The Sea and Cake guitarist Archer Prewitt, 44, may be one of indie rock's most enduring figures. But he's also well-known as a Chicago-based freelance visual artist. He illustrates for Marvel Comics and The Chicago Reader. He even invented a graphic character all his own - Sof' Boy.
Prewitt is touring this fall in support of Everybody, the seventh Sea and Cake album. It departs from the digital effects of their last two efforts and embraces organic rock. Last week, Prewitt spoke to me about O'Cayz Corral, touring, indie rock and the evolving culture of music.
Have you spent much time in Madison?
The Coctails [Prewitt's '90s band] had so many great shows up there, but I have a hard time remembering the names of all the clubs. Didn't you have a place that burned around New Year's? Yes, O'Cayz Corral. We played there just a few nights before the fire, and I remember when I heard it had been destroyed, I felt very sad.
Have you adapted to the new world of MP3s?
It's a little sad to me because I've always been an album guy. When I hear a complete record that's been made solid and perfect all the way through, it's just an amazing accomplishment. I think it's sort of unfortunate how people look for what tickles their fancy in the first 10 seconds. We've come full circle back to the single, which can be exciting, too - like the old Motown compilations.
Do you still enjoy touring?
It's different than it used to be. We've got full-time lives outside the band now. When I was young, the touring was a lifestyle, but now I leave behind my wife, my art and the things that give me comfort. Still, once I get into the swing of it, I enjoy the camaraderie.
Do you get more satisfaction from making music or making visual art?
I enjoy them equally. They're similar activities. But the process of making the artwork is solitary from beginning to end, so it's great to have a band to bring me out of that shell.
You tend to be pigeonholed as an "indie rocker." As someone whose career predates "indie," does that ever feel strange?
I guess I've always tried to avoid making music that was corporate. When I was young, I was entrenched in punk rock. My first band was a hardcore band. We're fortunate to have strong independent labels in Chicago - Drag City, Thrill Jockey, Touch and Go. They still operate on handshake contracts and splitting the money 50/50. I feel very fortunate to be working within that musical spectrum, in the realm of friends, and with people who see themselves as making and releasing musical art.