“This band’s from Denton.” A personal account of Midlake’s history

Midlake. From left: Joey Mclellan, Eric Nichelson, Eric Pulido, Jesse Chandler, McKenzie Smith.
Photo: Barbara FG.

In 1999, Tim Smith, McKenzie Smith, Paul Alexander, Eric Nichelson, and Evan Jacobs were students in the jazz studies department at The University of North Texas. That same year, they came together to form a band named Midlake.

Midlake’s sound is generically described as “folk rock,” but that doesn’t quite tell the story. Driving to lunch one day in late 2006 with my friend and radio engineer Lyle Hathaway, I popped in Midlake’s new cd, The Trials of Van Occupanther. As we listened, Lyle, whose tastes range from Wishbone Ash to Daniel Lanois to off-the-beaten-path Weisenborn slide guitarists, asked “Where is this band from?”

He said they sounded like Fairport Convention meets Nick Drake meets Radiohead. I told him “This band’s from Denton”.

It’s not uncommon for people to be surprised by the unique sound of Midlake. Their music seems to well up from another time and place.

As a long-time Denton resident, I’ve had a chance to see many up-and-coming bands over the years, but Midlake seemed to have its sights set on bigger stages than the Denton nightclub scene. Early in their existence, they worked the larger Texas cities, especially Austin. I never saw them in Denton proper until 2010 when they played the NX35 Festival and performed along with the Flaming Lips at the North Texas Fairgrounds.

They’ve undergone some key personnel changes over the years, notably parting ways in 2012 with original vocalist, guitarist and primary song-writer Tim Smith. But the band continues to perform and make records. The current lineup of Eric Pulido, McKenzie Smith, Eric Nichelson, Jesse Chandler, and Joey McClellan released For the Sake of Bethel Woods in 2022 and toured behind that record.

Midlake returns to North Texas on December 16. They’ll be playing Tulip’s in Ft. Worth, with an opening set from Midlake’s jazz trio performing “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. Keep up with the band on their website.

You can hear even more local music at noon Mon-Fri on Local Bites and on the KXT Local Show on Thursday nights at 7 p.m. If you’re an artist from North Texas, you can submit your music to KXT for consideration right here.

Eric is a weekend host at KXT and the Sr. Director of Radio Operations for North Texas Public Broadcasting. He’s been behind the scenes of every KXT Live Session and shares stories from them during his new segment, The Final Mixdown, on Sunday mornings at 9 a.m.

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