Call and response: How Midlake came back from the edge
What did Midlake do when their frontman walked out last year? They picked themselves up and made a stunning new album in just six months. Eric Pulido discusses the Texan band’s shake-up with Lauren Murphy
What do you do when the lead singer and main songwriter of your band just ups and walks out? That’s the situation that Midlake found themselves in last year. The quintet from Denton, Texas, who have forged a reputation as purveyors of considered folk-rock with generous helpings of psychedelica and Seventies AOR, broke through with their second album The Trials of Van Occupanther in 2006.
After following it with The Courage of Others in 2010 – an album that guitarist Eric Pulido admits was somewhat difficult to make – it was clear that cracks were beginning to show, most notably with frontman Tim Smith.
“It was no secret that Tim struggled to be satisfied with the music we were making,” says the affable Pulido, who found himself the de facto frontman after Smith’s departure. “Also, he did not enjoy touring – so there was a big part of the band’s existence that he wasn’t happy about. In that regard, he was quite vocal about that – although of course, knowing that doesn’t mean that you expect him to walk out.
“It meant that it wasn’t the biggest shock in the world, but the timing was the thing that was the most difficult.”
Smith’s decision came while the band were knee-deep into making their fourth album, having spent almost two years working on it.
“I was very optimistic, even during the times that were more tumultuous or difficult,” says Pulido of the initial recording sessions. “I felt like we always did: that if we work 12 hours one day, we’ll work 14 the next. Just keep pushing. But I think we got to a place where the law of diminishing returns came into play, and we had lost a lot of life in the music. We tried it a lot of different ways: recording with different producers in different places.
“Everybody was feeling drained and a bit frustrated, but Tim anti-climactically decided that he didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, he didn’t see hope any more, any purpose, so he decided to leave.
“At that time it hurt, because I’d invested a lot of time – everybody did – and a lot of trust and a lot of diligence, so it was a bit daunting for that big of a shake-up to happen. The flipside of it was that it created a new challenge, a new chapter, a new opportunity. Long story short, we decided that we were gonna take hold of it; move forward, redefine things and obviously write and record a whole new record to make a clean break from what was.”