Fall of this year.
5.- There is a clear comeback for vinyl and even cassettes. Would this bring the physical medium back?
Hmm. I’m not sure it’s going to come back to it’s previous state but I think we all have to use several mediums these days. I think it’s obviously super important to have a digital presence online, that’s inescapable. But CD’s are still relevant, vinyl carries much more cache these days and even cassettes have a certain amount of kitsch cool associated with it. I personally still love the sound of all my cassettes from the old days. I think the tape sounds very warm and fat and pleasant, albeit with some hiss, but that never bothered me really.
6.- What can you tell us about the label Slimstyle records?
SlimStyle is a side label from a few guys from Comedy Central Records which, obviously, specializes in comedy. But this is a much more music based label. We had not heard of them before this but they approached us this past summer and it seemed like a good opportunity for all parties involved. We have some history and fan base built in and they have some resources and reach despite not being very well known in the music world. So far it’s been a great fit.
7.- A few years back, one of your tracks (‘Coat of arms’ – lovely) was featured in Saints Row 2. How did this happen? Do you plan to have another of your songs in any videogames in the future? Really enjoyed Shiner’s ‘Third Gear Scratch’ being featured there too.
Some of the guys from Saints Row approached Kim Coletta at DeSoto Records who had released Life and Times and Shiner records about getting some songs from each of the bands. Kim asked us and we said hell yes. It’s been a cool thing so far. I would entertain all offers for all things money and exposure related.
8.- Allen, if you had to choose any other three musicians for a band different to The Life and Times, who would you choose?
Rob Pope (Spoon, Get Up Kids) on bass. Jerry Fuchs (!!!, Turing Machine, Maserati) on drums (RIP), Rick Wright (The Floyd) on keys (RIP).
9.- Allen, when and how did you decided to come up with your guitar tunings?
We certainly don’t play in anything other than D standard. Just drop all the strings one step. All my chords are the same as everybody elses, just a whole step lower. We play the same E, D, C and whatever chords, it just sounds lower. We just copied Molly McGuire. Writing in a lot of alternate tunings is, in my opinion, just a way around learning to play properly. Sorry to all offended.
10.- One for Chris Metcalf: what (or who) made you pick up the drums? What do you feel when you go crazy with the drums in songs like ‘Day Eleven’ and ‘Muscle cars’?
Chris: There are countless people/reasons that inspired me to start playing-and to keep playing. I love it. Practice as much as possible. Listen and watch a wide variety of bands/musicians. Listen to new music(even if it’s “old”), and the music that sparked the interest. Learning never ends.
11.- For Eric Albert: which bass do you prefer? Is there a particular way you and Chris Metcalf communicate to be in synchrony when you play?
Eric :Southpaw P-bass. Chris and I communicate telepathically
12.- There’s a rumour about the beginning of ‘Charlotte Street’ and we want some answers, dammit (please?). What is that deep bass sound at the beginning?
I’m not sure what the rumors are about really but Charlotte Street was the street I lived on in Kansas City, Missouri right after college and had some crazy times in. Nothing of real import though. Mainly drunken nonsense.
The low sound at the top of the song is a tone generator and a clear ripoff of Chavez, for those who know that bands’ majesty.
13.- This one is another oldie question: what is ‘Coat of arms’ about?
‘Coat of Arms’ is for and about my babies (who are now young children). It rotates around them being from another universe far away and unknown and making me complete. Kinda cheesy but absolutely true!! You can fill in the blanks from there.
14.- Do you think you’ll ever re-release any past albums via remastering, as it seems to be en vogue right now?
I’m pretty happy with the mastering on all my records so it wouldn’t be for that reason.
15.- You mentioned in an interview that you have your own studio. Let’s get geeky and what type of gear do you prefer?
Right now all our work is done in Nuendo 3. It’s pretty user-friendly and we haven’t found a huge need to change but are leaning towards another platform in the next year or so. Logic perhaps. We have quite a few good mics and a couple of nice pre’s, a Sony broadcoast board(!) but honestly our set up is very basic and simple. In this order, our success as engineers centers around : A- good musicianship, B-good sounding instruments, and C-classic recording and mic-ing techniques fused with a sense of inventiveness and experimentation. And good pot.
16.- We are big fans of Starless. Do you have any fond memories of those times in Shiner?
Starless was a strange time for us and not our best couple of years as a band. Tim Dow wrote the record with us and then moved to L.A. We asked Jason Gerken to join and he didn’t fully commit to us until writing for The Egg so his tracks are weirdly restrained. Joel Hamilton helped us record and write the record, but then moved to NY so we got mad and replaced all his parts with Josh playing them.
In 20/20 retrospect, I would’ve much preferred to just release what we’d recorded with Tim Dow, me and Paul Malinowski and just let that stand on its own. But we worked on it till it was almost dead. We don’t feel like it’s our best record but if it still resonates with you I can’t argue with that. Must’ve been something magical that still made it through all the bullshit!
17.-We are very excited about the re-release of The Egg on vinyl. Any more clues about this
release? Will you include ‘Dirty Jazz’ and ‘I’ll leave without you’?
I think there will be some extras on the digital version but the album will be exactly what was on the original recording on CD. We’re excited but are basically just hoping for some laughs, have a good hang and maybe make a few bucks. Not sure about ‘Dirty Jazz’ and ‘I’ll Leave Without You’.
18.- Now that the cat’s out of the bag, gotta ask this one: Will Starless, Splay and Lula Divina get some love?
Splay was originally released on vinyl through DeSoto but that’s long been sold out. No plans right now to do the other records.
19.- Gotta ask this one: is the reunion just a “one off” to give The Egg a bit of a push or do you plan to go back into the fold?
Just a one-off. We’ll do 4 shows, Kansas City, MO, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. And then never again. We all live in those cities and are all way too busy to try to make another record that might suck and ruin our lily-white reputations!
Thanks so much for the good questions and press.
Thank you very much!
Words: Sam Valdes & Emilio Valencia.