Kudos to Denton, Texas’ Midlake for doing what few bands have been able to do: make a record that retains a sense of identity despite the departure of its primary songwriter.
“It was no secret that Tim [Smith] struggled being content with where things were at musically and artistically,” says Eric Pulido about Midlake’s former guitarist and frontman. Pulido, who also plays guitar in the band, stepped in to lead the sextet as its driving force on its latest release, Antiphon. Pulido says the band briefly contemplated getting a new singer, but ultimately decided that would be a bigger change than forging on by themselves. The shift allowed Midlake to experiment with its sound, though without straying too far from its roots, namely melodic ’70s rock like Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, and Genesis—a template that also remained intact after a major lineup change.
“There really wasn’t a lot of time for us to sit and self-doubt and worry about fears and inhibitions,” says Pulido, who quickly gave the band the confidence they needed to get back to work. “I’m not prolific, so it was quite an undertaking, but any idea that I had, the guys made it better.”
With the rebirth, Midlake also landed a new record deal with Dave Matthews’ ATO Records, which validated all the hard work it put in on Antiphon. The title literally means “opposite voice,” and is generally used to describe a chanted response from a choir. But Pulido thought the word nicely summed up the spirit of the album, a response to what they had gone through. “I think it’s the plight of men,” says Pulido. “You’re defined by how you respond to things, not what the things are that have happened to you.”
Though heading out on the road without its former singer has been challenging, Midlake has found strength in its fans, who have embraced the new lineup and have been enjoying a set that contains several older songs the band hasn’t played in a while. All things considered, Pulido says, there have been remarkably few hiccups in moving forward re-formed. “I was actually the one talking the most of the time, even when Tim was in the band,” he says. “So that hasn’t really changed.” With Sarah Jaffe, James Anaya. Thursday, December 12. The Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., 441-4618, thecrocodile.com. 8 p.m. $12.