Extra Life played at the now-defunct Box Awesome a couple of years ago while touring on their debut full-length, Secular Works. They played to a decent sized crowd who mostly hadn't heard of them, but there were people weeping after their set. The music may be fairly "aggressive" or "heavy" to some, but it maintains a powerful emotional presence at all times, and there are plenty of gentle and relatively conventional songs, too. I would strongly encourage folks to check out this show, as it's a rare opportunity to see such an interesting band stop in Lincoln.
Even though this is one of my favorite bands--their "Secular Works" would totally be a desert island pick of mine along with Dominique Leone's s/t--I find their music incredibly hard to describe. It does contain elements of Europrog, and at times it's heavy to the point of bordering on metal, but there are also passages that make me think of folk music. A particularly strong element of this stuff is the incorporation of what I hear some reviewers call Early Music, though that's a pretty generic term. More specifically, I hear elements of Medieval motet work, which comes through particularly in the melismatic vocal lines, with long, often asymmetrical phrases. Some of the folk elements that blend with this evoke moments probably more accurately described as reminiscent of Medieval troubadour music.
These influences are integrated in a totally unique depth, though. Most musical endeavors that mix influences so disparate as these do so either through collage or montage strategies, and you can really hear the "edges" of each idiom rubbing together. Not so with Extra Life: to my ears, this is a whole new kind of music, and whatever its influences, they're working together in unique new ways that don't always point to individual origins. It's hard to describe.
I first became aware of Extra Life when Looker was playing in Zs. At that time, Extra Life was his side project among several others of the Zs family. But there are a few Zs tunes that point to the direction Extra Life ultimately adopted, particularly "Nobody Wants to be Had" from Arms. In a way, I miss his regular contributions to Zs, but I think his new direction is even more compelling.
Here are a few videos to whet your appetite:
If you're reading from somewhere else in the US, you may have your chance, too. Here's the tour schedule as posted on Brooklyn Vegan:
Extra Life/Sam Mickens tour 2011