Simon Jay Catling 21/02/2010
There were more than a few cheers here at GIITTV towers when Sunderland brothers Peter and David Brewis announced the return of Field Music having had a couple of years' hiatus. Whilst their respective side projects School Of Language and The Week That Was received warm acclaim, it's the combined oddball eclecticism of Brewis' songwriting that made us fall in love with them in the first place. David Brewis took some time out before commencing the group's UK tour in promotion of upcoming double-album Field Music (Measure) to talk to Simon Jay Catling.
GIITTV: It feels like hardly any time at all since you called a hiatus on Field Music in 2007. Was it always the plan to only take a brief break before returning or have things just flowed that way?
DB: Three years seems like quite a long time to us! We didn't really have a plan at all other than that, right then, at that moment in time, we didn't want to do another Field Music album. We make a really pathetically poor living from doing this, so it's not as if there's some financial imperative to making a record if we don't think we'll enjoy doing it. It just so happened that taking a break from Field Music gave us a chance to try some other ideas, tour in a slightly different way, learn a lot; and then by the start of 2009 making another Field Music record seemed like quite a good idea.
GIITTV: With regards to the intervening side projects, do you feel they've
shaped or influenced your vision for the upcoming Field Music album? What did you learn from your time away doing them?
DB: I see a fairly linear progression from the first two Field Music records through School of Language and The Week That Was to the new album. There are lots of musical ideas on the new record which we wouldn't have felt like we could do had we not taken the break and tried some different things in a different situation. Plus, we toured a fair bit for both solo records and I think that improved our playing a great deal, and that in turn gave us more confidence to try things out when it came to recording the new songs.
GIITTV: Did the hiatus spread to other aspects; did you spend time apart as songwriters?
DB: Actually, we've never written together so the only way the break affected my songwriting is that I didn't feel embarrassed about bringing ideas or songs which were maybe a little bit more obscure or personal to the band. For instance, with School of Language I gave most of the songs tangential titles rather than descriptive titles, or titles taken from the lyrics; and I think I would have felt uncomfortable doing that before. I feel like the break helped me to get that out of my system completely. Just being embarrassed is a fairly shoddy reason for not doing something.
GIITTV: Now you're back with a double album, a bold move considering the perceived notion of the ''death of the album''. Why did you feel this route was the way to go down?
DB: Well, the album might be dead for lots people, but that's what we love - a single song can't immerse you into an artist's world in the way that an album can, and really that's what I want from a record. Compilations are great for long car journeys or parties, but the rest of the time it's all about albums for me. We decided to make a double album right at the beginning, as soon as we decided we were going to do another Field Music record. We came back to Field Music because we felt that we'd redefined what Field Music could be - not a tidy little indie band, but a vehicle for us to try every musical idea we think might be intriguing or exciting. We thought that the best way to make that clear on the new record was to have a lot of variation and a lot of tracks; not something which was thematically or sonically coherent as we have done in the past.
GIITTV: What are the themes/subjects you've focused on lyrically with the upcoming release?
DB: I can't really speak for Peter, but most of my songs seem to be about either being stressed or the eventual possibility that I won't be stressed. I think there's a real sense of defiance to a lot of the lyrics; of not taking any crap, finding our way to do things and sticking to it even if that might be the hardest thing to do. I hear a lot of that in Peter's songs too.
GIITTV: There's certainly an increased feeling of eclecticism on the new LP, more like a jigsaw puzzle of different ideas than the quite constant aesthetic of Tones Of Town, and maybe a reflection of your own winding paths over the last couple of years. Is this owing to a fresh approach regarding Field Music?
DB: I think it is, but that's not to say that the next Field Music album won't be something completely different again. We've just opened things up for ourselves - we feel a lot freer in what we can try. We don't have to stick to the rules of what bands are supposed to do, which is a great feeling.
GIITTV: Are you looking forward to returning to the live scene in February? Does touring the UK ever change?
DB: Some things never change! Academy venues are always academy venues, for instance. But in terms of audiences, things change all the time - our most recent gigs have been very different from our last UK tour as Field Music and very different from our shows for School of Language or The Week That Was. We'll hopefully get to the position where the things that are good stay the same (e.g. nice promoters, nice venues, nice places for pre-gig food, people actually coming to see us and enjoying it) and the less good things change.
GIITTV: Are Field Music back for the foreseeable future then?
DB: That all depends on how far you can foresee! At the moment, we have vague plans for the next Field Music album and also a lot of other ideas for projects of one sort or another but nothing is set in stone. Peter and I will always be busy making music and we'll always help each other out to do it.
'Field Music (Measure)' was released on the 15th of February. You can listen to the entire album on the following stream: