Call And Response: Midlake

To re-group and triumph...

It’s been approximately 12 months since Tim Smith left cherished American rock band Midlake and, his now former, bandmate Eric Pulido slid into the role of lead singer. Rather than replace Smith, Pulido and his fellow remaining Midlake members decided to fill in the void themselves.

After two years of toiling away on an album that was eventually scrapped with the departure of Smith, Midlake began anew writing and recording ‘Antiphon’ in six months. With ‘Antiphon’, Midlake’s survivors have each given more of themselves and taken on greater ownership over the music; the result of which is an album Pulido describes as a greater communal representation of the band as a whole.

The first Midlake album sans Smith, Pulido readily admits some songs deal directly with Tim’s leaving but also recognises Smith’s contributions to Midlake’s legacy and affirms that ‘Antiphon’ is a record that hopefully makes their former colleague proud.

Did the band struggle with a sense of identify following Tim’s (Smith) departure?
Well when Tim decided to leave obviously there were some questions swirling… And I think off the bat we just, instead of trying to get lost in defining everything, we just decided, ‘Well, let’s just start writing and recording.’ Quickly we decided, well one that we didn’t need to bring in someone else. I was already singing a lot with the band live and on record; and the transition was probably even taking place before, while Tim was in the band coz I was singing a lot of melodies with him. I was standing in the middle of the stage talking a lot. It was no secret he didn’t really want to be there and wasn’t enjoying it.

So it made more sense for me to just move over into that role. And with that we felt like the music that we were making… was Midlake. I know the identity had changed. I mean, hell, we had changed from album to album even with Tim. We always seemed to take a left turn in style or sound, so it was no different.

There was obviously a distinct change where one of the main guys jumped off the boat but if we were going to carry on with the commitment we had made to our management, our label, our fans, and if we could make a record that we felt we were behind well then the band that was making that record was still Midlake.

Break-ups are usually accompanied with a sense of freedom, whether new or regained. Did losing Tim open up Midlake to new creative possibilities?
It did. In the past, for better or worse, we were a little more narrow in our influence and scope and vision. I think because of the change, and Tim being such a powerful figure in what we were doing, that out of necessity I definitely wanted for everyone to step more than they ever had. So the need for everyone became much more important. So people’s voices, both literally and figuratively, became heard more … So the influence was more broad, the vision was more communal and shared. And so I think inherently the sound was more dynamic, it wasn’t as specific. Again I think it was an inherent or organic thing that came from everybody being more, like I said, their involvement and their voice being more influential on the record.

Fans will inevitably listen to the new album in search for clues about the band’s feeling about the split with Tim. With that in mind were their any lyrics you wrote that you decided not to include so they couldn’t be misinterpreted?
That’s a good question. Tim was writing a solo record, and so was I, during the Midlake album that we were making while Tim was a part of it. And obviously some of that I carried over into the record… After the transition the one song that I had taken over that wasn’t fully formed did take on a lyrical content that was specifically about Tim, and that song’s ‘Provider’.

That song is about Tim and I would unabashedly admit that. I’m not trying to knock him, obviously in that it’s kind of me basically (telling) him, ‘Provider carry on far from this golden age; this great romantic period that we had. But even though I feel like we had it good I’ll still defend you, I’ll still respect you.’ And ‘follow me down the foxhole in the ground’ that’s kind of saying, ‘don’t delay’. And in some ways, in a loving sentiment, saying, ‘carry on’.

So with this record you still wanted to do Tim proud?
Yeah, he’s obviously been a big part of our past. He’s someone that I’m sure, in voice or song writing or style, we all have in us, and in him he has us. In that type of way, especially if we’re going to call ourselves Midlake, well then whatever we do I want it to be held to the standard of what we were and hopefully, for some, surpass that. Of course you’re always wanting to grow and be better and this record was no expectation of what we desired.

After Tim left the band decided to start the record over from scratch and finished the album in about 6 months. How did you manage to still create such a textured sound in a relatively short amount of time?
When Tim left after working on a record for two years it’s kind of like you’re running a marathon. You’re still not there, you’re not done, but you’ve put in all this time even though you still have a long way to go and difficult road, you have in that last part of the marathon more desire that ever because you’ve come this far…

And to be honest after working on a record for two years, man, being in a band is feast or famine. You don’t make a lot of money when you’re at home recording a record, especially a band where we’re at if you’re not touring a lot. Well for us to tour again we needed to make a new record. So there was also incentive for us to get there on that level too…

If it hadn’t of been right we wouldn’t have turned it in. We didn’t just put it out just because. We knew there was a flip side of that but we just had a more positive outlook to keep pushing. And we hit our stride, we started figuring out some things and how things work best in trying to harness that and channel that.

During October/November you’ll be touring the UK and Europe. How’s the feeling on stage at the moment playing the new stuff and Midlake’s old material without Tim?
The crowds have been very encouraging and have really embraced us in a way that is overwhelming… With the new stuff obviously it’s an easier transition. With the old stuff I feel like we’ve gone back to some songs that had been put away; some songs that we had changed up a little bit, maybe had lost some of their true album styling, and we’ve brought that back which has been great…

Obviously there’s no hiding it, Tim’s not there. But we’re a part of that band as well, that was. And we love that people know us because of that music so we want to play that music just as you do when you’re a new band making a new record. You still play that old stuff because it matters to people and to us. It’s a part of our history. I can’t control how people react to it but what I’ve seen is a great reception to both the old and new material.

Words: Marc Zanotti

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'Antiphon' is set to be released on November 4th – catch Midlake at the following shows:

23 London Islington Assembly Hall **(SOLD-OUT!)**

20 Manchester The Ritz
21 Wolverhampton Wulfrun Hall
22 Glasgow O2 ABC
23 Dublin Vicar Street
25 Bristol Anson Rooms
26 London O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire

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