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Opening for Elusive Neil Young in Istanbul, Killing It In Sydney: Midlake’s Summer Sounds More Fun Than Ours

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Categorized Under: Culture, KXT, Local Events, Music
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Midlake’s Eric Pulido. Photo: Jason D. Jones

Denton’s Midlake has been touring non-stop since the November release of Antiphon. On Tuesday, the band wrapped up a lengthy tour abroad, opening for Neil Young in Istanbul. Success may feel fleeting at home, but guitarist Eric Pulido says the band’s been feeling the love from Australia to Italy. A few hours before the show on Tuesday, Pulido sat down with Jason D. Jones to talk about the tour and what it feels like to open for some of the band’s biggest musical heroes.

Jones is a freelance journalist and media consultant. For the last six years, he’s been based in Istanbul. But he’s from Wichita Falls and spent most of his adult life living and working in and around Dallas, including four years here at KERA.

Art and Seek: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today. First, let’s talk about your tour and what you guys have been up to lately. You were just in England, right?

Eric: We’ve been all over on this run, it’s you know, the festival season. So, we’ve been doing festivals in and around Europe and the UK and the mixing in shows to kind of connect the dots.

A&S: So, Istanbul wasn’t one of your original tour stops?

EP: No, we were originally going to end with Hyde Park, which we just did, which Neil Young headlined. Then we got the call to actually open for him in Istanbul and we’re like, “OK… I guess we could extend it a couple of days!” (laughs).

A&S: How did that come about?

EP: Well, to be quite honest, I’m not 100% sure. I know that the same promoter (of the Hyde Park show) had talked about us coming to Istanbul to play just another club date and we were having difficulty trying to figure it out, how it could work, when it could work, for I guess this whole year and then this came up. I don’t know if Neil’s folks had anything to do with it, I’m not sure.

A&S: Did you get to meet him when you were playing at Hyde Park?

EP: No…no. I’ve heard he’s quite elusive. (laughs)

A&S: So, you don’t know if he’s a fan or not.

EP: I have no clue.

A&S: How does it feel to open for a legend like that? I know you guys also opened for Pearl Jam in Dallas…

EP: Oh, it’s great. Obviously, when an icon like that, you know, an artist, a musician that you see play or open up for, or collaborate with, it’s like a dream. It’s like when you’re a kid you look up to these bands and you’re a fan and it’s really cool to kind of be a part of something that they’re doing in a bigger way, whether that be opening or collaborating or whatever. It’s always fun (during) festival season because it’s kind of like that, on steroids. Because there’s all of these bands and I’m a fan at heart, so I just love to play our set and hang out and be another punter at the festival, you know, have a beer, some food and watch some bands that I love. So, something like this with someone not only who is an icon but also a big influence to us with our music, it’s magical. It’s just really cool. It’s something special.

A&S: You’ve had quite a bit more success in Europe than back home. Is that correct?

EP: Yeah.

A&S: I know that there are bands from the States who have experienced a similar phenomenon; they might get some minor attention at home but have great success in Europe and other places. Do you have any insight on why that might be the case?
EP: It’s a good question. We’ve been asked that a lot over the years. I do feel like there is a difference in media exposure and the forums that exist to some degree and how eclectic they are. and how well they do. Something like BBC 6 music or just BBC overall. You know, it’s spanning the whole country, for sure, and a huge demographic and exposing a lot of different eclectic music, different styles, different types. That’s a pretty popular avenue for people to not only be exposed to bands and that they receive their news and their music and everything. The closest to that for us in America would be NPR, but I think that’s much more specific to a (particular) demographic than something like BBC. And, I feel like, I know everybody’s publications are struggling to some degree, but it seems that they (BBC) are sticking around. They’re doing ok. And the festival scene has been huge for much longer and thriving, covering a lot of different bands. You put a bunch of people in a festival and you feature a lot of different bands and they get a lot of exposure in front of a lot of folks. It seems like now the US is growing in those ways, but it’s been more specific and narrow to where that exposure goes. I think there’s much more focus on the mainstream in America; it’s very polar and when you tour it’s very polar. You can play in L.A. And it’s like, “Oh, yeah! It’s great!”. Then you go one state over and it’s like you just entered another country. I’m sure a lot of bands feel that way and America is big, it’s a difficult country to tour. The internet was a huge thing for indie bands who were able to use social media to expose people to their music. Now, it’s just overexposed. It’s saturated and not like it used to be.

