Music Interview: Blake Sennett gets Elected

By Jon Roe

You may not remember Blake Sennett’s brief sojourn into the realm of child acting as Joey the Rat on the hit sitcom Boy Meets World in the mid ’90s, but you might remember his band Rilo Kiley. The California based indie band has released three full-length albums, including 2004’s More Adventurous. After Adventurous, Sennett began a side project, The Elected. To date, they have released two records, 2004’s Me First and this year’s Sun, Sun, Sun. In Rilo Kiley, Sennett has Jenny Lewis to share the spotlight with, however, in The Elected, he is the lone front man, standing by himself on a soapbox.

“I guess it’s something you have to adjust to,” admits Sennett. “If you’re feeling low on energy, you have to deal with it in a different way. In Rilo Kiley when I’m feeling tired, I can be a less enthusiastic figure [on stage]. In The Elected I have to try and transcend that.”

With The Elected, Sennett has had several opportunities to rise above his Rilo Kiley energy levels, opening for the hipster-hyped Stars on several dates. As a part of Rilo Kiley however, Sennett was seeing stars when they toured with U.K.’s Coldplay. The experience was not as transcendent as Sennett would have liked.

“The catering was pretty good,” Sennett says of the positive aspects of the Coldplay tour. “I don’t like playing in front of 10,000 apathetic people. In Rilo Kiley, we’ve been pretty spoiled because our fans really, really care. It’s really gratifying to play in front of them. But on the Coldplay tour, it was kind of weird. We never saw Coldplay, [and] the fans were weird and apathetic. [It was] probably good for our careers, but not for our hearts and egos.”

Even though the opportunity to tour with a giant like Coldplay rarely comes without some sort of coup, Sennett wouldn’t repeat it. When comparing the two experiences, opening for Coldplay and opening for Stars, Sennett’s preference is obvious.

“I think Americans who discover Stars’ music are the kind of people who like to investigate new music,” declares Sennett. “[These] people are active and passionate about new music. In terms of opening in front of a Stars crowd they are legitimately people who are excited about finding out who you might be. In terms of Coldplay, they’re eating nachos or kind of just sulking. They’re kind of ignoring you most of the time.”

Both of Sennett’s groups shouldn’t be ignored and have gained notice, at least on this continent. Building on both bands’ minority support, on Sun, Sun, Sun Sennett and bandmates chose to move away from the glitchy elements on Me First towards a more classic sound.

“I try to, on any record I make, let the songs dictate the production,” Sennett voices. “I felt like those glitchy albums might be a little gimmicky for these songs that are a little more personal. As an artist you never really want to make the same album twice, particularly with so much time between records. If you listen to [Pink Floyd’s] Dark Side of the Moon and Meddle, they sound very similar, but they made those records eight months apart. In modern times you don’t make records that frequently. I like [the glitchy] aesthetic, but on this record I wanted to try and make something a little more classic.”

The album achieves the feel Sennett wanted, comparing easily to the sound of ’60s and ’70s rock classics. However, only Sennett himself will ever know how he feels about the album, as he refuses to read any of the articles and reviews about the band.

“I can’t read that stuff at all,” he affirms. “I pick up bad things. I’ll pick up anything that can be construed as bad and I’ll focus on that. They make me crazy. The last one I read was in Portland when we were touring through there. It said 90 per cent nice things, and one kind of not nice thing. I remember it, and I still remember it to this day. I’m never reading those again.”

Obviously, more good things have been said about The Elected than bad, otherwise bands like Coldplay, Stars, the Magic Numbers and most recently Metric, wouldn’t ask them to fill opening slots. If nothing else, The Elected still have the popular vote of Sennett’s parents on his side as the band makes their first trek across the vast wheat fields of Canada.

“I think my mom and dad didn’t know [Rilo Kiley and The Elected] were big,” Sennett says. “They discouraged me at first, and they encourage me now that I don’t ask them for money anymore.”

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