Fair to Midlake

Sometimes, all it takes for a band to become the next big thing is one little break that will propel them from cult curiosities to mainstream teen-screams. After a decade and a half in the indie scene, Denton, Texas, act Midlake is poised to become the next chart-topping rock crossover with both a new record, Antiphon, on Dave Matthews’ label ATO and as the opening act for legendary grunge rockers Pearl Jam when they come to Oklahoma City Saturday.

While new lead singer and guitarist Eric Pulido describes their current sound as “psychedelic folk rock,” it has been a long, strange trip to get there.

“Our music’s changed a lot, and I think a big part of that is that you mature, your tastes change, you grow and you find new things that interest and influence you,” Pulido said. “I think over the past few years, we’ve kind of worn that on our sleeves. Early on, the band had kind of formed out of a jazz school that everyone had gone to. So there was kind of a transition of trying to be a rock band but probably sounding like a funk or jazz band with too many chords and making it too complicated.” Over the past few years, however, they have taken the jazz influences down to a minimum and have become more influenced by the likes of Björk, The Flaming Lips and Grandaddy. As a matter of fact, it was Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle that got Midlake hooked up with bassist Jeff Ament and Pearl Jam, who were already big fans of the band, much to their surprise.

“Pearl Jam’s right in my wheel house,” Pulido said. “Growing up, as a teenager, I loved them. And I still have the utmost respect for these guys, so it was cool and humbling that he said they were into our band and knew who we are.”

After a bit of emailing back and forth, this mutual appreciation society was able to come to a deal, with Midlake opening for Pearl Jam, starting Friday in Dallas and concluding the following Saturday at Chesapeake Energy Arena. It’s a gig that Pulido and crew are excited for and hope will give their burgeoning career a much-appreciated fan-base boost.

“You never can tell,” Pulido said. “I think you just kind of take opportunities as they come and kind of hope that new folks get to see your band and are kind of into it. Obviously, this is an opportunity in that way for us, and we’re glad that we’re able to take it. Hopefully more like this comes.”

But like the fans that Midlake is hoping to win over at this show, Pulido can’t help but be starry-eyed over some of his own musical heroes.

“I’m glad to play, but I’m just as glad to sit on the side of the stage and watch them play. We’re fans of this music too,” Pulido said. “I think those who come to see us can expect some energy — a dynamic mixture of instrumentation and lots of vocal harmonies. It’s going to be an electric show.”

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Louis Fowler

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