Progress Report

Progress Report: Midlake

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.

Midlake – “Roscoe” (MP3)

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 [email protected].