Rilo Kiley’s Blake Sennett and Jenny Lewis broke up three years ago, but they’re currently hand-in-hand in a different venture. On the same day that Lewis released her solo debut Rabbit Fur Coat, Sennett came out with Sun, Sun, Sun, the second album from his side project, The Elected. The album trades in Rilo Kiley twang for an eccentric soul stomp and sparkling California dreaming. “I find myself listening to music that has a different sound than music I participate in,” says Sennett of Sun, Sun, Sun ‘s harmonies and mellow ’70s vibe. “I just wanted to make something more faithful to the music I like.” — Sarah Hepola
I really like this album, which was a bit of a surprise, because I’ve always been a bit hot-and-cold on Rilo Kiley. Man, our interview just started, and I’ve managed to compliment you and insult you at once.
No, it doesn’t insult me at all. Part of what motivates me with the Elected is wanting to be real satisfied with everything, and sometimes in Rilo Kiley you make compromises. There are times when I’m hot-and-cold on Rilo Kiley, to be honest.
This album has a great theatrical sound. There are songs like “Did Me Good” where you break out into this great soul shout-out.
I didn’t want to whisper on this record. I wanted to shout a couple times. It probably goes along with my personality. I tell a lot of bad jokes and stuff.
Theatricality seems to be something people either like or don’t.
Well, some of my favorite dudes in the world are Lennon and McCartney and Roger Waters and Tom Waits and Springsteen, and they all get really theatrical.
I never thought about Lennon and McCartney. “Did Me Good” is very “Oh! Darling!”
Or “Happiness Is a Warm Gun.” Where he gives that shout-out in the middle to heroin.
Right. I should have heard that immediately. I feel kind of stupid for missing that.
That’s okay. I’m just considering it now.
I don’t want to belabor the child-actor thing, because you get asked about that a lot. But you were on Highway to Heaven. I have to ask what Michael Landon was like.
He was very mellow. I was too young to really judge his character. His hair was pretty weird and matted-looking. He was playing, like, a homeless dude. He would intervene and make people’s lives better. I just remember being real nervous. That was the first thing I’d ever worked on. I felt like an imposter, like someone would find me out.
I bet a lot of beginning actors feel that way.
Did you feel like a fraud when you started out in Rilo Kiley?
Yeah. You always do, to some degree.
I wanted to talk to you about dating Jenny Lewis. What’s your relationship like now?
Well, we’re in a band together and we… I don’t know. We’re still friends, we do what friends do. We’re friends and bandmates, and I guess we’re…
Is it hard to explain your relationship with someone?
Sure it is. I’m sure it would be hard for you to describe your relationship with someone. Anytime you’re with some romantically for some time that stuff never goes away 100 percent. I don’t mean that we’re still attracted to each other but that it can be tenuous at times, because we still have that… I don’t know.
Was there a time you thought you might have to leave the band because of it?
I was open to leaving. It was a possibility I was willing to face.
Does it ever create a problem for the women you date? You’re not only still in a band with a woman you dated, but she’s also a superfoxy goddess?
People know all that before they date me, so it’s not a problem. Jenny and I were friends long before we were lovers, so that friendship is still the defining aspect of our relationship. I avoid anyone who wouldn’t be able to deal with that. I mean, grow up.
You’re both songwriters. Is there a rivalry between you? You released your albums on the same date.
We discussed that and thought it would be a nice way to say we’re in this together.
I misread that. I thought it was competitive.
Oh, I don’t flatter myself that I could compete with her solo record. She’s Jenny from Rilo Kiley. She has a lot of people who want to hear what she wants to say. I’m in Rilo Kiley too, so that’s great.
What do you think of her album?
It’s good. I like it. What do you think?
I haven’t heard it. She has a lot of the qualities I like in female singer-songwriters — a little Lucinda Williams, a little Dusty Springfield — but I’ve never really seen her run with it. One of the things I like about the Elected is that you really try things out and experiment.
I tried to expand in a way that will resonate with people or it won’t. I’d rather not be background music. I’d rather people feel passionately about it. Or they can think it sucks. That’s okay too.
People always say that, but I find it hard to believe. How would it be okay if someone thought your album sucked?
I wouldn’t like it, but I would have to accept it. You want people to like it or you wouldn’t exhibit it. What’s the point? Of course I want people to like it. But if they don’t, I can’t really change their minds. I don’t even really read reviews. People will say everything was great except this one song. And the next one will say this one song was great, and everything else was crap.
I interviewed David Sedaris once, and he said he doesn’t read reviews because he’s such a people-pleaser he’d do exactly what they ask and ruin whatever it is he does well.
I can understand that. David Sedaris… I read some story he wrote. About OCD.
Yeah, that’s in Naked. He’s good. And he’s really nice. I know that sounds funny, but I’ve gotten past the point where I want people to be mean and edgy.
I never liked mean and edgy. I’ve always liked nice people. Nice people are hard to believe sometimes.