Midlake: Moving Small Mountains
by Daniel Coston
Originally published in the Big Takeover Magazine, Winter 2010 issue
While some bands prefer to spend their life in the studio, the Texas quintet Midlake welcomed its recent return to the road with open arms. “For us, having taken such a long break, it was quite refreshing to just change gears, and do something other than record in the studio, or rehearse in the studio,” says guitarist Eric Pulido. “To get out and play again, it was a great joy, and felt like a band again.
The reason for the band’s return is their new album The Courage Of Others, which took much longer to create than the band had planned. “It was quite frustrating. We didn’t know what the next record was going to be. We just had some songs that [singer] Tim [Smith] had written while touring with [2006 album The Trials Of Van Occupanther],” says Pulido. “It took a year of trial and errors, and frustrations, of sorting out what we were going to do next. I really mean it when I say it was frustrating,because we got nothing. We learned what not to do, a lot, we learned to play together, more so.”
Along the way, the band found a new sound steeped in the influences of late 1960s and early ‘70s British folk, rock and jazz, such as Pentangle, Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention. “We were digesting these influences, and many more, and trying to not do it in a pastiche way,” says Pulido. “It was us really trying to interpret these influences in our own voice. We would always talk about this emotion that was in this music, and have that be a big part of the sound, and the vibe.”
For many Midlake fans, the sound of the new album has come as a huge departure from Van Occupanther, which had taken its cues from the likes of Fleetwood Mac, America and Crosby, Stills & Nash. Yet the band’s sound has changed with every record in their ten-year history. “It has been different,” adds Pulido. “Not for the sake of being different. I think we would be totally happy, and we wouldn’t have as many gray hairs if we said, ‘Okay, this is the sound, this is what we were doing.’ But it wouldn’t be honest, it would be forced.
“Each album is a snapshot of where you’re at that time, and Van Occupanther will always be there. We’ll play those songs live, and we still enjoy that. This [new record] was something else. I think we felt confident that if we’re going to continue being a band, you’ve got to go with what’s moving you at that time.”
With touring planned for much of the remaining year, Pulido and Midlake are looking forward to wherever they go next. “Now that there’s three albums under our belt, you feel like you’re finding your place a little more. And know where you’ve been, the mistakes you’ve made, and know where you want to go next.”