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Feature Thu Apr 26 2007

Gapers Block Interview: The Sea and Cake

After 14 years together, and roughly two and half where you haven't played together, any relationship is bound to need some quality time. In this case, Sam Prekop, Archer Prewitt, John McEntire and Eric Claridge aren't your typical relationship, but the Sea and Cake aren't your typical band either. Originally a one-off collaboration between friends from fairly established bands (One should always be wary to apply the term "supergroup") the results were pleasing enough that they decided to make the band permanent. Now with an indie rock lifetime (or two) under their belts, critical expectations and shoehornings around them, and a handful of speculations that the band was done for good, Sam Prekop talks with Gapers Block: Transmission about everything and Everybody.

seaandcake.jpg

The Sea and Cake. (photo by Jim Newberry)

Gapers Block: So are you pleased with the final result of the album?

Sam Prekop: I usually have a hard time right after we finish the record with listening to it. That happens every time — just getting oversaturated with it. But lately we've been rehearsing all this stuff for our tour coming up. The songs are holding up really well when we perform them live. It's good.

GB: I listened to some of the tracks today — it's a lot punchier on some of the songs — guitars are rocking out, tracks are shorter — is that a specific intention or just a natural progression?

SP: It was sort of a loose guideline — we wanted to pay attention to basic things. Today we were playing a song called "Crossing Line" and we thought: "Why don't we rehearse all this stuff, practice it, and then record it?" And now it's even changing further. But we were constantly aware — trying not to be too sleepy. We're accused of being so mellow all the time. We're starting to get concerned.

GB: John McEntire is not behind the boards for the first time in your recording history — how did that go?

SP: Technically, the first Sea and Cake Record was done by Brad Wood - but we weren't really quite a band yet at that point in time, so I don't know if that counts. Basically we're trying — perhaps in vain — to shake it up a little bit see if something else could happen if we went to a different studio, worked with someone else. I think it went pretty well – it's nice to have an outsider, but that was a member — [Everybody producer Brian Paulson] was helpful in getting opinions out. He and John are good friends — in terms of say, setting up the mics and all that, he and John were pretty collaborative in a lot of ways — there was a lot of give and take, back and forth with ideas. We all do a little bit, but the rest of us aren't really into the technical aspects of it. When it came to mixing, it was pretty much Brian's thing the whole time. He would solicit opinions, but we were careful not to imprint old habits and to get as much out of him as we could.

GB: But you haven't changed too drastically here — it's not like you're adding soul samples and disco drumming and the like.

SP: Right — its not like we did an about-face or anything, but we did want to make a more organic, live-sounding record.

186%20cover.jpg

GB: So the album's cover art — this is one of your photographs?

SP: Yeah — it's an older photograph. I was looking through my, archives (if you could call them that) for stuff that could work — it's a photo from Norway of a doorway. I think originally it was a color photo, but I wanted to give it that blown-out, high contrast look, sort of in homage to a certain style of Japanese photography. It just seemed to work well with the record — it doesn't illustrate any point on the record or anything, but I think graphically it's stronger than usual.

GB: You guys all come with high credentials from your previous bands — its always interesting to see what everyone brings to the plate and how you guys work with that.

SP: It's weird — I don't know — we've played together for so long that bringing in outside elements — it's not that they dissipate or anything, but its just that when you play together so naturally, nothing sticks out beyond the realm of Sea and Cake. It's sort of a bizarre phenomenon — whenever we get back together, I'm always worried — "Is it actually going to work this time around? Maybe something has changed and its not going to happen", stuff like that. It's not necessarily a given that we'll always be able to play as the Sea and Cake. Actually, every time I'm surprised that it snaps back so readily. I guess there's no way to replicate that kind of history no matter how much time has gone by. However, I think four years is pushing it. It's been less than four years since we played together, touring, and sessions and stuff like that, but it appears to the public otherwise.

GB: Sure — Fourteen years of history, that's basically a marriage in the band. But there's definitely a big enough gap there to make you wonder what's been going on.

SP: We all have mistresses. *laughs* We're hoping — and I say this every time — to capitalize on this momentum we've got going. I'm really thinking about doing another record in the fall — without taking a break. I'm sure that will make us record a different kind of record as well. And also we won't be fed up with the "comeback problem" or whatever you'd call it. That's what happens when you take a break: "Oh, we assumed you all were dead". I hope we can do another record soon, but part of the problem is that you do have to do all the other work with a release — that's when it starts to cut into other activity. We'll probably have to tour on the next record as well. But it is definitely doable and quite possible. And I have a feeling that we can't afford to take another three-four year break. I think that would be trying the patience of the public — at some point they just say "yeah …whatever".

GB: That's always a fear. But the band gets so much publicity from all of the faces in the band — people are always going to say "Sam Prekop, of the Sea and Cake, Tortoise drummer John McEntire, also of Sea and Cake — you're definitely got enough energies keeping the mythos alive.

SP: Yeah I'm definitely not complaining — we've been really pretty lucky over the years. I still find it flabbergasting that I have a career in music — it was never really my plan. So I'm always flattered or shocked that I'm able to keep doing it and people pay attention, buy the records, come to the shows. I'm definitely happy that we've been supported so long. I mean, I realize that at this point there is a challenge — that it entails more work to keep the spark happening.

GB: Do you find everyone is pushing for that together, or that when things are getting a little low, one person will step up and reinvigorate the band?

SP: Well, unfortunately it kind of lands on me to get it started — not unfortunately necessarily, but … if I don't come up with a bunch of ideas for this next record, its not going to happen, basically. Which could be seen as problematic, in that occasionally I feel trapped — I have to start it, or else there's not going to be another Sea and Cake album. At certain points in the process it's not really a burden, but more like responsibility. Basically if I chose to do a solo album next, there won't be a Sea and Cake album.

GB: So Archer's not going to get the guys together and do a Sof Boy Rock Opera without your initial push?

SP: I guess not. I might suggest it, but not primarily someone else start it — start the tunes goin'. *chuckles* But the truth is that part of how we work — is basically a product of my limitations as a guitar player and songwriter. I'm not nearly as good at adding things after the fact — whereas Archer is much better at that. It's a proven way that we work — I really don't know how it would work otherwise.

The Sea and Cake will play two shows in Chicago on May 31st at the Empty Bottle.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »

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Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
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