The next time you’re in the city of Denton, Texas, you could do worse than swing by the speakeasy-style Paschall Bar, pull up a stool and order a Pulido Old Fashioned. “It’s my signature cocktail,” grins Midlake’s frontman Eric Pulido from under a well-worn baseball cap. “I think they just started getting tired of me saying: ‘Instead of the sugar can you do Bénédictine [a liqueur], and then can you also put in maple bitters … ’”
Pulido isn’t simply a fussy customer, but alongside the rest of Midlake actually owns this dimly lit, book-lined boozer, which, like so many others, found itself on the brink of collapse during the early stages of the pandemic. “We experienced the up and down of ‘We’re good’, ‘We’re not’, ‘Now we’re OK!’” offers Pulido with a sigh. “It was definitely a trying time, but I feel like we’re coming out of the woods now.”
The same could be said for Midlake themselves, who have weathered other storms in their 20-odd-year existence. After a speedy rise following the eerie, timeless 2006 single Roscoe, the warmly experimental Texas folk-rockers found themselves riding the crest of a new wave of dreamy classic rock groups, leading to everything from Fleet Foxes’ folksy hymnals to Tame Impala’s swirling psychedelia. They followed their breakthrough second album, The Trials of Van Occupanther, with 2010’s The Courage of Others, switching their lens to the UK and drawing on the likes of Pentangle and Fairport Convention. The band’s seemingly breezy existence, however, hit a wall during sessions for their fourth album, with the acrimonious departure of their frontman and founding member Tim Smith.
Rather than break up, the band scrapped everything they had worked on with Smith and started over, writing and recording 2013’s Antiphon with Pulido on lead vocals. “Part of it…