Midlake: In the Studio
Band is Close to Finishing Long-in-the-Works Third Album, The Courage of Others
Aug 20, 2009
It's been over three years since Midlake made a splash with their sophomore effort, The Trials of Van Occupanther, a smooth lilting slice of '70s influenced soft rock littered with Laurel Canyon harmonies and slow rolling beauty. Currently putting the final touches on their third full length, The Courage of Others, guitarist Eric Pulido took a little time out to answer some email questions about the three-year hold up for what sounds like a vastly different, and difficult to record, new album. Midlake has been working on the album for several years now and were actually interviewed in both Under the Radar's "Most Anticipated Albums of 2008" and "Most Anticipated Albums of 2009" issues. Pulido promises less piano and "more guitars, flute, and incense."
Where are you in the recording process of the new album?
Eric Pulido: If this album process were the American Civil War, we would be at the Battle of Gettysburg.
Who is producing the album? How has the producer aided the recording process?
We are producing the album, but are currently in the process of doing test mixes with different people on some tracks to see if we can find a good fit for a mixing engineer.
Where are you recording the album?
We are recording the album at our studio in good ol' Denton, TX.
What label will be releasing the album? Are you continuing your relationship with the Bella Union label? Were you happy with how Bella Union handled the release of your last few albums?
Bella Union is still our home base and we have no plans of ever changing that.
How would you describe the overall sound of the new album? How does it compare to The Trials of Van Occupanther?
To make this comparison, I'd like to reference The Tortoise and the Hare. If Van Occupanther was "the hare," this album would be "the tortoise." A bit slower to get there, darker, heavier...but I think in the end, he finished alright. That was a cheesy analogy, but it was the first to come to mind.
Did the band have any definitive goals they were shooting for before the recording process began for this album?
Re-financing my home, getting fit, being a better husband, reading more, etc.
Are you using any new instrumentation you've never used in the recording process before?
Well, we haven't been using much piano or keyboards at all this time around. We've traded it in for more guitars, flute, and incense.
When did you start writing for this album? How was the songwriting process different/similar to previous Midlake albums?
Tim [Smith] was writing songs during the touring of Van Occupanther, but not many of the songs survived the last year and a half. The "drawing board" has been no stranger to us, but we finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and have a collection of songs that we feel are right for the album.
The Trials of Van Occupanther was a sizable critical success. Did you feel any pressure to follow it up?
Do you think this album is more or less accessible than The Trials of Van Occupanther? Why?
That's a tough one. I would say that this one is a bit more influenced by the British folk era, so a bit darker and heavier than VO. If you're into that, I think you'll dig it more...if not, you won't.
It's been three years since the release of The Trials of Van Occupanther. Why such a long time period between albums?
Well, I can promise you that it's not for a lack of trying. We toured constantly from the beginning of '06 through October of '07 and started recording almost immediately after that. We dove right in, but had new recording gear to learn, new songs to write, and a new sound we were trying to achieve. Needless to say, it has taken time to get there. We've recorded and played together more than ever over this past year and a half and I know that we're better for it. I almost feel like we recorded album three, trashed it, and are on album four now.
Can you go into one or two tracks on the new album? If so, can you give us the track title and brief description of how the track sounds and how it came about?
The title track, "The Courage of Others" is actually one that was written some time ago but has been re-worked recently to fit the vibe/sound of the album. Bands like Pentangle, Fairport Convention, and Steeleye Span (among others) have been a great influence.
How is the vibe in the studio?
I'm honestly surprised that we're still a band, and it has been the most difficult recording process by far.
When can we expect the new album to be released?
Unfortunately with release schedules and such, it's looking like February 2010. If I'm not mistaken, (if we are indeed an anticipated album for next year) this will be the third year in a row that we're one of the most anticipated albums for Under the Radar. Shall we celebrate with a cover?!
Have you been road testing any of the new material? If so, how have audiences reacted to the new material?
Only one of the songs from the forthcoming album has been played live. It's called "Children of the Grounds," and after some re-working, we think we have a solid song.
The state of the music industry has been in a continual state of flux for the past several years with many established artists turning to self-releasing new material rather than rely on a label. What kind of business model is Midlake turning toward in regard to the release of this new album?
Although much has changed, I still think that outside of a quality album, having a group of people that love your music and have the time and resources to promote it are what ultimately helps to make an artist succeed. Whether you and your band are doing it daily yourselves, or you have a label/manger/booking agent doing the leg work for you, it still takes a lot of time and hard work.
Will you be touring this album? Is there a chance you will be doing a short tour before the album is released?
We will definitely be touring the album, and plan to start doing so by year's end.
Are you worried about how the new tracks will translate live?
Since they're all in Spanish, yes.
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