How Midlake Retained Their Identity as a Band When They Lost a Lead Singer
Eric Pulido sounds excited and apprehensive at the same time. His band, Midlake, is about to open some high-profile shows for Pearl Jam (including one last week at American Airlines Center) and there is also a new Midlake album, Antiphon, that hit streets a few weeks back. But it is the band's first release since the departure of lead singer and principal songwriter Tim Smith. So Pulido's trepidation is understandable.
"He left and he was a huge, pivotal figure in the band, but we haven't had a lot of contact with Tim," Pulido says matter-of-factly. "He moved out of Denton to pursue his solo career. I think he just needed to get away. There was some existence of this for him that was unhealthy. He needed a break from the music as well as a break from us."
That break quickly became permanent, leaving Pulido and the rest of the band with a decision to make. They had made three impressive albums with Smith, including 2010's The Courage of Others, an effort that brought the band international acclaim. It would have been an easy choice to walk away and start fresh with different players, but Pulido insists that simply wasn't an option.
"We felt like we still wanted to carry on," he says. "We had a desire and we felt like we had unfinished business. We knew that we wanted to see it through. We wanted to at least try and that's what we did. As we continued on, we felt encouraged by what we heard. We felt good working in a more communal way and with a shared vision."
And besides, under the leadership of Smith, Pulido and the others in Midlake began to feel less and less like a unified band.
"It was different in the sense that we all helped facilitate Tim's vision a lot of times," Pulido says. "That didn't mean that we didn't come up with ideas together, but he was the biggest filter and the last say on how things would go on."
Now, things are different. It's a more collaborative effort, and a veteran band suddenly found itself in uncharted waters.
"I am not prolific. I didn't want to do something on my own," Pulido says. "I had to bring things to the guys and say, 'I need your help, your talent to make it better.' With this, I definitely stepped into the lead singer role, but I wanted to empower everybody to put the onus on all of us, not only because I wanted to, but because I needed to."
And the evidence on Antiphon shows a band making the best out of adversity by sharing the load and maximizing the skills of all involved. By banding together and forging on, the members of Midlake have rediscovered the talents each had learned at the University of North Texas so many years ago.
"It is something that we were defining as we went along, and we were defining it together," Pulido says. "It was new, but it was out of necessity."
That necessity actually resulted in music more relaxed than what was created when Tim Smith led Midlake. But that's about the only difference. Indeed, casual fans will probably have a hard time discerning between the Smith and post-Smith outfits. According to Pulido, there's an obvious reason for that.
"It's still the same players that made all those old records," Pulido says. "It was us. It's going to have some type of common thread between what we did with and without Tim. At the same time, our influences have changed over the years. Each record took on a little different sound and this one is no exception. Hopefully, people will hear a common thread that is still Midlake."