Indie Rock power trios are as common as crime, but the ones that rise to the top of the form defy the limitations of their numbers by sounding more expansive than the standard guitar/bass/drums set-up. The Life and Times can certainly claim its place in that rarified collective, among similarly gifted triads like Nada Surf, Curve (we’re counting producer Alan Moulder as a contributing member, so holster your corrections) and the original Everclear.
To achieve a bigger sound in this configuration, either extra duties are spread among the trio or someone does a little extra lifting. With The Life and Times, guitarist Allen Epley gets tagged with the overtime, doubling as vocalist and occasional keyboardist, while bassist Eric Abert and drummer Chris Metcalf do their parts by providing a malleable foundation that can shift from tribal majesty to nuanced subtlety in half a heartbeat.
The band’s talents and range are fully displayed on its most recent and fourth full-length album, last summer’s compelling and evocative Lost Bees, as Epley’s guitar careens from Shoegaze power to Pop intimacy while Abert and Metcalf instinctively follow his lead. At its most muscular, The Life and Times offers a sonic presence that sounds like its emanating from the floor of the Grand Canyon, while its more delicate moments seem as though the band could be performing an intense living room concert without disturbing the neighbors.
Former Shiner guitarist Epley originally conceived The Life and Times as a counter-reaction to Shiner’s Math Rock precision. The Life and Times began as quartet, albeit with a similar sonic philosophy (call it Sandalgaze, if you like) and different roll call, but the band quickly established the dissonant melodicism that has become its signature. With the arrival of Abert (who now lives in Chicago, as does Epley) and Metcalf (who remains in the trio’s native Kansas City, Mo.), Epley found the perfect foils for his shimmering, shuddering creative vision, and Lost Bees is the perhaps the best evidence yet that Epley’s aim is true.
THE LIFE AND TIMES plays at MOTR Pub Thursday, March 5. Find tickets/more info here .