Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Field Music Interview

In case you haven’t yet heard it, Field Music’s latest album is really rather good. It’s called Field Music (Measure) and has been gathering critical acclaim throughout the music press since its release. The double album has given the band a deserved rise in attention; a far cry from 2007 when Field Music announced they were going on hiatus.

In fact, Field Music have been a going concern as far back as 2004. Formed in Sunderland around the core of the Brewis brothers David and Peter, they soon gained a loyal following and a great reputation on the live circuit. I’ve been a Field Music fan since seeing them in a sweaty, underground club in Bath around four years ago. There were probably no more than 150 people in attendance, the stage was barely big enough to fit the band on, but they gave an energetic performance, packed with catchy tunes that made you dance whether you wanted to or not.

In advance of a busy festival season, I emailed David Brewis to talk arena gigs, the Sunderland scene, and sacred choral music.

First off, congratulations on making such a great album. In this age of single-track downloads and short attention spans, what made you decide to make a double album?

Wilfulness, I suppose! No, but seriously, we make music for people who listen to music the way we do and I like albums and I've got a decent attention span. Listening to a record for me is like immersing myself in their universe. Choosing single tracks is like using someone else's songs to describe your own universe. Mostly, I prefer the first option.

Your latest album, Measure, sounds to be a step away from the post-punk style you were known for, was that a conscious decision?

Were we ever known for a post-punk style? On the first two albums, the playing was very restrained and minimal, partly as a conceptual choice and partly through embarrassment at what we saw as rock and roll affectation. This time round we'd been listening to more Queen and more Led Zeppelin - we went back to a lot of the music we loved as kids - and weren't afraid to admit on record that we love rock music.

Are you pleased with the reception the new album has received?

Yeah - there have been some very nice reviews and most of the less-good reviews have basically said, "it's too long". Well, obviously it's too long - but that was part of the point - if someone wants to make their own “Best of Field Music (Measure)”, then that's a pretty easy task to accomplish - I certainly don't expect everyone to like all of it all of the time.

What inspires you to write?

Anger, stress, hopefulness, musical jealousy.

Measure is varied, experimental and full of influences. If you could only listen to three artists ever again, who would they be and why?

The Beatles are a bit of cheat, aren't they, but I'll have them anyway because they made so many great albums. And Dylan is another cheat, but again, how many artists have made 6 or 7 albums of such astounding quality? And sticking to the theme of towering artists with incredible back-catalogues, I'll go with Bowie as number 3. I think between those three I could probably spend a lifetime and not get bored and still discover new aspects to their records which I hadn't noticed before and could still probably keep dosed up on musical and lyrical inspiration. Maybe I'll try it.

A few years ago, yourselves, The Futureheads and Maximo Park all came to prominence around the same time. What do you think it is about Sunderland and the North East that caused such a creative scene?

If you look at all of the people involved in the splurge of record released by Sunderland bands over the past ten years (us, The Futureheads, This Ain't Vegas, Golden Virgins/Lucas Renney, Frankie & The Heartstrings, J Xaverre/George Washington Brown, along with someone like James McMahon who encouraged and cajoled and put on gigs), there aren't actually that many people involved. We've been blessed with coincidences and chance meetings - me and Peter meeting Barry Hyde at a youth music project back in 1996 or This Ain't Vegas actually having a whole bunch of music-loving mates from school who formed the basis of an audience for all of us, when our own mates weren't really into gigs, and who then formed bands of their own. The added factor in Sunderland is that there is no music industry here at all and we're quite isolated - none of us formed a band with any expectations other than making some interesting music and putting on some interesting gigs to amuse our friends.

Do you regret turning down the opportunity to go on tour with Snow Patrol?

Not at all. We wouldn't have come across very well on those huge stages to those massive and (for a support band) very passive audiences. It would have been a very dispiriting experience, as support tours often are, but on a grander scale! On the other hand, I'm impressed at the effort Snow Patrol have put in recently to try to lead their audiences to other areas of their back catalogue by playing songs from their first 'indie'-er album and the Reindeer Section stuff.

You’re playing a lot of festivals this summer, which one are you most looking forward to and what can the crowds expect from your shows?

Green Man is a really good festival - the kind of festival I'd go to as a punter. We're also looking forward to Glastonbury because none of us have ever been before. Mostly, we'll be doing our 'hits' set I imagine, but with extra weird guitar noises and then for Camp Bestival we're planning to get dressed up - hopefully we won't chicken out of it.

You’re pretty prolific writers, are there any plans for a new album in the pipeline?

We're nowhere near as prolific as we'd like to be. We've both got ideas for the next record or batch of records but as of the present time, I've only written half a song since we finished the last one, so I've got a lot of work to do. Eventually I might have some time off and actually be able to get down to it.

Do you get much correspondence from people confused with asking for sacred choral music?

Not that I can remember though I have had someone trying to apply to [Field Music side-project] the School of Language. Poor guy.

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