Midlake - Biography

BY Marcus Kagler

While their post millennial indie contemporaries were content with plundering the legacies of 80’s alternative artists, Midlake took a different tack and found inspiration in 70’s icon Fleetwood Mac and the Laurel Canyon sound. Founded in 1999 by vocalist and principal songwriter Tim Smith the original line-up also featured fellow University of North Texas jazz students McKenzie Smith (drums), Paul Alexander (bass), Eric Nichelson (guitars), and Evan Jacobs (keyboards). Originally working under the moniker The Cornbread All-Stars the band started as a jazz/funk ensemble with Smith taking up vocal and saxophone duties. A short time later Smith abandoned the saxophone and began composing songs that fell somewhere between the progressive folk of Jethro Tull and the lo-fi sonic explorations of Grandaddy. Jacobs left the group shortly after their sonic transition and the band added guitarist Jason Upshaw with Nichelson switching to keyboards. Just before the release of their debut ep, Milkmaid Grand Army (2001 Basement Front) Upshaw left the group and Midlake solidified their line-up with the addition of guitarist Eric Pulido. The quintet’s debut full length, Bamnan and Silvercork (2004 Bella Union) was self produced and recorded in Denton with the sole intention of making the material sound as lo-fi as possible. Although it wasn’t a huge hit, the album did catch the ear of actor Jason Lee, who directed the video for the track “Balloon Maker”. On the cusp of indie success, the band spent the next year honing their sound and writing material for their next album. Packed with complex song structures, gentle harmonies, and melancholy woodwinds and strings The Trials of Van Occupanther (2006 Bella Union) showcased a remarkable progression into a unique amalgam of 70’s folk and indie rock experimentalism. The album was an instant critical darling, catapulting Midlake into one of the biggest buzz bands of the year. The band is currently self-recording their third full length, The Courage of Others, which Smith has described as “darker” than previous material. 

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