Interview by Annar Veröld.
Blake Sennet of The Elected and Rilo Kiley had supposedly quit music as of Spring 2010. After being led back to his passion by his friend Jason Cupp, Sennet has now released a new album, is currently on a tour, and is approaching his artistically abilities differently. Sennet sat down with Red River Noise and explained what he was up to this last year, the difference in this particular album from his previous work, inspirations, philosophies, himself, a hypnotic music project, and his plans after this tour.
So, it’s been 5 years since your last album with The Elected, How do you think that your new album, Bury Me In My Rings, differs from your two other albums for The Elected?
Sennett: I think it’s a lot less self-conscious than the previous albums. I was a lot less aware of other people, and this time around I think it has a more lighthearted sound. I think it touched a lot of dark themes, but I also liked to counter-point that– so it’s not always feeling like I’m brooding, I tried to not fall into those traps.
Without a doubt, Bury Me In My Rings, is a beautiful work, but I wonder if people would gravitate towards it if it wasn’t for the Rilo Kiley connection. How do you feel about that?
Sennett: I feel fine about that. I mean, I worked for a long time with Rilo Kiley, and I don’t think that The Elected is totally separate. I think that, that is something– I mean, gosh, I guess I would like to think that the music would transcend that, that people would discover it. I don’t think people actually give a shit that I write for Kiley and The Elected. The truth is that I can’t circulate on that, because Rilo Kiley is there and exists and it is hard to for me to see another reality because that reality couldn’t-not exist.
What do you want people to know of you based on this album?
Sennett: I don’t know. I didn’t make it with the agenda of reviewing myself. What I would like for people to take away from it, is the same thing that I have come to speculate from albums that have come to inspire me– of an idea to get away from reality, because I think that is what art is for.
A lot of the names of the tracks on the new album seem to embody self-reflection, for example, “Born To Love You”, “This Will Be Worth It”, “When I’m Gone”, “Who Are You?”, is there a particular track that you believe reflects you or your own personal growth in the last few years?
Sennett: I think songs for me are like journal entries, so I try to do them without being classified. I think the themes are cohesive, and they are a lot about relationships, and there is a lot about growing up in there. In the last few years I have been doing a lot of growing up, I’ve learned how to be a man, and I think that is in there. I think that is in there, growing up and surrendering to life.
I kept reading on your online biographies, the word “writer” over and over again, do you consider yourself a writer, or just an all around artist?
Sennett: That’s what I think, I think I’m an all-around artist. I think one of the things I have been fermenting on for the last couple of years was this idea of humans and how we hoister ourselves to definitions. Truth is I don’t consider myself either a writer or musician, but I guess I’m just an all around artist.
I read that for the last couple of years you have been exploring new things– I read something about motorcycle class?– that you had a sudden “whoa, who am I?” moment when you stopped touring. What are some new things that you’ve learned about yourself, and do you think that all of that soul searching translated into Bury Me In My Rings?
Sennett: Oh yeah, motorcycle class. Yes, for sure– well, I guess what I really learned about myself, is that I don’t have to have to necessarily be characterized by being a musician or a song-writer. That, just as my dad was a carpenter, I too can build furniture; and my mom was a writer and English Major, I too can write stories. From my friends, I too can learn to ride a motorcycle. I can do anything I really want, and I just undefined who I thought I was. Try to let the world just “Be”.
Everyone on Earth was under the impression that you had left music forever. Such a state sounds silly in retrospect, especially because an artist is inevitably a creative being– music and art and writing appears to be in your blood– but I’m curious as to what it was exactly that Jason Cupp did to inspire you? Can you describe the moment you decided that you wanted to go back to music?
Sennett: Well, I think anytime you say anything like “I’m quitting music forever”, or quitting anything forever is a little bit rash and a little bit immature, and I don’t think it is a response, but more of a reaction towards something. It was how you react to something, I wanted to change for myself, and I think I was being somewhat more reactive than rash. I think that I knew that if I left music entirely something would be very strange thing; I knew always somewhere, I would be playing music, whether it as strumming the guitar for my child– I don’t have a child– I think music has to be in my life. As far as Jason Cupp, he didn’t call me up and saying, “Hey, let’s make a record”. he was like “hey man, you need to get exercise, so let’s go in the studio and let’s just go play, let’s just mess around and see what happens.” So, I guess maybe he just encouraged it. When he got me to play in the studio, I realized that I care about that, that I love that. I guess that’s what he did for me, he sort of led me to the water to see if I drank, and I did drink.
Since your break how have you changed as an artist? Did your process for writing and creating music change drastically within the last year?
Sennett: Yeah, I think so. I think that this record I didn’t write as much from pain. I think I was really frustrated and really sad about Rilo Kiley. I think a lot of that was self-generated and it was nobody’s fault but my own. I think I wrote from pain which is powerful and great, but with this particular record and writing I have been trying to write more from a narrative’s perspective or more of a story perspective, and that’s what got out. I think I’ve really transitioned.
Did you ever feel like you were writing and doing a certain style of music for an audience, instead of doing your own thing? Going back to your interests of Rilo Kiley– were you playing for that audience? Did that trigger your desire to leave the music industry?
Sennett: Well, I think that when as an artist you feel like you’re going down an artistic path and you think “yeah, this feels wrong”. I think that in the past, for me, I had a tendency of going like “yep, but, I’m going to do it anyway, maybe it will be better”. But, I think the further down my life path goes, the more I realize to just throw that in the fire as fast as I possibly can. I think we need to channel our art into something that is satisfying for us and not commercial. That’s my hope. I think you start with creating for yourself first and see how it turns out. That’s the only way. I think being therapeutic for yourself is the only way to keep going. I don’t think Van Gogh believed he was going to be as big as his art became. I think he tried painting portraits for people at the beginning and made a little bit of money like that, and then went ahead and did his own style. I think it was therapeutic for him, and made the world a whole lot better for him. I think as an artist you have to follow your heart and hope everything else falls into place. One thing you are guaranteed as an artist is how it makes you feel; you cannot guarantee how your audience will feel about it. You don’t know how many paintings your sell; you’re just guaranteed how you feel. That is the most important thing you can protect.
At this point in your career with Rilo Kiley and The Elected, what are people still getting wrong about you or not understanding?
Sennett: Truth is, I don’t really read the interviews or reviews. Everyone once in a while, I will read a little quote or something pasted into an email. The truth is, I don’t know what people’s perception of me is– so you ask what people are getting wrong about me, but I don’t know, because I don’t know what people are saying. That’s the honest answer.
It kind of sounds like you’re at a point where you just really don’t care what other people think, you’re just doing your thing– which is good.
Sennett: Yeah, there you go. Exactly. That’s really what it is, that’s the truth. I guess it sounds a little rude, but the truth is I don’t care. Well, I do care, but I’m trying really hard not to care. It does really care what other people think, because ultimately it doesn’t matter.
What are your plans for the rest 2011?
Sennett: I’m going to go in to my studio at home and work with this friend of mine and try to make a couple of songs with her. I’m going to also try and record this project with my friend Mike and my friend Daniel. Our band practices kind of turned into this hypnotic experience. I want to follow things that make me feel something. This friend of mine, this girl, we’ve been working on some songs together, so I really want to work on that, and keep up with this hypnotic project. After that, I don’t know, maybe I’ll go back on tour a little bit and see where things lead me.