Hailing from Alaska and based primarily in Los Angeles, The Lives of Famous Men have just released their new album Greener Pasture Blues. The record’s seven tracks are themed around coming to terms with the fact that external change isn’t a shortcut to internal change, an idea reflected in the Motown-inspired lead single “Darling Come Home”. Through storytelling rich with allusions and wordplay, and a sound that’s more driving and focused than ever, Greener Pasture Blues finds The Lives of Famous Men in top form.
We caught with vocalist Daniel Hall to chat about the new album and playing for Jimmy Kimmel.
Hi Daniel! How’s everything going right now?
Hey Paul! Things are going well – we just released our new record, and it’s exciting to let it out into the world. We finished mixing a few months back, so it’s felt a little like keeping a secret you really want to tell people.
What classic album cover art is your current mood?
David Bowie – Diamond Dogs
Your new album Greener Pasture Blues is out next week. When and where did you write and record it?
We actually started writing a few of the songs more than a decade ago, back when we were all living in Portland, but most of them took shape over the past year. We all live in different cities these days, so we made a couple of trips out to Philly where our drummer Dylan has a studio, and we demoed about a dozen songs there. We worked with producer Alex Newport to refine the 7 that felt like they fit together and told a story, then recorded these over the course of two weeks this summer at his studio in Joshua Tree.
I read that you had started writing your first single “Darling Come Home” over 15 years ago. Why was this album the right record for its release and how different does it sound from the original you worked on?
Yeah, we wrote Darling back in our touring days – it was even a staple of our live set, but didn’t fit the sound of the record we were working on at the time, so we shelved it and then kind of forgot about it. I think this new album was the right home for it because the song is about the struggle to be present, which is a theme that runs throughout Greener Pasture Blues. We changed the key and wrote a new bridge, but aside from that, it really hasn’t changed too much.
If you could only listen to one record, what would it be?
Death Cab for Cutie – Transatlanticism
You released a lot of music between 2007 and 2010 and then nothing until 2020’s Field Memory. What happened during that time?
It sounds cliché, but life happened. I think we were all feeling a little burned out after three years of touring, and we just needed to experience other things. In that time, we each found our own path – studying, moving around, exploring other creative outlets, starting families – and we each sort of came back to this music at the same time. I think we needed some time away to rediscover our appreciation for the project, and for each other.
You got to perform on Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2009 after winning a contest which also got you a feature in SPIN magazine. Were you able to enjoy the experience and what would you do differently if you had the chance?
Our 15 minutes of fame, hehe. We’d made a video for our song “You’re Everyone I Know Right Now” and entered it into this virtual battle of the bands to play on Kimmel, but I don’t think we ever really thought it would be us on that stage. The whole thing was pretty surreal, but it was a lot of fun.
How and where did the band meet and did you bond over any common musical heroes?
We all grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, so a few of us met in elementary school, but it was really the local music scene that brought us together – in our teens we all played in different, alternative and metal bands, so our musical heroes were artists like the Deftones (who I still rock every once in a while).
What would go on your signature pizza and what would it be called?
This was the subject of some debate – when we were recording the album, probably the biggest disagreement we had was not a creative one, but what kind of pizza we wanted to order. That said, our pie would be called the Hawaiian Crunch: half ham and pineapple, half mozz and popcorn with smoked paprika and a buttery drizzle.
What do you have planned for 2024?
We’re already working on the next batch of songs, so in the short term the plan is to get back out to Philly for another round of demos. We’ve talked about trying to play some shows, but that gets tricky with us all being so spread out. I feel like we’re in a good creative flow though, so I just want to keep that going.
The band are made up of Daniel Hall (vocals), Ari Katcher (guitar), Dylan Mandel (drums/percussion), Andrew Totemoff (bass) and Jason Wahto (keys/programming). Since forming in 2007, The Lives of Famous Men has collaborated with producers including James Paul Wisner (Paramore), Casey Bates (Portugal. The Man), and Paul Q Kolderie (Radiohead). Their single Annie Taylor became an unexpected club hit when it was remixed by The Angry Kids, and their song Orchids has been a fan favorite ever since it featured prominently in Jennette McCurdy’s short film Strong Independent Women.
Feature Photo Credit – Describe the Fauna