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Midlake rocks Istanbul. Photo: Jason D. Jones

A&S: Yeah, it’s not like the early MySpace days when indie bands could create a buzz almost overnight. Now there’s a lot more noise out there.

EP: Yeah, exactly.

A&S: What about other countries besides the UK? Are there some hot spots, places that are working well for you?

EP: Yeah, Europe as a whole has been great to us. You equate it [popularity] now more by attendance at a show than just by record sales. So, if we play a big, beautiful room in Sweden and it gets sold out, we’re like, “Oh! Well I guess we’re doing alright in Sweden!” [laughs]. We did think one show there went really well recently. We also went to Italy on this run and a lot of people came out and we had struggled in Italy early on. We thought, “Well maybe this record’s doing better!” [laughs]. I mean, I don’t know! You’d think these things are easier to equate but it’s not. Because, like I said, I don’t think record sales for a band like us is always the best gauge. Australia is a great example where, I don’t know if anybody sells a ton of records in Australia but we went there and played the Sydney Opera House on this last run and it was beautiful. It was amazing and for us flying over from Texas, we’re like, “Well, I hope people show up.” [laughs]. We’re just always very thankful and very curious to see, with each record, how [the audience] grows or stays the same or even falls in certain areas.

A&S: Do you guys listen to any specific radio stations in DFW?

EP: Yeah, yeah. I love KXT and have even gotten to guest DJ a couple of times and that was just great.

A&S: Has Midlake been getting some play there?

EP: Yeah, they’ve been great to us and to a lot of local artists. I think it’s sad that there aren’t more stations like [KXT] that have broader programming. I mean, if you listen to the radio when you go on a road trip and you’re listening to a popular radio station, you’re probably going to hear the same song over and over and over again on that road trip. Then you’re like, “Man, they are really shoving this down my throat.” So, it’s cool to hear a station like KXT that’s playing a mix of music but it’s also paying attention to some local artists that might not otherwise be heard at all on the radio. And it kind of gives them a springboard to get exposure but also to let people know that, “Hey, there’s more music out there than just that mainstream format. There’s more out there!” I think it’s good for a radio station to do it because it’s such an easy thing to turn on your radio. It’s hard to go searching, like you said, amongst the noise on the internet. Yeah, I could find a lot of new bands but, I don’t know, when I go to Pitchfork or type ‘cool bands’ into Google, it’s too much. I think it’s cool that the guys and gals at KXT have a very caring and responsible ear to what’s going on in the area and they’ve shown us a lot of support and a lot of love and I couldn’t say enough good things about them.

A&S: Do you have some favorite DFW bands?

EP: I’ve loved Centro-matic for years. I’ve always been a fan and I think people should take notes when they watch them play live because I think they’re just amazing. Boxcar Bandits is a local Denton bluegrass band that’s just great. Sarah Jaffe, obviously, is a local DFW queen. She’s great, we got to play with her a bunch. Robert Gomez, who is a label mate of ours, who also lives in Denton. Baptist Generals, they’re a Sub Pop band but they’ve been around for years; great guys, great music. In Denton, you can throw a rock and hit three good bands! [laughs]

A&S: You mentioned earlier that Istanbul was your final show on this tour. What’s next for Midlake?

EP: We head back home and a few of us are doing an acoustic tour, just a stripped down thing, opening for Band of Horses. We’re looking forward to that. We love those guys and have played with them before and we’re fans. Logistically, it just worked out better for us to kind of strip it down a little, it’s just, like, 30-minute sets and we’re just doing acoustic. So, there’s like 2 weeks of that and then we have one more festival in Monterrey, it’s called First City. And then we’ll actually get some sleep and take a rest. I mean we’ve been going non-stop for a year now.

A&S: Do you have any plans for recording a follow up to Antiphon?

EP: We don’t really have anything on the books right now. I mean, we always kind of reconvene and figure out what’s next. I think a few of us have some other things we want to get into before coming back to anything Midlake. Some of the guys produce (other records). I’m excited about a project called Banquet, which is a collaborative with other artists, so I’m sourcing that out right now. But, I’m sure we’ll always play in some capacity or another. Some of the guys are a part of (Banquet), as well. I think we just want to put the ship in the dock for this year and just get into some other things before returning to it.