Tim Smith is a man out of time.
That description applies to Smith when he sings, writes and plays guitar for Denton folk rock outfit Midlake, his main creative outlet since 1999, which he formed as a funk and jazz group while a student at the University of North Texas in Denton. It holds doubly true for Smith the man, whose home is loaded with old furniture and vintage clothing, and who says he doesn't appreciate vacations until he can process them as photographs weeks later.
'When I see photographs or movies or even book covers or anything having to do with something in the past, and usually it's the '70s that speaks to me, I really attach myself to that. I really long for that,' Smith says. 'There's good things about the modern day life I enjoy, but a lot of it is really disenchanting.'
Never mind that Smith's idealized past probably never actually existed ('I know it wasn't actually better,' he says. 'If this was 1974 I'd probably want to go back to the '50s.'). It has a hold on him all the same. That's one reason the famously hard-on-himself musician has been so open about the influences that filter into Midlake, from the giddy psychedelic semi-electronica of debut album 'Bamnan and Slivercork' to the '70s, Fleetwood Mac-styled album-oriented rock of breakout record 'The Trials of Van Occupanther.'
Ahead of Friday's show at Antone's, where an expanded Midlake stops as part of a tour behind this year's 'The Courage of Others,' a dark, soft effort that recalls obscure British folk music, Smith broke down each of Midlake's major works so far, discussing the influences that gave each effort its unique sound. A latecomer to popular music - he discovered the Beatles in college and has, he says, lagged years behind his peers in coming to classic rock - he's surprisingly candid.
'I'm one of those people who thinks that everything has been done. There's not much originality left out there. There's still some beautiful songs left unwritten in the world, but to be truly, 100 percent original, it's like, "Good luck,"' says Smith. 'We're very aware of that before anything even comes out. Critics don't have to tell us "Roscoe sounds like a mixture of Fleetwood Mac and Radiohead." We know that!''
'Milkmaid Grand Army' EP (2001)
Major influence: Rufus Wainwright
'I was really trying to learn how to sing at that time, and I still am, but I remember taking vocal lessons and showing my teacher how he stretched notes. It really influenced songs like "Paper Gown." And it seemed like his songs were very different from a lot of rock music I was listening to. He sounded like he was being more honest with what he really wanted to do rather than just fit into this indie rock mold, and that really connected with me.'
Other touchstones: Radiohead, Björk, Clinic
'Bamnan and Slivercork' (2004)
Major influence: Grandaddy
'We went to see the Polyphonic Spree in Dallas one night, and they were opening for Grandaddy, and I saw them and loved them both and thought "Oh man, this is a really good night of music." I think the lo-fi quality of Granddaddy was appealing to us because we didn't want to go into a studio and be responsible for paying for a week or two and be in debt. We knew they made those albums themselves, and that stirred us into wanting to get our own equipment and learning to record for ourselves. That was a huge thing, to learn that lo-fi was OK.'
Other touchstones: The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev
'The Trials of Van Occupanther' (2006)
Major influence: Neil Young
'Anything you could pick up in 99 cent bins at the record store was what we were getting into then. I once read somebody say that hearing Neil Young sing made him feel better about his own voice. There's definitely some truth in that for me as well. Hearing Neil Young sing makes me feel like I'm going to be OK. It's kind of an almost amateurish approach. It's not perfect. It's not clean and studied and schooled. It's just a guy with a guitar and he doesn't (care) sometimes.'
Other touchstones: Fleetwood Mac, Jethro Tull, America, Joni Mitchell
'The Courage of Others' (2010)
Not-so-major influence: Fairport Convention
'People say this one a lot, but I don't know if I hear it. Maybe track one off the new album, "Acts of Man," that sounds fairly similar to Fairport Convention. We love Fairport Convention but I don't know where people are getting that idea. Really I was already leaning in the direction of something folkier and earthier and darker. Something not as light and bubbly. But I did start checking out all that darker folk stuff before this record, so that's true enough. There's a whole underground movement there nobody really knows or cares about. But I don't think to one band in particular, more the general feel and world of obscure British folk bands that no one's ever heard of.'
Other touchstones: Pentangle, Espers, Steeleye Span
Midlake With John Grant
When: Doors open at 8 p.m. Friday
Where: Antone's Nightclub, 213 W. Fifth St.