Interview with Allen Epley (guitar, vocals) | By Morgan Y. Evans
Kansas City is not the first place you think of for great indie rock or emo, but alternative space rockers The Life And Times ought to change that once and for all with new album Lost Bees. The three-piece have made a deeply thoughtful yet expansive and accessible record for these complex days we live in. I briefly spoke to Allen Epley about the world we live in, the writing process for Lost Bees and the recent reunion tour of his beloved former band Shiner. Lost Bees is an album worth finding and living with.
My best friend Nate Kelley was the original Coheed and Cambria drummer when they were called Shabutie. He is also a big fan of your stuff like I am. Nate wanted me to ask if you write songs jamming everything out or kind of show up with parts?
It’s weird. Some of us are in Kansas City and some of us are in Chicago now. We don’t get to practice all the time, so we want to get as much as possible whenever we’re together. We were kind of jamming on some of the songs in a traditional way and right before our drummer Chris Metcalf had to go home we played over some click tracks and edited parts together. Into what might be a song. So “Passion Pit” and some of the other ones, we had these kind of templates set up before they were songs. It’s more gratifying to play something a hundred times in a row but it was interesting.
There’s an artist I love Charmaine Olivia and she does sketch drafts or smaller paintings first of pieces she then does on a bigger canvas.
That’s really cool.
It puts you in touch with the piece but it is extra work. I kind of like the sketches better sometimes. That’s how snobs are with music. “You should have heard the Mars Volta demo. It was better!”
(laughing) I’ve heard that!
“Eyes And Teeth” has a lot of breathing room, the space rock element. I just saw Failure on their reunion tour. Those guys and some of what you do, it is nice to see it getting more attention. Expansive rock with emo roots.
I agree, man. We really admire Failure, Queens of the Stone Age. It’s time to make a big boy record. Put some of the softer material earlier on in the record. We like the way it segueways. I’m glad. We were halfway for a second about it being deliberately early.
You could have buried it on the B-side and had it be an artsier part of the album but I like that it is third, kind of like how “Come As You Are” works on Nevermind. It changes up the mood.
Exactly. It allows for more sonic space and to backload the second half of the record. That ambient stuff has always been a part of The Life And Times. And y’know, we’re big Flaming Lips fans. We got into our inner lip (laughing).
Did you ever get into Mercury Rev?
My buddies in Hum did a tour with those guys once. It was a strange mix but it worked.
Hum was one of the best live shows I ever saw. I took a bus from NY to Chicago just to see them reunite. I’d do the same for your old band Shiner. How was the reunion tour for Shiner when you did that recently?
It was very, very amazing. It was surprisingly difficult. The practices for it, we didn’t have a lot of time and were in a small rehearsal studio with 4 days before the first show in New York. We hadn’t played some of the songs in a long time. So, it was a big setlist too. Like 25 songs. We didn’t end up playing most of them but did most of them. It was super cathartic. Those are my boys. It was nice not to worry about petty little things we once argued about.
With Lost Bees from The Life And Times, I love the cover art of the bee. It would be awesome on a hoodie.
It’s too hot right now. Something for the fall, maybe.
Was it a comment on global warming?
That’s a larger comment. The over-arching melancholy in society today is worrisome. We’re literally starting to face forms of extinction. That is a lot of the mood, as a race. There is so much technology advancing every day but we get bored with it so quick. We’re all kind of lost. I don’t know if I always feel that bummed out, but it’s something I think about. We are so connected and yet also more disconnected and separate than we’ve ever been in our entire lives, at this moment.