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:: Spotlight :: Interview with US band Midlake - on their way to Australia

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

One of the revelations for me in 2006 is a band called Midlake. The Texan band released an album titled “The Trials Of Van Occupanther”, quite a curious and intriguing name. It’s been talked about around various parts of the USA and Australia as influential and groundbreaking. I think many people learning about this band will soon realise the terrific talent possessed and we will soon have an opportunity to judge the quality for ourselves when Midlake tours Australia in December. I had an opportunity to chat to guitarist/keyboardist Eric Pulido about the eloquent sounds and inventive arrangements that comprise this album.

Tell us about the progression of the band from the early days until this fabulous album?

The band originally met at the University of North Texas back in 1998 and the formative years were a little scattered as far as trying to find a sound. It officially became Midlake in 2000. We played our first proper show in October 2000. The guys had come together from a jazz background, being from the University, and the sound we wanted was to become more rock. Rock was more groundbreaking and it influenced our writing at that stage. We’d done an EP. Now, with these last two albums, it shows a progression of the different genres and we’re still looking at what’s right for us.

In Australia, we have had the release of a limited edition version of The Trials Of Van Occupanther with a special bonus disc. It has some of the older material. There’s a warmer sound to your latest work…

The previous album was influenced by Grandaddy and Flaming Lips sound. It was driven by synth-type keyboards and didn’t have an organic sound out front as this new album. This has the warmth of the 70s classic rock era. Those influences were played out in the recording of this album. We dug into much of the rock blues sound of that time (without going over the top). It was like hearing a band that was influential; you’d want to know what other bands were in that vein. It certainly influenced Tim (Smith) in his songwriting. We all joined in and fell into that mould.

Though not achieved in an external recording studio, the experience of working within your own confines seems to have gone very smoothly…

Initially, we just wanted to do it in a cost-effective way – to have a studio in your own house. Not having to go into a recording studio and be on the clock all of the time. It can be a little discomforting at times. Because it took so long for us to get things right, the writing process went alongside the recording process, not having it put down and then go bang with the recording. We spent about a year getting it right. It was a learning process to have our own studio. It’s cost-effective and comfortable, and now is the standard of how we do things.

Can you achieve the success you want as an independent band?

The music industry is now a different picture to what it was a few years ago. The independent record labels have been successful and people see that success and have the means through the Internet and by touring. It just needs that one label to fall in love with your music. Then the word spreads and they out your albums out. You don’t need the big machine that pumps lots of money into bands, who’ll probably never see the money anyway. The indie mindset is so different and is a pure way for some. We’ve been lucky to have Bella Union and there are lots of like-minded labels around the world. (Midlake has a 50-50 split with Bella Union for record sales revenue)

This album could reach a larger market for you…

We all felt that way once we finished the album and before it was released. Our parents and grandparents liked it and we thought it might reach a broader audience. One of the reasons is that it’s influenced by older music.

You’ve done many shows in Europe this year, as well as touring the United States. You’re now having a break before coming to Australia…

We started touring in April. We’ve been to Europe three times this year. It’s been back and forth there and in the USA this year. We’ve just taken our biggest break – six weeks – to be at home with loved ones. We’ve done some writing in that time.

Have you planned the next record as yet?

I don’t think the next record will be much of a departure from how the second differed from the first. It will be in a similar vein to the current album, but we’ll still aim to make it better and stronger.

You’re now getting a good response across the musical spectrum. You must be happy with the way people are discovering your music…

Overall, it’s been a good response. I can see some people may have been attached to the first album, in the mould of something quirky. This one has been more widely received and perhaps seen by a few as a sell-out, which I don’t think, by the way. You’ll always get those opinions. As long as we are confident about the music we’re making, that’s most important. The majority of people like the progression.

I spoke to Joan Wasser recently and she is a big fan of your album…

We’re fans of hers as well. We actually met her in Belgium at a festival recently. We got to hang out with her for a while.

Midlake plays at Meredith Music Festival on December 9 and the following shows:
December 6 - Great Northern Hotel, Byron Bay, NSW
December 7 - The Zoo, Brisbane
December 8 - Gaelic Theatre, Sydney
December 10 - Corner Hotel, Richmond, Vic

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