Field Music returned earlier this month with the incredible Commontime, their first full-blown Field Music record in four and a half years. It sees the Brewis brothers reconvene in their Sunderland studio and produce their most eclectic album to date. From pure pop to epic Prog tracks, Commontime is packed with that wonderful Field Music sound.
The band is currently gearing up for an extensive UK tour, which kicks off later this week with two sold out nights at Newcastle’s Cluny. Having expanded to a five piece to accommodate their bigger sound. A lot has changed in the last four years, with a plethora of individual projects under their belt. This reflects in the sound of Commontime, its set to be a huge year for Field Music.
We catch up with David Brewis in advance of their huge UK tour, to talk about all things Field Music.
Louder Than War: Having been away for a while, working on various other projects. Does absence truly make the heart grow fonder? Or is it good to have time away from ‘Field Music’?
David Brewis: Both! It’s good to have time away from Field Music in part because it means we’re raring to go once we get together to go back into the studio properly again.
LTW: Its been said that even though you’ve been away for such a long time, no ones really filled your gap, why do you think that is?
DB: I do feel like we’re out on a limb a little bit. There are plenty of bands out there who I feel some kinship with but I don’t think there’s anyone who does what we do. The strands that make up British music right now mostly pass us by. So maybe it’s more that we’ve always found ourselves squarely within a gap.
LTW: Do your various projects influence the future Field Music; do they spark new ideas for when you reconvene?
DB: Always. Each of the other records we’ve made gives us a chance to try different things and they all feed into whatever we do next.
LTW: I know it was a Field Music project, but did creating the Drifters soundtrack change the way you approached future projects?
DB: I’m sure it did but it’s difficult to pinpoint what affect it had. It’s the first time we developed something through improvising and that’s probably affected our playing. I feel a lot more confident as a guitar player but it’s not as if we set out to make a guitar-heavy, improv album!
LTW: I personally think Commontime, is your most eclectic record yet, has anything changed this time around?
DB: We stopped worrying too much about coherence around the time we did the Measure album. We figured that if it’s our writing and our playing and our singing in our studio, it’s going to sound like us whichever way. There are lots of different strands of influence in what we do and in the past we’ve tended to try to synthesise all of those elements but with this record we decluttered to a degree and let ourselves embrace those influences without necessarily trying to invent a whole new style of music with each song. We still tried to do that on a couple of songs of course.
LTW: Have your influences evolved/broadened? To me you’ve always been a band who covers a broad spectrum of sounds, how much is that influenced by what you personally listen to?
DB: The music we make is absolutely a product of the music we listen to and, yeah, that changes all the time. Quite often that’s been a case of rediscovering music from our childhood – I don’t know, like realising you know all of the words to the first Terence Trent D’Arby album – and it that way it’s almost like a deepening of our influences rather than a broadening. We are still discovering things which are new to us and that all gets subliminally thrown into the stew.
LTW: Do you ever find yourselves trying to achieve a particular sound, from a record you’ve heard?
DB: We’ll often reference other recordings but it tends to be more to do with little instrumental or vocal parts, rather than an overall sound. I don’t know if we have the skills to do that even if we wanted to.
LTW: Off the back of that, the band seems to have grown and changed over time, has that shaped the music you make, or is it more that you shape the band around the music?
DB: We rarely think about how we’ll play something live as a band when we’re in the studio. While we’re recording, me and Peter play and sing a lot together but I don’t feel like we’re a ‘band’ while we’re doing it. We make the records first and then figure out how we’ll play them. We’ve been so, so lucky with the live band. They’ve been hugely adaptable and patient with us and they each bring their own style and that keeps things interesting.
LTW: If there is one track, which strikes me as being very different its Trouble at the Lights, what was the process behind that track?
DB: I’m probably not the right Brewis to ask because Peter did most of it when I wasn’t there! There was a point when we considered making a shorter album and keeping it all very poppy but that would have meant leaving off things like this and The Morning Is Waiting, which would have been a shame. And would have meant that the next album might been made up entirely of epic prog ballad offcuts. Neither option appealed.
LTW: Does your live approach change with every album? Also has technology played an increasing part in your live set?
DB: Since we reconvened in 2010 I don’t think our approach has changed. We try to get better and we’ve expanded to a 5 piece this time in order to handle all of the extra keyboards and vocals on the record. It’s always seemed that we had a little bit more technology on stage than we could handle (or set up in a timely manner) but, for instance, we never play to click tracks and only very, very occasionally have something rhythmic on a backing track which we play to. The challenge is always how to have the right kinds of sound going on while maintaining some kind of fluidity to how we play. Also, I’m terrible for speeding up when I’m playing the drums.
LTW: What can we expect from the Commontime tour? Also are there any plans for further live dates this year?
DB: 5 people on stage trying to play slightly more than their hands, feet and brains can cope with? Lots of complicated backing vocals? Slightly contrived segues between songs which give me and Peter a chance to swap places behind the kit? We’ve got a few festivals in the diary and there has been vague talk of a handful of other UK gigs later in the year but that feels like a very long time away.
LTW: As it’s the start of the year, is there anyone your tipping to be big in 2016?
DB: Tipping to be big? I wouldn’t have a clue. I like a band from Leeds called Galaxians but I’m just tipping them to be good, not to be big.
LTW: One final question, a topical one if you could pick one era of David Bowie’s music that influenced you, which would it be and why?
DB: It’s probably Scary Monsters even though that’s a bit of a cheat because it feels like a summation of so much he’d done in the latter half of the 70s and a few pointers to what he’d do with Let’s Dance. I like the way that record is full of detail and yet it sounds quite skeletal. Without realising it, we’ve been trying to do that for years.