Posts in Indie Pop
Jesse Tabish, Other Lives

Stillwater, Oklahoma is not the hotbed of indie music in the way that Los Angeles and New York are. But let's face it, the reality of the music business is that many indie artists struggle financially. And living on the expensive coasts doesn't help matters.

So what does Jesse Tabish, the singer and songwriter for Other Lives, do with the rest of the band?  They live in Stillwater, where Tabish pays $370 a month in rent.  It's an easy decision, really: he can spend more time on the creative process and less time making money by teaching guitar lessons.  And that creative process was revamped for the new album, which Other Lives finished last week.  It's their second album on TBD Records, having released their first in 2009.  Whereas Tabish used to begin writing a song with the traditional guitar or piano, for this new album he started with  "a simple medium like a single piano note or some sort of drone." According to Tabish, "I was tired of sitting down with an acoustic guitar and saying, 'I'm going to write a song today,' and falling on the same chord, the same movements."

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John O'Regan (Diamond Rings)

Sure, when you first see the face of John O'Regan, aka Diamond Rings, you might notice all that colorful makeup across his face.  And you might notice the shiny lips as well.  And you might call him "glam" and not pay attention to much else.

But I think you'd be missing the point.

Because, you see, this is about a lot more than a guy wearing makeup.  It's about theatre, and while Diamond Rings is, in his words, "fastidious" in his songwriting process, he also likes to engage his audience in the visual aspect of his craft.  After all, he's been an illustrator for longer than he's been a songwriter.  It's a creative outlet that, as you'll read, informs his songwriting process. For one, the way he approaches the subject of a painting resembles the way he approaches the topic of a song.  But what's interesting is that he has no idea what a song is going to be about until he picks up a guitar and starts playing.  He's not one to approach songwriting with a ready-made idea.

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Bethany Cosentino, Best Coast (2010)

Sure, Best Coast is bikini beach lo-fi pop, and Bethany Cosentino says that she doesn't think too much about her lyrics.  But she is a huge fan of David Foster Wallace, arguably one of the most influential and creative writers of the past twenty years, and that gives her instant street cred in the literary world.   

Best Coast is one of the hottest indie bands of the summer, and their album Crazy For You dropped at the end of July.  You can read any one of the endless interviews with Cosentino on the internet, but this may be the only one without a mention of her cat.  I chatted with Cosentino for a few minutes this week about California, creative non-fiction writing, David Foster Wallace, and how the weather affects her creative process.

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Laura Burhenn, The Mynabirds

First year writing courses, those introductory classes that many students are required to take in their first semester of college, can sometimes be a challenge for teachers. I taught it as a TA when I was getting my PhD.  To be sure, I always loved it because I got to expose first-year students to lots of great writing from a variety of genres.  I wanted my students to be as enthusiastic as I was about writing and about great works of literature. But the reality is that not everyone shared this enthusiasm.  However, every so often a student would show up on that first day of class whose obsession with literature matched mine, whose eyes also lit up at the mention of a Galway Kinnell poem.

Enter Laura Burhenn, leader of the Mynabirds, her new band.  I was Laura’s first year writing teacher.   Laura and I caught up on the eve of the tour to support the band’s acclaimed debut What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood on Saddle Creek RecordsGiven the amount of literary references she drops in this interview and the impressive awareness of her writing process, I’ll take credit for most of her success!  Ok, that’s a bit of a stretch, but you won’t see many songwriters who claim Wallace Stevens and Elizabeth Bishop as influences.  Laura’s writing process is very animated—literally—and she is a big believer in freewriting as a way to generate ideas (she thanks one of her college professors below—ahem—for teaching her about it).  As you’ll see, she has a keen sense of what works for her. 

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