Houston Calling

10 Questions for The Life and Times

October 17th, 2005 · No Comments

Some of you might remember the band Shiner, a band whose prog-rock influenced music peppered the nineties and undoubtedly influenced a lot of bands over their decade of existence.

Well, former Shiner mastermind Allen Epley has been busy with another band — The Life and Times — since Shiner disbanded in 2003. The band’s latest album, Suburban Hymns, is now available and has been getting good reviews so far.

The Life and Times will play in Houston this Friday night at Fat Cat’s (Mary Jane’s) with Fatal Flying Guillotines, DMBQ, and the amazing Sharks and Sailors.

Be sure to come check out the bands.

I recently asked Allen Epley of The Life and Times a few questions for Houston Calling. Enjoy.

Ten Questions for The Life and Times

HC: What prompted the change in music after Shiner disbanded?

AE: It was a natural change. Shiner’s disbanding was a reaction to each of our personal musical changes and evolutions, as opposed to changing after Shiner broke up. Does that make sense? And it would be false of me to continue writing a style of music that was just like Shiner. What we play now is just where our heads are naturally at, and it’s come down to an understanding and embracing of our “alternative” roots: swervedriver, MBV, REM, etc.

HC: What do consider to be your musical influences?

AE: They’re pretty wide ranging and I’m still heavily influenced by new things I hear everyday, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to what I call the “4 Rs”: Rush, Ratt, REM, and REO. Believe it.

HC: Your new album (Suburban Hymns) is getting good reviews (hey, Pitchfork gave it a 7.4, which is better than they rate most records). What can you tell us about it? Where did you record it? Who produced it, etc.? Is the title a play on The Verve’s last studio album?

AE: I was surprised by that review. I was sure that would crucify it for whatever reason. It was recorded by ex-Shiner bassist Paul Malinowski at Matt Talbot’s (HUM) studio called Great Western Record Recorders in Champaign, IL. j Robbins ended up mixing 8 of the 10 songs in his Crows Nest Studio in his house, before he had purchased his new studio called The Magpie Cage, in Baltimore. Every stage of the process had its difficulties, but ultimately was worth the work.

Yes, the title is a not-so-subtle play on the verve’s record. In no way do I think it’s some sort of answer to that record or has anything to do with it musically, but we liked it and thought it was an apt title, given a lot of the lyrical imagery on the record.

HC: You’ve obviously been around the music business for a while, and have undoubtedly seen the ups and downs of dealing with record labels. What’s your take on the state of the music industry? Are you for or against the MP3 “revolution”? How do you use the internet as a tool to market your music?

AE: “For or against” at this point is moot: it simply is and we should learn how to make money from it if we want to survive and continue to make music (semi)-professionally. I know labels are really feeling the fallout from downloading and file sharing, legal and illegal. I think it affects indie labels more than majors because they don’t have the budget the majors do.

The internet is a great tool and it seems also somewhat useless at a certain point. Meaning: there are so many bands that have a MySpace page or their own site that have never even played a show or recorded outside of their own bedrooms and have millions of hits on their sites. It doesn’t mean anything. You have to work harder to show you’re the real shit and not just some crap. There’s so much crap and the internet gives a voice to all of it. It also gives a voice to great stuff too, but it has a harder time rising to the surface through all the flotsam.

HC: Do you prefer the recording process in the studio or performing live? How do you approach the songwriting process? Are you as methodical as some of the music seems to indicate?

AE: Each has their own pros and cons. I personally enjoy the writing, and then watching it materialize before my ears in the studio. Actually, it’s the demos that I love recording the most. Straight out of nothing — there’s something!

Writing songs is different for me each time. Many times i’ll start with a couple of guitar parts or a drum beat that i like, and then move on from there. Rarely do I begin with a lyric or melody line, but it does happen occasionally.

I don’t know if it’s methodical writing really, I just like to make sure the song is finished completely before we commit it to eternity. And maybe that ethos comes out in the attention to detail in the songs…maybe.

HC: Do you have a favorite song on the new album? One that you particularly enjoying playing live?

AE: Hmmm. I really think “Running Redlights” is my sleeper favorite on the record. But playing it live is less satisfying for me. My favorite live song is probably “Skateland.” Yep. That’s it.

HC: Are you a fan of cover songs? If you could have any band cover one of your songs, what song would it be and what band? Are you including any old Shiner stuff in your live sets?

AE: Sure, I love to cover songs. I’ve done many in my “career”. I’d like to hear the Flaming Lips cover “Shift Your Gaze” in their own special way. I think it would be so beautiful.

We are absolutely not playing Shiner songs. That would be ridiculous and a huge disservice to this band and Shiner and cheapen what each entity did and is doing presently. I can’t bring myself to believe people would want or expect me to play Shiner songs or sell old records at shows. To what end? Do you want to hear me ruin your favorite Shiner song that we don’t play as well? Plus the other guys in Shiner probably wouldn’t appreciate it, either. It doesn’t really give them credit for their parts in writing, which was huge.

Why would I dwell on a band that never sold over 10,000 copies of any of our records? If I’m Billy Joe from Green Day (or whomever), it might make sense to throw in an old Green Day tune if I’m out doing some solo stuff or whatever, but he’s sold 100 million records. But with us, why? And I’ll bet if he had a new band, he would undercut his new band by playing his old shit.

HC: What is the one description that you hate to hear about your music?

AE: That it’s grungey.

HC: What’s next for Life and Times? More touring?

AE: After these Texas shows, we head out with Murder by Death for a couple of weeks. That should be amazing and really nice to get in front of a lot of new faces. After that we’ll finish recording 5 songs with j Robbins that will ultimately show up on a Japanese EP for a label called Stiff Slack Records. Great peeps over there. That will come out next spring and we’ll go tour Japan. Then who knows. More touring probably.

HC: What is in your CD player/iPod/whatever right now?

AE: Just a smattering currently in my CD case, in no particular order:

Coldplay – A Rush of Blood to the Head and X&Y
Clutch – new one j robbins recorded
REM – Fables of the Reconstruction
Flaming Lips – Soft Bulletin
Steely Dan – Royal Scam
Secret Machines – Now Here is Nowhere
Led Zeppelin – I, III, and Physical Graffiti
Mercury Rev – Deserters Songs
Darediablo – Bedtime Stories
Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind
Melvins – Stoner Witch
Massive Attack – Mezzanine
Beck – Sea Change
Boogie Nights soundtrack
Catherine Wheel – Chrome
90 Day Men – To Everybody

Special thanks to Allen Epley of Life and Times for taking the time to answer these questions for the site. You can discover more about Life and Times at their label’s website or by buying their new album, Suburban Hymns.

Be sure to make plans to come out this Friday night to see Life and Times live at Fat Cat’s with Fatal Flying Guillotines, DMBQ, and Sharks and Sailors. Tickets are only $8, available at the door, which opens at 8 p.m. Show starts at 9 p.m.

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Tags: Music