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Sea and Cake on ‘Moonlight’ Drive

Band appearing Wednesday at the Casbah

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The term is a rather hideous one, but at this point, Chicago’s the Sea and Cake (a riff on Gastr del Sol’s “The C in Cake”) can only be seen as an indie-rock supergroup.

    Featuring Shrimp Boat’s singer/guitarist Sam Prekop and bassist Eric Claridge -- the post-rockers not afraid to mix it up with jazz, Krautrock, pop and more -- the Sea and Cake also features Tortoise multi-instrumentalist John McEntire and musician/cartoonist Archer Prewitt.


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    What started as a one-off almost 20 years ago has steadily grown into a formidable quartet that has nine LPs and a couple of EPs under its belt. The Sea and Cake's latest, The Moonlight Butterfly, is their third together following a short hiatus and finds the band at its most cohesive, effortlessly combining divergent styles into an elegant and free-flowing six-song gem.
    The band is currently back on the road (making a stop at the Casbah Wednesday night), and I recently spoke with bandleader Prekop about the new album, fatherhood and the elusive quest to make the perfect record.
    Scott McDonald: How’s it going?
    Sam Prekop: Good. Everything’s good. We just got back from the East Coast, and we were in South America a little bit before that. It feels like we’ve been on tour for awhile, but with breaks in between. But I think the shows have been excellent, and I think we’re playing better than ever, which is a great feeling.
    SM: Good to be back on the road?
    SP: Well, last year we did a pretty extensive tour with Broken Social Scene. That was a six-week thing, and it was a really good time. It’s not what we normally do, but it was relaxed in a lot of ways. You’re sort of off the hook if you’re the opening band. [Laughs] But it has been really good to be playing all of our own shows again. Definitely.
    SM: New album is out. Nice stuff. It’s very Sea and Cake but also seems somewhat informed by [Prekop’s 2010 solo release] Old Punch Card -- even the songs other than the title track.
    SP: I would agree, but I usually tell people that; no one really brings it up -- but definitely. And I think it happened naturally. A song like “Inn Keeping” was written after many of the others, and it was written somewhat as a response -- I just needed something else on the record. I made that foundational loop in my home studio with the same equipment I used for a lot of Old Punch Card. At first, I was just playing around, but then I added some guitar to it, and I started thinking that it was going to turn out pretty well. It’s become one of my favorites, because you can’t just preconceive something like that. It just sort of happened, and I went with it. And what’s funny, that title track, "The Moonlight Butterfly," was executed by John in his home studio. We’re both hard-core synthesizer buffs, and I consider John my mentor in that realm. [Laughs] It’s actually somewhat ironic that I put out the synth record.
    SM: Did you talk about the title track or was it just serendipity?
    SP: Well, I had given him some homework. I told him to go home and make something that we would want to hear, and then bring it back and we’ll tweak it and make it fit. And it was really exciting to get to the point where we felt like we could put it on a Sea and Cake record just because that’s what we’re into right now.
    SM: The Moonlight Butterfly is nicely melancholy. Strange to write what seems like a lonely record while having a relatively new, big family at home?
    SP: Well, it’s definitely in there. But it’s sort of a hallmark of the Sea and Cake that most people miss. If you’re not a careful listener, I think that’s obscured by the seemingly sunny outlook of the whole thing. To me, our repertoire has a melancholy arc to most of it. And this new record is definitely in that direction. Basically, when it boils down, that’s the kind of music that moves me the most. I have no interest in making a party record or anything like that. It’s music that gets to me, so naturally, that’s what I’m shooting for.
    SM: How is life with the twins?
    SP: Great. Really great. Well, more like it’s intense and great. But having kids, it has changed how I’m able to work. So even with all of the greatness that comes with being a parent, maybe there’s a bit of sadness [laughs] that comes with losing a certain kind of time. Old Punch Card was when I was really in the thick of it with two small babies and making a record at home -- which I really enjoyed, by the way -- going through that process got me to an entirely new head space. Having kids and making music was, before then, obviously, [laughs] an alien concept.
    SM: Amazing to think you’re coming up on 20 years together.
    SP: It’s a bit crazy to think about. But we’ve probably lasted this long just because we were never supposed to be a real band in the first place and fell into it, really, by accident. Maybe that’s been how I’ve been able to keep it going -- it was never meant to be -- [laughs] and that’s in the best way. I feel like I’m still learning all the time, and I feel like we still have a great record in us, and we still haven’t done it yet. That keeps me restless and it keeps me going. We’re never, ever, really satisfied. And that may be the case forever.
    SM: So what happens if you do make that perfect record?
    SP: I don’t know. Who knows if that will ever happen? But I do think we keep getting closer every time. And if it does, [laughs] maybe I’ll start another band and try it all again.
    Blogger Scott McDonald covers music in San Diego for a few different publications and is the editor of Eight24.com