Blake Sennett is a Californian musician in every sense of the word. His work in indie pop outfits Rilo Kiley and The Elected has often been compared to the sunny stylings of fellow Golden State brethren such as Fleetwood Mac and Jackson Browne (who guest-starred on Rilo Kiley’s last album – 2007’s Under the Blacklight). Bury Me In My Rings, his stellar upcoming third record with The Elected (recorded with Rilo Kiley drummer Jason Boesel and a handful of other musicians), is a collection of 12 ’60s and ’70s flavored gems, a distillation of his sprightly, yet introspective songwriting characterized by earnestly clever lyrics, bubbly upstroke guitar, and serene production. When calling from his California home, he was eager to chat about the new album, movie and book recommendations, and how band reunions are like Stephen King novels.
I actually saw you perform with Rilo Kiley back when I was an undergrad in Tallahassee at this place called The Moon. I don’t know if you remember.
I think I remember playing Tallahassee. We weren’t playing with M. Ward on that tour, were we?
No, I think it was a local band called Summer Birds In the Cellar that opened.
Oh my God, that sounds familiar.
I remember you gave out Oreos and oranges, if that helps at all.
That’s fucking sweet.
It was sweet. I got an orange.
Why did we give out Oreos and oranges? Like…to each person? How did that work?
You said you were from California, so you had a bag of oranges, and you just opened them up and handed them out. Same thing with the Oreos. I think it was you specifically that did it, too.
Yeah, that’s more my vibe. I’m like the asshole that would do that.
You’re the showman?
I guess. I don’t know if it’s like…I’m the guy who would hand out bullshit when nobody cares. I apologize for my oranges.
No apologies necessary. They were really good. So let’s talk about the new album. You’re probably getting asked this a lot, but it seems like there’s a little bit less of a country folk twinge on it. I guess it’s a little more…I don’t know, it has a little bit more of a ’60s-’70s pop songwriter thing going on. Was that a conscious choice or is that just what you’re interested in now? Or is that not something you noticed at all?
I think in the past I approached songwriting—particularly on Elected records—a little more self-consciously. In this case, I tried to be totally devoid, if I could be. I mean, that’s easier said than done, but I tried to remind myself not to think about the theme of the record or the aesthetic of the record or how the record sounds or if the songs went together or anything like that. I truly just tried to record songs that felt meaningful to me at the time and had some kind of truth to them. I tried not to listen to, like, songwriters that would influence me and make me feel like I needed to be them. I tried to just sort of, like, do what I can do and be the best at it. And if I failed, well then at least I failed on my terms. But that’s pretty much how it went down, man. It was just…I didn’t decide to go away from any particular sound. Whatever came out, at least I can say “well, if no one else likes this fucking record, at least it’s satisfying to me.”
The album has a very direct feel to me. It’s very to the point and crisp and really lovely. Do you have a favorite song on the record? I know what mine is, but I’m curious if you have one.
Oh yeah, I know mine. Mine is “Time Is Coming.” Let me think what yours is.
It’s something that immediately jumps out, if that helps.
I don’t know…”Babyface”?
You’re exactly right.
Oh cool. I like that one a lot.
I also heard that you recorded this after taking a break from music. Is that true or just hearsay?
No, by the end of the last Rilo Kiley touring cycle, I think I um…had become pretty unsatisfied and pretty…like in a way, even hurt, you know, like by the whole process, and sad. All these people that I started a band with because I loved them so much…none of us seemed to really care about each other anymore. And I had sort of falsely accused music of doing that. And it wasn’t music, it was us. So I stopped. Music and what surrounded music for me had become very sad for me and I didn’t want to participate in it anymore. I was done. I was…you know, it’s like when you break up with a girl and you say “I’m done with girls forever!” You know? I was done with music forever. But I think I’m an artist and I think music is a way that I express my art. I don’t feel that anyone is limited to any one thing, but it’s something I love and I enjoy doing and I take comfort in and I truly find it to be enjoyable. I truly find that I have a home in music. It’s some place I can go. And I got led back to that place after I met with Jason [Boesel] and I’m grateful for that. It was a nice record to make. It’s probably…I don’t know if it’s my favorite record, but I think it is. It’s definitely my favorite Elected record. But yeah, I had quit for a good couple years there. But…uh…well, I’m back!