Midlake: ‘A lot of the fitness our friends were just missing’ | Midlake
JNext time you’re in the town of Denton, Texas, you could do worse than drop by the speakeasy-style Paschall bar, grab a stool, and order a Pulido Old Fashioned. “It’s my signature cocktail,” Midlake frontman Eric Pulido smiles under a well-worn baseball cap. “I think they just started to get tired of me telling them, ‘Instead of sugar you can make Bénédictine [a liqueur]and then can you also put some maple bitters…’”
Pulido isn’t just a tough customer, but alongside the rest of Midlake, he actually owns this dimly lit, book-lined boozer, which like so many found itself on the brink of collapse at the start of the pandemic. “We’ve had the ups and downs of ‘We’re good’, ‘We’re not’, ‘Now we’re fine!'” offers Pulido with a sigh. “It was a really tough time, but I feel like we’re coming out of the woods now.”
The same could be said for Midlake themselves, which have weathered other storms in their roughly 20-year existence. After a meteoric rise from 2006’s eerie and timeless single Roscoe, the warmly experimental Texas folk-rockers found themselves on the crest of a new wave of dreamy classic rock bands, leading to everything from folk anthems by Fleet Foxes to swirling psychedelia of Tame Impala. They followed up their groundbreaking second album, The Trials of Van Occupanther, with 2010’s The Courage of Others, shifting focus to the UK and drawing inspiration from Pentangle and Fairport Convention. The band’s seemingly airy existence, however, hit a wall during the sessions for their fourth album, with the acrimonious departure of their frontman and founding member Tim Smith.
Rather than break up, the band ditched everything they had worked on with Smith and started over, writing and recording 2013’s Antiphon with Pulido on lead vocals. “Part of it was being stubborn after being hurt by your friend leaving and saying, ‘Well, I’m not going to let his leaving dictate what we’re going to do,'” Pulido explains. Although the record was met with stellar reviews praising the band’s smoother, more defined sound, after touring it they decided to take a short break.
That little pause then became an extremely long pause – so long that people started asking, “Is Midlake, like, still a thing?” “We were a bit coy about it and said, ‘We’re on a break’ – or if a Brit asked, we’d say, ‘We’re on vacation!’,” confirms Pulido. “But it was entirely possible that we would never meet again.”
There were, of course, plenty of other things to do. After a solid string of festivals and world tours, it was all about raising families and embarking on solo projects. Pulido pursued his budding interest in interior design, starting with the Paschall Bar, before working on a host of other restaurants in Denton. He was also busy forming the indie supergroup BNQT, which he called “a poor man’s traveling Wilburys” and featured Fran Healy of Travis, Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand, Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses and Jason Lytle from Grandaddy.
It wasn’t until 2019 that the five members of Midlake tentatively began to come together. “There was this gradual and common realization that it would be a good idea to at least try,” says Pulido. “But it would have been naive of us to say, ‘We’re just going to resume, and everything is going to work out and it’s going to be great. began in March 2020. “The silver lining was that we weren’t going anywhere, so we thought we might as well give it a try.”
The result is the deliberately prog For the Sake of Bethel Woods, named after the site of the 1969 Woodstock festival. . After his father died in 2018, Jesse saw him in a dream; he suggested that Midlake start working together again. As a tribute, a painting of Dave at Woodstock – inspired by a photo of teenage Dave that featured in the legendary 1970 documentary about the festival – now adorns the album cover. “It’s probably the most poetic and beautiful inspiration for us to get back together,” Pulido says. “A lot of that, for me at least, was just missing from my friends.”
The result is a record that is deeply dynamic and has the widest range of influences of any Midlake album to date, a natural result of nine years of simply listening. “70s West Coast folk-rock will always be part of our Midlake DNA, but feeling like we could tap into jazz and go to more modern places was really liberating and refreshing,” says Pulido.
The band’s split has also prompted Pulido to be much more open in his songwriting, digging into deeply personal stories, including on the kind Noble, a song named after drummer McKenzie Smith’s son, Garrett Noble Smith, who was born in 2019. with the rare semilobar holoprosencephaly brain disorder. “We just want to be more honest about who we are and the things that might happen, especially in a time of shared struggle and loss,” Pulido says.
There was even a reconciliation of sorts with Smith, who now lives in North Carolina and makes music under the name Harp. “We still stay in touch – and who knows what might happen in the future?” Is he saying that they could one day make music together again? “I would definitely consider that,” he says. “Stranger things have happened. I wouldn’t put it out of the realm of possibility.
So now that Midlake is back in his groove, can we expect album #6 to come out a bit faster than album #5? “We’ve never been a prolific band and, for better or worse, we’ve never felt compelled to say, ‘OK, we need to follow this up with a hit single or a song that looks like this hot stuff happening right now,” Pulido confesses. “But I feel like we’re in a much more sustainable place now.” A cause for Pulido Old Fashioneds.
For the Sake of Bethel Woods is out March 18.