Labor of Love: The Life and Times

In this new series LABOR OF LOVE, we're talking about the LABOR OF LOVE that is music and is behind music and musical instrument making. We know you all have been doing the SPACEY ROCK thing for a long, long time and supplement to survive with even more music. We sat down with Allen Epley, guitar guru #1 from the band The Life and Times and asked him how music became his LABOR OF LOVE!

 How did music become your life?
I was born into it. My folks are both professors of music at great colleges, so, I was a music faculty brat from the beginning. My mom would put on musicals and GodSpell, in particular, was one that changed my perception of being a musician. She had a full band, and it was life-changing. A kickass drummer as I recall.

Chris, our drummer, is a prodigy honestly; just way ahead of the curve early on. He had a speed metal band called Sedition when he was like 11, and they were terrific. Eric’s (The Life and Times bassist) just got that juice. He was a hair metal head in middle school till he heard Polvo and Slint and that changed everything. 

In addition to being a rock band that tours and records what other hustles do you all have to make it work? Chris works in a drum shop? You and Eric have Electronical, your recording studio? Blue Man Group? How does it all come together?
Yep, all those things and more. Eric and I are skilled “coctologists” at Longman and Eagle (a killer whiskey bar here in Chicago), which is nice too. It comes together because we choose to make it work because we love what we do, and honestly we feel like it just keeps getting better. Life is short. So many of our friends had bands in their 20’s then quit when they get married and/or have kids or get a 9-5 job. (Jimmy quit, Jodie got married…) we never felt like any of those things was worth quitting playing totally.

We’ve had consistently pretty good shows and tours, and we also don’t try to make our existence and income solely from the band. I think that’s the difference. We’re ok not being on tour constantly. We’d rather pick at it over the years and do what we want while still having wives and families and cool jobs. There is a way to balance it.

At one point between our 2nd and 3rd records, we all lived in 3 different cities- Chicago, Kansas City, and New York. So we just kinda knew that we’d book a few shows and set aside a few days before the tour to write and record and keep moving forward. It worked like a charm. Now we all live in the same city, and it’s easier to exist, but sometimes those strictures can be inspiring and make you get your shit done.

Who were your major influences and how did your sound evolve from Shiner to current?
This band (The Life and Times) has always had an affinity for many of the same bands, which I think might be a problem for some folks but we can reference certain things and know what the other means when they say “the beat needs more Bonzo” or something stupid. We’ve always rallied around bands like the Flaming Lips, Pink Floyd, My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver, early U2. But Chris is a true audiophile and musicologist and deeply knows many bands that you’d never expect. Replacements, Cure, Anthrax, Viet Cong, Joy Formidable, etc.

I’ve always loved being in 3 piece bands. I grew up in my teens figuring out how many people or instruments make the perfect band and why. For a while, I was sure that it was 4-piece band —guitar, bass, drummer, AND a guitar/key guy! He’s the secret weapon.

Then I realized that 4th dude would be the bands undoing because he’s just a bad human and would kill the dynamic. I’m kidding but am I? Shiner had a more math-y approach to making music and more pummeling. It was the 90’s after all, but Life and Times has always skewed towards a more melodic and melancholic vibe with occasional sky-opening moments on any given record. Shiner would hit harder throughout the record to great effect. L&T is much more dynamic and only hits really hard a couple times on any record but those moments will have a more lasting impact.

What's your RIG? How has it evolved (guitars you've had and moved on from, what sticks around, etc) ? What Pedals do you use and why (so many options these days)?
I use what I’ve used for the past 20 years. My Vox AC30 and my HI-WATT and a 2x12 hi watt knockoff. it's a stereo signal the whole time.

I credit Scott Shiraki and MXR/Dunlop for all pedals L&T. I have a couple that aren’t from there, but they have our hearts and pedal boards hearts. I use a TC Helicon Harmonizer for my voice live, that works great. I use a Line 6 DL4 for my voice and another one for my guitar signal. I have a recent POG for big moments and small ones too. I use the MXR EQ, preamp and drive pedals for different levels and gain stages. Love my MXR rotovibe and echo plex and M300. Very important for my sound. 

What does Life and Times or Shiner or others that you all are involved with have coming up or that recently has been released?
Life and Times has a co-headline tour in October with some buds of ours from NY called Spotlights, and that will be fun. It’s about 10 days which is perfect for us. Shiner is doing a handful of shows in Sept in Kansas City, Rock Island and Chicago. The Life and Times will start writing on a new record. Actually, it’s already begun.

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