The Sea and Cake Whip Up A New Recipe:
A Discussion with Frontman Sam Prekop

Words by Allie Mason

Chicago, IL — Sam Prekop and his bandmates have been making music together for over 15 years, so it’s no surprise their musical style has evolved over time. For the most part, the Chicago-based foursome incorporates jazz, pop, electronic, and Brazilian styles of musical composition. However, their new album, The Moonlight Butterfly, takes a decidedly different path.

Prekop utilizes the same delicate vocals that brought The Sea and Cake into the spotlight, but the album has a lengthier, more instrumental focus. Archer Prewitt (lead guitar), Eric Claridge (bass) and John McEntire (drums) execute the new, more experimental and electronic style effortlessly. The record has a narrative feel that Prekop and the band plan to experiment more with, and they recently wrapped up a five-show tour in South America.

On the heels of a full out North American tour, as well as two shows north of the border in Toronto and Montreal, The Waster caught up with Prekop to discuss the band’s new record, their slight transformation in style and future endeavors.

The Waster: How does The Moonlight Butterfly differ from your previous albums on a conceptual level?

SP: I don’t know if you heard, but I made a solo record right before this that was pretty abstract not terribly song-based. So it’s hard for me to divorce myself from that way of thinking, but I wanted to divorce to make a Sea and Cake record. But I think a lot of those certain ideas that I thought could work [on his solo record] have sort of leeched into The Moonlight Butterfly. A song like “Inn Keeping” I think in some ways could have been on Old Punch Card, my solo record, in a way. Or, it could have until everyone else played on it and then of course it became a Sea and Cake song. Do you have any idea when that second half might be available?

Do you have any idea when that second half might be available?

I think and I hope probably late winter 2012 or early spring. I had hoped that it would come out earlier, but that’s sort of how it always goes. It always takes longer than you think. I got sidetracked by another project, so I had to put it on hold.

Is your movement toward more experimental and instrumental styles going to continue on the next record?

It’s hard to tell. I could see it possibly, just because I want it to feel like the other half of The Moonlight Butterfly without sort of becoming too aware of those restrictions. But I have a feeling it’s going to seep into it again. It’s hard to tell until we actually really start recording the material. I mean all of the stuff changes really drastically from where it starts. I’ve got some ideas going. And drastically changing” doesn’t mean, like, expanding; it can also be really chopped down to sort of a pop song format, or something that. But yeah, I feel like I’m sort of being excited by this more expansive attitude towards rock band music I guess.

Is there anything you plan to include on the next album that you didn’t have a chance to incorporate on The Moonlight Butterfly?

That’s a good question. Probably. I can’t seem to figure out what it would be. There is a certain sort of guitar interplay that I feel like Archer and I haven’t done in a while, where it’s really intricately finishing each other’s lines and stuff. I could see putting that up front again, but also having it sort of organically, and having it mutate and change as we play, but in a long form somehow. I mean it’s something that we’ve played with a bit but I feel like we could make a stronger point of it. That’s one idea, I mean we often mess around in that direction, but to really focus on it I think would be good.

How have fans been reacting to your new songs so far on this tour?

Great. People seem to know the new songs already, which always seem to be a peculiar sticking point. It seems like if people haven’t heard [a song] then they’re not as responsive. I’m sure that’s not actually true, but from our perspective there’s a certain excitement with familiarity for people listening and that is often not the case when we bring out new stuff to play. But I have to say, with this new record, we’re not playing everything on the record, but most things seem to have come across really well especially “Inn Keeping”. That song has really been developing quickly live. Well, not quickly, but it’s sort of morphing — not in new directions — but [it has] sort of a more powerful presence [live]. I’m not sure how to describe it, really. I think it’s more dramatic live than it is on the record. And we really sort of stick with the long form and it sort of makes sense as a live piece, in a way. A lot of it is subtly improvised, which of course excels live as well, and that is a great thing to have the opportunity to do. So yeah, it’s been really good.

Do you have any ideas yet for a title for the new album?

I never have a title until I actually hear the record and I sort of react to it. It’s always sort of a gut reaction and I throw it out. In retrospect, usually it’s some combination of words and titles that will resonate in some peculiar, off-hand, mysterious way. It sort of needs to be a combo of all those things for me to like it.

What’s it like being able to look yourself up online?

It’s pretty weird. If at all possible I try not to ever listen to any live recordings. And I think that’s one of the reasons why I love playing live. It’s like, Okay, I just played it. I don’t have to hear it again. You know? I don’t want to go back and critique it. From what I hear, something will always bug me or irritate me. So that’s why I love playing live, it happened, it’s over; you know? It can be all in my head. Where it sucked or not? I don’t need to know (laughs). I mean, I know we’re good at playing live and up to a certain point we’ve got it down. But yeah, I think that’s one of the best things about it. And the worst thing about YouTube is that people actually film these things and post it. As long as I don’t have to hear it, I don’t really care anyway. I just like to keep it as a memory. They all collect in my mind and it sort of makes up what I think about the experience. That’s how I like them to exist. I kind of do that with the records too, once they’re finished, which is mainly just making the decision that this is it, this is as far as I can go with it as good as it’s going to be. I usually listen to it until I really like it once and then I don’t play it anymore.

You don’t keep it in the shuffle?

No! I have no Sea and Cake on my iPod or iTunes or anything like that. | Chicago