Allen Epley of The Life and Times Talks Barbecue and Setting His Amp to 12
Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, trio The Life and Times makes a wonderful racket while creating dense, sonically challenging compositions -- real rock songs hidden under waves of noise.
Speaking from his home in Chicago and in anticipation of tonight's show at Dan's Silverleaf, frontman and guitarist Allen Epley spoke about The Life and Times recently becoming a trio and how that affected the making of the band's latest (and greatest) album, No One Loves You Like I Do.
Isn't the entire band from Kansas City?
Yes, but my wife got a job up here in Chicago, so we relocated. Eric Wood, our bassist, was in New York but now, for domestic reasons also, he is in Chicago.
Did Kansas City have a good music scene?
They have, historically, always had a fertile scene. I think it's fed by Lawrence, Kansas. I think the scene gets a lot of new blood from bands started in Lawrence. There's also always been a great modern arts scene in Kansas City. There is a pool of musicians that have access to each other and are talented. I think the scene is helped by the fact that you can rent a house for $800.
Do you miss the barbecue from Kansas City?
Great barbecue and I was always blown away when I had Gates. There are just so many classic places there. There were so many places off the radar that served great food. I think my favorite was L-C's. It's very well known inside the city, but outside the city, it doesn't get that much press.
We have some good barbecue in Texas as well.
My next favorite is Texas barbecue. I am a fan of Big Ray's. I know it's kind of a franchise, but I think it is amazing and I go to that place every time I am down there.
With the band members living in different cities, how has the compositional process changed?
In the past, it used to be me coming in with a few things and we would all piece it together. This time, we were all in different cities: Chicago, New York and Kansas City. We would meet and rehearse and try to get one song done a day or at least the genesis of a song done. We just showed up at the studio, started playing and let the tape recorder run. We kept it simple. Sometimes, I would come to the rehearsal with nothing. We would loop a note and literally jam. We would pull something out of nothing. And it actually worked quite well. That's why the songs are titled for each day we created them.
What happened to "Day Four"?
It sucked. It doesn't always work.
And why not put the days in chronological order?
It didn't make sense in terms of the sequence of the record or how the record was going to flow. We certainly could have opened the record with "Day One" and that would have worked as a process, but I think the order we put the songs in was intentional and I think it works that way. I put the songs in that particular order to set up a certain kind of theater.
Live, the band plays excessively loud. Do you worry about hearing problems?
We wear good ear plugs. To be honest, the sound is kind of facing behind us and it's not really right in my ears. It's probably louder to the people in the audience.
Do you worry about the audience?
They can wear earplugs. They all should be wearing earplugs. We do. And we're not trying to overcompensate for other deficiencies in our lives. The kind of equipment we have makes it a necessity to play at the volume we do. If the amps were set at two, it would sound tinny. Right now, the sound has the right amount of body to it. We are not trying to be ridiculously loud.
Does your amp go to 11?
Well, of course. Mine actually goes to 12.
It seems like in every review, the band is compared to My Bloody Valentine. Are you sick of that comparison?
No, that's always a healthy comparison. I would hate it if I didn't love those guys. I am a huge, huge My Bloody Valentine fan. Now, if people said we sounded just like Nickelback, then I would quit. I would just hang it up and say I'm done.
What's the perfect size venue for the band?
I think right now it's a place that holds two to four hundred. That's what we are best suited for. A dream would be going out on tour with someone like the Flaming Lips and trying things out in bigger places. Hopefully, we can hit a certain echelon and start playing festivals and facing those huge audiences.
How did the band becoming a trio affect the sound, especially live?
It didn't affect it as much as I had expected. We've always done the songs different when we play live. We are a very tight unit. We are so used to being with each other and we are motivated working as a three-piece. We have a couple songs that we are doing with a click track or a backing track. We have a couple other samples that we play here and there, but the sound is actually really stripped down. We never want to be slaves to a click track. We love being a three-piece for the ease and streamline nature of it. I think it stands up.
That video is pretty creepy for "Day One".
It is, but it is also at this level of asking if the scene is playfully consensual. I know it's creepy at the beginning, but at the very end, it looks as if the relationship is consensual. There's a spot at the end where both the man and the woman are laughing about it.