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Clip: Sam Prekop in Pittsburgh

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  • Carl Zimring
    No mention of brother Zach in the article, but I ll throw it in for a gratuitous WRCT alum reference. Mr. Postman
    Message 1 of 1 , May 26, 2005
      No mention of brother Zach in the article, but I'll throw it in for a
      gratuitous WRCT alum reference.


      Mr. Postman
      The Sea and Cake’s Sam Prekop redefines indie rock, again

      Writer: DAN ELDRIDGE

      “The music thing was kind of a fluke, really. I never thought I would be a
      musician. I always thought I was going to be a painter. That was my

      That’s guitarist and vocalist Sam Prekop -- formerly of post-rock
      forebearers Shrimp Boat, current frontman of the Sea and Cake, and now a
      solo artist as well -- talking via telephone from his home in Chicago’s
      Pilsen neighborhood. Prekop has had an astoundingly successful career in
      independent music that stretches back some 20 years -- he’s been called an
      “architect of the post-rock sound” -- although according to Prekop himself,
      the plan back in the mid-’80s, when he was busy wrapping up a BFA at the
      Chicago Art Institute, was a career in the visual arts. (Prekop’s father,
      Martin Prekop, has been Dean of the College of Fine Arts at Carnegie Mellon
      University since 1993.)

      “I’d met these two other guys; we were working together in woodshop,” he
      says of his first foray into music-making. “That’s where the initial idea
      came about. It was sort of like, ‘Oh, I have a guitar. Do you have one?’ It
      helped that we started in art school, I think, because there was a built-in
      audience of people to look at whatever you were doing. I don’t think we
      would have done so well in rock clubs at the time. It was sort of like The
      Rock Experiment by art students.”

      That band, of course, was the aforementioned Shrimp Boat, one of the
      earliest Chicago rock groups to join atypical time structures with breezy,
      jazz-influenced construction -- the sounds that would eventually define the
      term “post-rock.” Mere months after Shrimp Boat called it quits in 1993,
      Prekop helped form the band that has already solidified his reputation as
      one of the most important architects of contemporary underground rock
      music, the Sea and Cake, which also features the Coctails’ Archer Prewitt
      on guitar and John McEntire of Tortoise on drums.

      But thanks to the recent profusion of desktop recording software,
      especially ProTools, Prekop has lately taken a step back from trend-making,
      and has chosen instead to follow the lead of dozens of former band members
      who are now making solo albums in their own homes. His self-titled first
      effort, produced by former Gastr del Sol guitarist Jim O’Rourke, was
      clearly influenced by the crisp sounds of Brazilian music, especially bossa
      nova. (John McEntire even made a brief appearance as a maraca-shaker.) But
      on his recently released second solo disc, Who’s Your New Professor (Thrill
      Jockey), Prekop has gone largely electronic. And with its profusion of
      synthesizers and digital guitar loops, not to mention Prekop’s own brisk,
      stream-of-consciousness vocal style, Professor is easily one of the most
      hypnotic releases to come from the School of Chicago Post-Rock since the
      seminal second album by Tortoise, Millions Now Living Will Never Die,
      helped solidify the genre in 1996.

      But Prekop is quick to admit that the richness in sound of Professor, as
      well as that of his first solo release, had less to do with his
      off-the-cuff writing style than with the albums’ profusion of contributing
      musicians. In fact, neither album, Prekop proffers, was a true solo release.

      “My intention with [Sam Prekop] was that it be totally solo,” he says. But
      at some point I hit a total impass, and I buckled and decided that this is
      not working. During that time, I discovered that one of my better talents
      is getting other people to do really great stuff on my tunes. That was a
      revelation at that point.”

      And so when Prekop was in the initial stages of preparing Professor, he
      skipped the solo-release egotism entirely and chose instead to build a
      proper band, which will be playing along with him during his performance at
      the Warhol Museum this Friday. And just as with the Sea and Cake, Prekop’s
      partners comprise something of an indie-rock supergroup themselves: Archer
      Prewitt will be on guitar, Josh Abrams of Town & Country on bass, Chad
      Taylor of Chicago Underground on drums, and the hugely talented Rob Mazurek
      of Isotope 217 on cornet.

      Asked how he describes the lineup’s sound to listeners not familiar with
      his previous projects, Prekop starts with a laugh. “I usually try to weasel
      out of those situations,” he says. “But there’ve been a handful of big
      influences on me. In terms of singing, Curtis Mayfield has been a big
      person for me my whole life. I’m definitely influenced by soul singers.”

      And unlike the quickly growing visual-arts career he’s been developing in
      between band projects -- aside from adorning his album covers, his
      paintings have been shown at the Clementine Gallery in New York, the
      Pompidou Center in Paris and the MCA in Houston -- Prekop also owns up to
      being entirely self-taught as a musician, having never learned to read
      music, or taken so much as a single singing lesson. “It’s just been a
      process of tiny discoveries over the years, capitalizing on each little
      step,” he offers. “I’m definitely not a natural singer. Some people just
      know how to sing. That was never the case for me. But I’ve just kept at

      Sam Prekop with James Yorkston. 8 p.m. Fri., May 27. Andy Warhol Museum,
      117 Sandusky St., North Side. $10. 412-237-8300
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