Interview: The Sea and Cake
Published on August 23rd, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
The Sea and Cake release their typically sublime tenth studio album Runner on 17th September, so an enthused Rocksucker fired some questions over to the Chicago four-piece’s bassist/synth-ist/resident artist Eric Claridge to find out a little bit more about the genesis of an album that’s been on heavy rotation at Rocksucker HQ of late. First, though, get an earful of this choice cut from the record…
Congratulations on a sublime new album. Were all of the songs written close together in time or do some date back a bit further than others?
Thanks, all the songs are from this year, post-Moonlight.
How involved are each of you in the writing process?
Sam [Prekop, vocals/guitar] usually starts things off and we build from there. Lately, mostly due to time constraints and the fact that we’re very spread out around Chicago, we’ve been doing a lot of the work individually at home and then putting it all together in the studio.
How would you describe Runner to those who haven’t heard it yet? Do you have a favourite track or tracks?
I find it chill, this one feels a little more laid back to me. Even the more rocking tunes don’t feel too manic. I like the first (“On and On”) and last (“The Runner”).
Did you make the artwork to any kind of spec, or was it just something you’d done that seemed to fit? What was your thinking behind the piece?
Actually, the cover was a photo Archer [Prewitt, guitar/piano/vocals] took in Argentina of a playground. I would love to have painted that insane robot.
Will we be seeing more of “Cat with catfish hands”, and may I respectfully request an accompanying concept album of the same title?
I was thinking of having another go at that painting – I’ve gotten a bit better since I painted the original and always liked it. Definitely a rock opera in there somewhere (and a horrible Broadway musical to follow).
How would you describe your rhythm section partnership with John? Did you click from the off, or was it something you had to work at?
I met John [McEntire, drums/percussion/synth] as he passed by me to go to the drum room on the first record, the next time I saw him we had recorded several songs. It just clicked from there. That is mostly due to John being open-minded and incredibly skillful. I’ve always been amazed that we can have polar opposite musical backgrounds and approaches and yet fit together so well.
Are there any plans afoot to play in the UK sometime in the near future?
There are the beginnings of plans, nothing solid yet but I’m sure we’ll make it over to London at some point soon. Hopefully we can do a proper UK tour this time, somehow we’ve never played Scotland (as a whole band) so I would love for that to happen.
Could you pick a favourite Sea and Cake album? How about a least favourite?
I’ve come to like Oui over the years, it feels like a very solid, cohesive and complete piece. Having said that, Nassau is a close second for me for the exact opposite reasons, it’s a formative album and yet somewhat fearless. Anything went, even if it probably shouldn’t have. The least favorite would be Car Alarm, if for nothing else, the title alone.
Which Sea and Cake album entailed the biggest/most stressful workload? And conversely which was the most fun/easy to make?
For the band as a whole, I think Oui was probably the most intensive album. We were getting back together after 3+ years which added a little extra pressure not to suck. We worked the whole album out beforehand, so a lot went into it. For me personally, Car Alarm was the toughest. I had finished an art show two weeks before we went into the studio and was fairly trashed from the lack of sleep and stress of meeting the deadline. I remember the Biz being a fun time. We recorded on the cheap on an eight-track reel-to-reel in the Tortoise loft space where John was living and it went down quick and easy. I’m always surprised that it sounds as good as it does.
Have you started thinking about the next album yet, or is it way too early to be asking that?
Way too early! We’ll get through the touring and see where we’re at.
Do you have any other projects going on at the moment or does The Sea and Cake have your full attention? How about the others?
Sam, Archer and I have an art show together in December in Lille. Because of the upcoming tour I’ll have to get the paintings done now to get them there in time while working up the new material (and old) and practicing for the tours. So for the time being it’s full on painting ’til we start practicing, then both till the art show is done.
Are there any obscure and/or up-and-coming acts that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?
A duo out of Portland called Sad Horse, two of my favorite people on Earth and I love their music. I really like the new incarnation of Brokeback with a full band, and an instrumental trio out of Brooklyn called Adam’s Castle, who I meet while drinking to excess with their bass player.
Finally, if you were forced to spend the rest of your days in solitary confinement, but were allowed to bring the entire works of five different artists along to tide you over, whose would you choose?
Charles Mingus, Neil Young, Al Green, Bad Brains and Joyce (Moreno).
Eric Claridge, thank you.