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Solo shots
Sam Prekop with no Sea or Cake
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How does Sam Prekop feel about rehearsing? "I hate it," the frontman of Chicagoís the Sea and Cake says over the phone from his home the day before leaving for a European tour in support of Whoís Your New Professor (Thrill Jockey), his second solo album. "Itís really dull. Thereís definitely something to be said about the perhaps elusive confidence it can provide. I mean, I think if I could get everyone together to rehearse properly, I would opt to do that, but it canít happen with this group."

Prekop means the solo band ó bassist Josh Abrams, drummer Chad Taylor, guitarist Archer Prewitt (also a Sea and Cake member), and cornet player Rob Mazurek ó heíll be bringing to the Middle East next Thursday, June 2. Taylor lives in New York and Mazurek in Brazil, which explains why proper rehearsals canít happen, but thereís also something to be said about the perhaps elusive breeziness not practicing can make possible: the music on Professor ó which Prekop says they had about a week to get together before entering Sea and Cake and Tortoise member John McEntireís Chicago studio last summer to record ó has a loose, improvisational feel. "The arrangements are pretty open-ended going into the studio. With all the material, I think itís best to keep it open enough to take advantage of those things that you canít necessarily think of beforehand. Iíve always been a proponent of letting the music evolve and hoping that it tells you what to do along the way. Youíre kicking it along the whole time, of course, but if youíre really on the ball, itíll sort of let you know which way to go or not."

These songs must have told Prekop the way to San Jose. The singer/guitaristís mode on Professor, as it largely is with the Sea and Cake, is the lightly jazz-flecked pop you might hear in a hip brunch spot on Sunday afternoon, or in an especially happening dentistís office. The music has its streaks of darkness ó Prekop and Prewitt in particular can get into funky little matches of discordant guitar squall ó but mostly this stuff is a series of cool waves lapping up on an undisturbed beach.

Prekop says heís been wanting to make Professor since he and the band finished touring behind his first solo record, which he released in 1999. What sets him off thinking about solo material is when Tortoise decide to record, since that means that the Sea and Cake will be minus McEntire and thus on break. "Usually with that cue, Iím like, ĎOkay, I can do a solo record,í " he says. (Prekop paints, too, so sometimes these breaks become opportunities for that.) "But of course, John worked on this record," he adds with a laugh about the producer, who also contributed synthesizer and percussion, "so he was around. But once I decided I was gonna do it, I had to follow through on it."

Prekopís solo material and the Sea and Cakeís arenít easy to distinguish; both draw much of their delicate beauty from Prekopís voice, a breathy sort of whisper/croon, and the intertwining of his guitar and Prewittís. Whatís different, he says, are the rhythms. "The pulse of the music in general feels different [on Professor] ó in some ways more slippery, less emphatically pulsing. With the Sea and Cake, we seem to get really interested in these sort of locked grooves. I think how we react to the drumming makes a pretty big difference."

So he usually writes with one or the other project in mind. "I usually donít have songs just floating around. I wish I did. It would be useful. But Iím not thinking right when I start, ĎOkay, this song is tailored perfect for Chadís drumming.í I come up with what I think is gonna work at the time in general ó just what Iím interested in hearing for whatever project. This time around, since I knew they were playing on it, some of the pieces were subconsciously tailored to this group a bit, without me enforcing those ideas. I didnít want to come up with something and be like, ĎOh, this would be perfect with this kind of drumming.í I always wanna get some of their very of-the-moment reactions to the material and have them deal with it on the spot as much as possible."

Then again, thatís a pretty handy way to avoid the rehearsal space.

Sam Prekop headlines next Thursday, June 2, downstairs at the Middle East, 480 Massachusetts Avenue in Central Square; call (617) 864-EAST.

Issue Date: May 27 - June 2, 2005
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