Bury the Elected in Their Rings: An Interview with Blake Sennett
After a long hiatus from music, Blake Sennett (formerly of Rilo Kiley) returned to music with Bury Me In My Rings, the new album from his project The Elected. This album finds Sennett writing catchier hooks and breezier melodies than ever. Here, he opens up about that hiatus, the last Rilo Kiley record, and the ultimate joy of making music.
ELM: So, where are you today?
BS: I’m on my way to Washington, DC.
ELM: What’s your live show like for this tour?
BS: It’s a little more like decreased in volume and velocity, I think. We try to do more with less. Less noise. Less decibels. More juice.
ELM: Was there anything in particular that led you to being more minimalist like that?
BS: I didn’t want to hear a snare drum. Things that seem a little painful for a summer tour. And I wanted to see what it would feel like and not rock super-hard or loud. It seems like it’s going alright. It’s an experiment. I’m enjoying it.
ELM: I read that you pretty much spent a lot of time away from music altogether. Can you tell me more about that and what you got out of that?
BS: I was sick of it. I don’t know what to say. It’s a fucking grind. It’s really hard all the time.
ELM: I’m sorry.
BS: That’s ok. It’s not your fault. You had nothing to do with it.
ELM: When you listen to a record, it always seems so easy.
BS: It’s not. Recording music is fun. Touring is not that fun. It can be fun, but it’s the exception. That’s been my experience. Maybe I’m not meant for it. I didn’t like the touring bit of it. That’s the long and short of it, I think. You make a record for a very finite period of time. And then you tour for what seems like an infinite period of time. And it’s not what creative people want to do with their lives, play the same shit over and over again. It’s not what I want.
ELM: Did you have fun making this record?
BS: Yeah, I had a great time making this record.
ELM: What made it great?
BS: This time I was able to do whatever I wanted to. I had my own studio available, I had some great friends helping me, I got to explore some sounds and songs that I had yet to ever explore. Certain sonics I hadn’t explored, writing styles, arcing narratives, ideas, but I wanted to be as narrative this time as possible. I like being creative. I like putting pen to page, and page to canvas, and music to, well–hard drive doesn’t work. But I like it. It’s exciting to me.
ELM: Speaking of the narrative arc, can you speak a little bit about what you perceive that narrative to be?
BS: Yeah, but it’s a narrative arc related to my own life rather than a narrative arc, not a narrative arc related to the record, but as it relates to me, to my life. A boy gets disillusioned with music, walks away, returns only to find he likes music,goes on tour to find perhaps touring was the problem. I don’t know. I don’t hate touring necessarily.
ELM: Was this the first time you were able to record at home?
BS: No, the first Elected record was pretty much a home studio record, and the second Elected record was one, well, not pretty much, half and half, no, mostly in a home studio. The second one was mostly in hotel rooms on the road with Rilo Kiley. Then, this one was like home studio, like the last Rilo Kiley record, Under the Blacklight, I did a lot in my home studio. So, I like it.
ELM: What was your writing process like this time around?
BS: My writing process this time around was kind of stream-of-consciousness, do as much as I can alone, and bring in friends to help me finish it. Play the drums, play the guitar, write some words, make it a story, a theme. And if it’s not working, abandon it. And if it is, toil on it. Try to make it better. Which, I think in a lot of cases, I did. Make it better.
ELM: Did you write a lot of songs for the record that didn’t make the final cut?
BS: A bunch of songs didn’t make the record. Half-baked songs, but songs I’d never finish. There’s a bunch.
ELM: What really inspires you when it comes to visual art or music? Was there anything for this record that really inspired you?
BS: Not really. Architecture, maybe.
ELM: I feel like there’s more of a soul influence on this record than on previous albums. Would you say that’s accurate?
BS: I don’t know. Soul? I don’t know. God, what song? Soul? I think I sang in kind of a high voice on some choruses like ‘Look At Me Now.’ I don’t know. I like that kind of music, so I’m glad you hear that. Maybe that muscle was exercised more than in Rilo Kiley.
ELM: How would you say your songwriting process has changed from Rilo Kiley to The Elected?
BS: Well, I’m responsible for a lot more words, that’s for sure. I think I was always trying to bring stuff that I could show Jenny and have her get stoked on. And in this gig, there is no Jenny. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if something’s good or not if you don’t have that person to tell you. I have to write a lot more music.
ELM: Was there anything that surprised you when you came back to music?
BS: How easily it came at first. How easy and fun it was.
ELM: Do you have a favorite song on the new album?
BS: Maybe ‘Time is Coming?’ It feels unpretentious. It feels like me.
ELM: Was that a new level of honesty for you?
BS: Maybe. Sure. Well, maybe, it depends what record you’re talking about. The last [Rilo] Kiley record, there was some shit on there that I did not feel true about, that I did not feel as me. But mostly I feel like I’ve had a very honest kind of music. I don’t feel like anybody ever twisted my arms to make me make something I didn’t feel like. There’s a couple songs, like I said, on the last record, that are shitty, but other than that, I feel good.
ELM: One more question for you. I always ask this. Who are your favorite writers?
BS: I don’t read much poetry, so I couldn’t tell you much about that. I would say John Fontaine is probably my favorite author if I had to have a favorite author.