The Life and Times’ lead singer Allen Epley knows the term “alternative rock” conjures up negative images of post-grunge hackery. He’s also aware his band isn’t the first to call Pink Floyd a primary influence. But The Life and Times has an alt.rock flair and a lust for Floyd—and that’s just how it is.
“There's nothing we can do about it,” Epley says. “A lot of my favorite bands have to call themselves alternative, and we try to lean on our Floyd influence as much as possible.”
Chasing trends has never been The Life and Times' bag. Epley says many fans might not be aware of the groups that have helped shape his band’s sonic landscape, but that’s to his liking. “I enjoy a lot of brand-new music, but it doesn’t hit me,” Epley says. “We don’t sound like Franz Ferdinand from three years ago, or The Strokes from five years ago.”
The Life and Times is a snarling, chimey guitar- and Rhodes keyboard-fed pit bull. The trio uses both bass and Moog synthesizer, which makes for some power-packed lows. Epley’s echoing vocals have a kind of lighthouse effect that keeps the songs on course. It’s spacey, prog-rock stonerdom at its most grandiose and fulfilling.
Re-creating a record on stage is a tall task for any three-person band, but for a group that does as much overdubbing as The Life and Times, it would seem impossible. The band uses a slew of FX pedals and a trick it picked up from REM to get the job done. “The old REM records would overdub, and use, say, a piano that was just playing the bass line,” Epley explains. “That way, when you hear the song live, you don’t necessarily need the piano, because your ear hears the line, since the bass is playing it.”
It’s spacey, prog-rock stonerdom at its most grandiose and fulfilling.
Epley says having three people in a band minimizes the danger for drama that can eat an outfit alive. Every member of The Life and Times has seen firsthand how infighting and power struggles can lead to a group’s demise. “When you have four people in a band instead of three, it complicates things,” Epley asserts. “It creates teams and subfactions that are inevitable. The subfactions can exist in a three-piece, but they’re less likely to manifest themselves in standoffs.”
Plus, there’s the rather important advantage of having fewer mouths to feed. “There’s more money to go around if you only have three people,” Epley points out matter-of-factly.
Since 2003, The Life and Times has released three EPs and one album. The band hopes to have its second full-length, Tragic Boogie, out by the fall. Epley says the new record basks in the sun a bit more than the band’s previous offerings. “On our older stuff, there’s this dark, internal battle going on,” Epley says. “On the new album, it sounds like the clouds are breaking on every tune.”
Not afraid to stretch out its wings, The Life and Times has played shows in Canada, Japan, Spain and Portugal. There are also plans to tour the rest of Europe and the U.K. in the not-too-distant future. For Epley, shows in a foreign country offer a chance to leave his inhibitions in the States. “Nobody’s heard of you, so it’s easier,” Epley says. “You know you're a good band, and you turn on and rock. Now, standing in front of my folks with an acoustic guitar; that’s horrifying.”