by Jack Diablo
Eric Pulido and I grew up two streets apart in a quiet Houston suburb. Now Eric is the guitarist for the band Midlake, but he used to be my babysitter. Somewhere in between we even played in a church youth group band with Midlake’s drummer, Mckenzie Smith. Years later I learned they had formed a band in Denton, TX where Mckenzie was attending the University of North Texas. I’ve followed them pretty closely over the years but never had the opportunity to see them live despite my constant pleading. All that changes this month when they visit Northeast Florida for the first time.
The tour is in support of their upcoming release on Bella Union Records. The Courage of Others is the third full-length album from the critically-acclaimed band and will be released on February 2nd. In light of the occasion, I took the time to catch up with Eric and find out what the band has been up to.
Jack Diablo: How did Midlake come together?
Eric Pulido: Once upon a time there was a boy named Mckenzie, and Mckenzie always dreamed of being in a band. Mckenzie went to music school in Denton, TX where he began meeting others who wanted to join him in his quest for a musical career. After bribing them and promising things like sex, drugs, and rock n roll (all of which never came)…the others agreed to climb aboard. The rest, as they say, is history…
JD: Where does the name come from?
EP: Tim came up with the name after many failed attempts of a good band name. He told everyone in the band that a cool band that sounds like Bjork called ‘Midlake’ was coming to Denton to play. After everyone asked why we couldn’t come up with a cool name like that, Tim told everyone the truth, and knew we had a keeper for a band name.
JD:You have an interesting relationship with actor Jason Lee. How did that come about and what has he done for you guys?
EP: We met Jason through our label head (Bella Union), Simon Raymonde. Simon was the bassist for The Cocteau Twins, which Jason has always been a big fan of. Simon continued to send Jason records that the label was putting out, and Jason happened to really dig our first record Bamnan and Slivercork. We met at SXSW in 2004 and talked about music, film, and the possibility of working together among other things. Not long after he came to Denton and filmed a video for the song Balloon Maker, one of our favorites to date. Since, we’ve become good friends and have continued to work together on several things. Most recently, Jason did a documentary style film for the forthcoming record which will be available in our limited box set out in February.
JD: There is a marked change in sound from the lo-fi electronic Bamnan and Slivercork to the classic rock revival of The Trials of Van Occupanther. What can we expect on The Courage of Others?
EP: We were greatly influenced by the British folk era of music on this record. Although not as big of a shift from the first to second record, it is a bit darker and an overall heavier emotion. bands like Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and Pentangle to name a few were in heavy rotation throughout the recording process.
JD: What then is the underlying thread that unites these albums and characterizes the Midlake sound or ethos?
EP: Its tough to say from our end. I don’t know if there is a musical theme connecting each record necessarily, but just a desire to create something that moves us each time. Our influences have changed over the years, but we always hope to make a record that we would be proud of years later.
JD: What other projects are you and the other guys currently involved in?
EP: We all recently contributed to another artist’s record named John Grant (previously of The Czars). He came to Denton, TX to record his forthcoming album, Queen of Denmark (also on Bella Union), and we’re all big fans of his and excited for how he’ll be received.
JD: Denton seems like such an unusual location to have such a diverse and thriving music scene. What about it fosters that kind of environment?
EP: Denton is an amazing town to live in. The University of North Texas brings a lot of artistic folks to town, but the community and overall vibe of the city keeps people here. There’s a very supportive nature between artists in the town and a desire to promote one another and the town we live in, which I think is pretty unique. Its become a viral thing as bands have grown their profiles and traveled around the world calling Denton their home. It’s caused more media outlets to visit Denton in recent years and experience the culture here for themselves and write about it. I would encourage anyone to come visit this town and not to be surprised if you end up living here!