Some Raw Material; An Interview with Archer Prewitt of The Sea and Cake

Getting old with bands, it’s rewarding to find those that can not only maintain your attention but even surprise you, if not but for subtle ways. For over two decades and 11 albums, The Sea and Cake have consistently produced such rewarding albums – working in a seamless transitional arc that’s only apparent when revisiting releases two or three back in the catalog. Losing bassist Eric Claridge, the band’s recent era of hushed indie pop progresses further on Any Day, continuing on from where it built with 2012’s Runner.

Ghettoblaster: If it’s not a personal matter, can I ask why Eric Claridge decided to leave the band?

Archer Prewitt: It primarily stemmed from carpel tunnel syndrome and arthritis.  After some difficulty performing songs on the last album, he decided that he couldn’t do the tour to support it.

GB: When you found out that he would be leaving the band was there any uncertainty to The Sea and Cake continuing?

AP: Well, since nearly half of Runner was arrived at as a trio, we felt there was no need to stop working together.  It seemed natural to try to develop a new album with just the three of us.

GB: You’ve talked about Any Day being The Sea and Cake’s most political and agitated record. Was the current state of things an inspiration to get this new album out or just a snapshot of your emotions in a time that you had decided to make a new album?

AP: That would be more of a question for Sam in terms of lyrical motivation. But we definitely discuss the political environment and how maddening it all is.  I personally feel there was a certain catharsis in making this record.  I always listen closely to Sam’s lyrics to decipher what’s going on, and there’s plenty of darkness and frustration conveyed.  But there is always some optimism tempering the bitterness.

GB: In an interview, Sam mentioned when writing songs just on guitar there’s a tendency to overcomplicate things. Do you know what he meant by that? Being such a stripped down record, I was interested to hear more.

AP: He has mentioned this before.  Without other instruments adding to the song’s development, he has said that he finds the need to play more.  When he and I worked on songs before recording basics with John, it seems that the structures leaned up with guitar interplay.

GB: You’ve talked about being influenced by classical music that you’d been listening to, what do you see as the through lines between The Sea and Cake and some of those influences?

AP: I’m thinking more of the more minimal pieces of Bach, Chopin, Satie, Britten, Handel, Schubert, Schumann, Beethoven, Skempton, etc.  Perhaps the absorption of this incredible music informed the faux strings on Any Day, and some of the Ebow/organ layering I was working on with this record.  It was my goal to allude to chamber string sections or pianistic round tones with the guitar.

GB: Translating the songs from the album to a live performance how important is closely replicating the sound as opposed to exploring new sounds within the limitations?

AP: I feel that the parts are carefully crafted enough that I want to try and approximate them live.  The limitation is the ability to only play one guitar part. I tend to develop more complex chords to incorporate overdubbed parts, or just choose the most important melody.

GB: I know you’ve remained busy as a cartoonist, but do you think there’s the chance of another solo record?

AP: I’m working on a new solo album but it’s taking quite a long time. Lyrics tend to slow me down.  Outside of working on comics, The Sea And Cake has been quite active, and my wife’s business – AP Shop in Lakeside, MI – keeps me running.  I look forward to finishing a new record.

GB: Do you find any similarities in the creation process between your work in music and comics? Maybe in how ideas are initially formed or whittled down to what becomes the final product?

AP: Actually, I do.  I think that all artistic endeavors start with some raw material or sketch that spurs one on to refinement and expansion of the initial idea.  I record interesting melodies or chords, and I sketch odd locations, cars, eccentric people, animals, etc.  It all has potential.

Photos: Heather Cantrell

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