We rarely conduct interviews at Stereogum. Bands inevitably answer the same questions over and over again, and that’s no fun for anyone. But if we could catch our favorite musicians between album promo cycles, they might have new insights to share, whether they’re in creative mode or just taking a breather. With that in mind, we asked Jessica Suarez to put on her reporter’s hat and pen this new recurring feature.

Today we check in with the Denton folk-rockers behind one of the best albums of 2006.

NAME: Midlake
PROGRESS REPORT: Writing and recording Courage Of Others, their followup to 2006′s Trials Of Van Occupanther (Bella Union).

Remember the band that did “Roscoe” and “Head Home,” and now you think of them as the band that did “Roscoe” and “Head Home” and you’ve been waiting for them to do another “Roscoe” and “Head Home”? That’s part of the reason why Midlake haven’t finished their new record yet. “We didn’t know exactly what we wanted, but we know we didn’t want to make the same album as last time. We could have made 10 albums with the amount of time we’ve spent, but that doesn’t mean they’d be saying anything great,” says McKenzie Smith. Guitarist (and coffee entrepreneur) Eric Pulido agrees. “You try and you think, “This isn’t ’Roscoe,’ this isn’t ’Head Home.’” Those are songs people liked on the last album and this isn’t those. Will people now desire those songs and not be fulfilled with the songs we’re putting on this album?”

After touring in support of Trials, the band is finally working on their next LP in their hometown of Denton, Texas. They’ve set up a 40 hour work week, coming into their studio 9-5 every weekday. And they’ve also been consciously shifting away from the aesthetic of their last LP. “There’s a British folk scene of late ’60s stuff. That stuff has been influential to us on this album. It’s less Fleetwood Mac-y, America. There’s not much of that on the album,” says Smith. Some other people they’ve been listening to: Fairport Convention, Incredible String Band, and (still) Jethro Tull. They’re not sure of much else besides the album’s title, Courage Of Others. Though the last month has seen some group “breakthroughs” in terms of songwriting, the band is still treading carefully. “It’s maybe just taken us this long to get to a point to where we have several we feel good about, but know in the back of our heads that there will be a review, there will be an opinion,” says Pulido. Right now their favorites are the album’s title track, and another, which went by the working title “Abraham,” but has now morphed and split into other songs they call “Abraham reprise” or “Abraham, the dark part.” Song titles are obviously TK.

All of Midlake is also co-producing, engineering and playing on an album for their friend John Grant. It’s something they work on each night after the Midlake workday ends. Smith is working on yet another album, drumming for St. Vincent’s next LP. He’d like to finish up his own band’s record too — they’ll all have to get 9-5 jobs if Midlake doesn’t tour soon. I’ll be doing an interview next month called “Find A Day Job,” says Pulido. Hey, that’s a good column idea.

If there’s a band you want Progress Report to drag out of the studio, or bed, for an update, shout out in the comments or e-mail tips@stereogum.com.

Comments (19)
  1. ruth  |   Posted on Nov 14th, 2008 0

    Sounds good to me. I’ve garnered enough trust for Midlake to be fine with whatever direction they choose to go.

  2. Jeremy  |   Posted on Nov 14th, 2008 0

    Doves, please? Been too long…

    And yes, I like this feature much.

  3. I appreciate that they don’t want to just rehash Van Occupanther, but waiting too long could kill any momentum they had built up. In any case, I look forward to hearing the new album.

  4. This could be a good feature – definitely a great start with Midlake.

    How about Sufjan Stevens? Dirty Projectors?

  5. Their first album is one of the five best from this decade. And “Young Bride” is one of the best songs. I can’t wait for this album. P.S. Jessica Suarez is smoking hot.

  6. You could just do this on The Wrens and it’d be an ongoing feature forever. Or a sitcom, perhaps…with “we’ll definitely be releasing a new album in [year]” being the recurring punchline…

  7. pants  |   Posted on Nov 15th, 2008 0

    I loved Trials of Van Occupanther, but have you checked out Midlake’s earlier stuff beforeVan Occupanter? It sounded quite bland to me. If Midlake has a formula that works they should stick to it.

  8. gimme  |   Posted on Nov 15th, 2008 0

    damn, finally an update about a band’s new record-in-the-making that i really give a solid fuck about, can’t wait for this

  9. philm  |   Posted on Nov 15th, 2008 0

    Avalanches! WTF….

  10. ruth  |   Posted on Nov 15th, 2008 0

    I agree, can you please check into Sufjan Stevens? He’s been quiet for so long.

  11. May I suggest to Midlake that you simply make a record that makes you happy. Disavowing a sound that has brought you success in an attempt to make yourself into the antithesis of that sound makes for great press, but people who really love your music will love you no matter what record you make. Your perceived credibility as artists isn’t about disavowing a sound, it’s about putting music out into the world.

    Rock stars show contempt for their fans. The music you make is in no danger of demonstrating contempt for anyone, and that’s why people love you.

  12. Marc  |   Posted on Nov 15th, 2008 0

    Great new feature!

    more suggestions: Röyksopp (new album is in the works since forever), Kings Of Convenience (will there be an album #3?), Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (what are these guys doing?),

  13. FSF  |   Posted on Nov 16th, 2008 0

    I want to know what Kanye’s up to.

  14. Chris  |   Posted on Nov 17th, 2008 0

    Great new feature on Stereogum!

    Interviewing the artists between albums is a far more interesting concept.

  15. Aaron  |   Posted on Nov 24th, 2008 0

    Thanks for the Midlake report. Except for the title reveal back in FEBRUARY, the band has been far too silent. Others I’d like to see: Doves, the Like, Autolux, Sufjan, Mellowdrone, My Vitriol (yes, they’re still around). None of these act ever update on what’s going on, even if there’s nothing going on really. Some of them will drop a song, or a “Hey, we’re going to play some shows and we’re still working on the album,” and then six months later they’ll say the same thing. My Vitriol has been doing this for years. Hopefully with the release of Chinese Democracy, they’ll be inspired to actually get album 2 out to the public someday.

  16. MD  |   Posted on Dec 2nd, 2008 0

    I’d like to know when Band of Horses is putting out a new album …

  17. Napoleon_In_Rags  |   Posted on Apr 2nd, 2009 0

    Please, PLEASE tell me when I will be able to hear, see, touch, taste or smell something new from Cody ChesnuTT. It’s impossible to find out what he’s up to. I agree with the people who said Midlake shouldn’t throw away their Van Occupanther sound just for the sake of it. The new album might be even better, or it might just be pretentious. Let the music direct you, don’t try to direct it.

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