TAS in Session: Field Music
David and Peter Brewis are the main cogs behind Field Music, an ambitious group from Sunderland, England which just recently released a new album, Measure. While the two brothers are most humble, almost self-deprecating at times, when discussing their extraordinary talents, this new album is anything but ordinary. It’s an ambitious 20-song effort that runs through styles and genres with ease, all the while maintaining the listener’s interest for over 70 minutes. This is no easy task.
Field Music stopped by The Alternate Side studios recently where they discussed their previously hidden love of classic rock, the harmonies between the brothers (they refuse to admit they have the skill), and of course, their new album Measure .
Russ Borris: Congratulations on Measure, twenty songs, 72 minutes, obviously a very large undertaking. Was that the goal going in? Creating something kind of grand?
David Brewis: The goal specifically was to do an album that was ever so slightly too long. Most of our other records have been ever so slightly too short. So we thought we'd do a really long record where there were fewer rules about what would go on.
Russ: Did you worry about it being perceived as self-indulgent?
David: Nah. I don't mind that. We've been called self-indulgent since we started.
Peter Brewis: And who else are we going to indulge?
David: Exactly. If we're going to go and chase audiences around, we'd end up making a very different sort of music.
Russ: One of the things that runs through [Measure] is all of these different juxtapositions. Some are connected and some aren't. Did that come together in the writing process?
David: Yeah, it's something we usually have in mind pretty early on. The way we write songs, it's not like, "this is the verse, this is the chorus." Some combination of those things is a song. I'm not entirely certain how Peter does it, but for me, I'll have one piece of music in my mind and if I let it percolate, it leads to the other things that are going to happen in the piece of music.
Russ: David and Peter, you're brothers. Do you write music completely separately or do you work through them together?
Peter: We initially write them separately, yeah, and then we often problem-solve together if we need to.
Russ: Are there many problems as brothers in a group?
David: Oh yes! Oh, not necessarily being brothers but certainly problems.
Peter: Musical problems.
Russ: But no infighting.
David: Not as yet. Not really. Not worse than the average band.
Russ: As kids were you playing songs?
David: I started playing guitar when I was about ten and Peter started playing drums a little before that, so [he] would have been 11 or 12?
Peter: Whenever The Bangles' Everything came out because that's when I wanted to play drums (laughs).
David: We started playing covers in a pub band around 1994. That's how we wasted our school years.
Russ: What were the covers?
David: Deep Purple, The Doors, Led Zeppelin. I was obsessed by The Black Crowes. I wanted to sound like them, look like them (laughs). To the point that I even considered getting a red velvet suit. But since I was only 14 years old I think that would have been funny.
Russ: How long could you grow the beard?
David: Ah, there was no beard but the hair was nipple length (laughs). At the time they really didn't have the beards yet. Once they grew the beards I knew I couldn't follow them anymore.
Russ: It's interesting that you mention Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin in passing because there is a bit of a classic rock vibe in certain tracks on this album.
Peter: I think it was something that we were a bit embarrassed about when we first started the band. I think being embarrassed about something is a really bad reason to edit yourself. So we don't (laughs).
David: The first music we really loved was Led Zeppelin. Now that probably doesn't come across on the earlier Field Music records and the fact that we're discovering it now might offend some people. But we love it; we can't avoid it.
Russ: It's being honest with your music which is something your fan base might appreciate.
David: I hope so! Thanks guys.
Russ: As for your harmonies, how early did you guys discover how well you could harmonize together? Was it challenging?
Peter: We're still trying very, very hard! I don't think we discovered that we do it well yet. We try because we like it. We like the Beatles, we like the Beach Boys.
David: I've got no idea when we started doing it. When we were doing the pub band, I couldn't even sing falsetto. I was too busy trying to sound like Joe Cocker and I ruined my voice (laughs).
Russ: You guys are your own worse critics.
Peter: Oh, no. We've had much worse (laughs).
David: I've seen some reviews, whoof.
Russ: What was the worst thing you've seen about you?
David: The worst I couldn't possibly say on air.
Russ: Something Spinal Tap related?
David: I wish! That would be great!
Russ: A couple of years ago there was talk you were going to split as a group and David, you did one record, Sea From Shore, as School of Language in 2008. Peter, you released your solo project, The Week That Was the same year. How did that come about?
Peter: We were just sick of being in a band a bit. We made a record as Field Music and became a band by accident because we were asked to promote [it]. We thought it would be a good idea, but we weren't ready to be a band, really. We did that for two years and it got to the point where not only weren't we enjoying it, but we thought we really didn't want to do music anymore.
Russ: So what was the hardest part? The shows? The road.
Peter: It was just the expectation of what you're meant to be when you're a band.
David: I think when the expectation comes up that the next thing you do probably won't be very good because we're not enjoying it and because people expect us to be a certain way and there's all that temptation to follow up with what people want ... just the idea that what we did next wouldn't be as good as what we did before was enough for us to say, let's leave it a while. When being in a band is more important that the music you make or the ideas you have, I think there's a problem. We're always trying to find a way to make it so what we do isn't about the myth of being a gang in a band which I think is nonsense. It's something that prevents a lot of bands from making good music. It's the reason why so many bands' first albums are their best and then after that they repeat themselves. We want to avoid doing that - it would be terrible.
Russ: So you got that out of your system and now you've got a new record.
David: Yeah, but we might be sick of this in six months time (laughs).