Brother David Brewis of Field Music shares some words with Simon Cosyns of The Sun.
By SIMON COSYNS
January 12, 2007
Field Music - Tones of Town
FURTHER proof, if needed, that the North East is firmly on the musical map in 2007 comes with Sunderland’s Field Music.
Following in the wake of Maximo Park and The Futureheads, the trio are gaining a growing reputation as one of the most original and inventive bands around.
Field Music consist of brothers David and Peter Brewis, the core songwriting partnership, and keyboard whizz Andrew Moore.
Their second album proper, Tones Of Town, is a riveting exercise in pairing concise, everyday tales with multi-faceted pop stylings.
They’ve drawn comparisons with many top drawer acts, from the angular post-punksters Wire to the masters of melodic pop The Beach Boys.
SFTW decided to find out more from David:
HOW and when did you guys get into writing and performing music?
Back in 1989-90, it just seemed like the thing the cool kids were getting into. Peter got a very cheap drumkit one Christmas, which he had a very natural and rapid rapport with (though I don’t think anyone realised quite how natural at the time). Then I got a £20 Argos acoustic guitar and Peter developed a very natural rapport with that too. It took me a little longer. Andy had a couple of guitar lessons when he was a youngster but gave it up almost straight away and ended up practising organ and piano along to Doors records.
We played together for the first time for Andy’s music GCSE and then started doing a band a few months later. We mostly did covers of rock classics in pubs.
Who have been your major influences?
Our parents and friends and each other are our biggest influences by far. There’s an awful lot of music we love and records which have qualities we aim to capture in our music.
Tell us about the North East’s music scene and your links to the city’s other well-known bands, The Futureheads and Maximo Park?
We did our musical growing up with The Futureheads — it was a nice time. Peter was originally the drummer in The Futureheads and I helped to record their first few demos at the studio we set up together. Barry and Dave also played in mine and Peter’s bands.
We still share the studio and hang out together whenever we’re around Sunderland.
We met the lads from Maximo Park from doing gigs around Newcastle and became friends with them. We loved Tom’s drumming so we asked him to help us out and he ended up being Field Music’s regular drummer for a year or so. He’s also a little bit busy for that now.
They’ve been really supportive as things have taken off for them — it’s incredibly touching that Paul always gives us a plug in interviews. Again, we see them whenever they’re at home and go for a few drinks in Newcastle.
Do you support Sunderland and approve of manager Roy Keane’s efforts?
We do and always have done despite the heartache. I think Roy’s doing well — I really hope he’s given time to put his stamp on the team. There’s been too many lazy or half-hearted attitudes at the club for too long.
As brothers in a band, do you ever have Liam and Noel-style bust-ups?
We tend to simmer and then bicker. Right from the start we’ve always said that whoever writes a song has the final say over it, which works pretty well when we’re recording.
However, it’s more difficult when we’re out on tour and it’s just us cooped up in a van and there are decisions to be made.
We do most, if not all, of our own admin, driving, artwork, video ideas and it tends to be about those things that we can get a little tetchy.
I’ve been intrigued to read that the new album is about “There’s no place like home, but how come I don’t always feel ‘at home’?” Can you elaborate on the song Working To Work etc?
Well, the lyrics for that one are Peter’s but I’ve interpreted it as being about how much time and energy we expend on our workaday jobs, just in order to have the time to work even harder at trying to do the things we care about.
It was a difficult year for us in 2005 — we were working full-time, rehearsing a few nights a week and then using up all of our holidays for touring, living on an absolute pittance, struggling to pay the rent. It’s a wonder we managed to record that first album.
Actually, we’re still getting by on a pittance and wearing ourselves out touring, recording and rehearsing but at least we’re not trying to hold down office jobs as well.
How has your sound evolved and progressed since the debut album? People have mentioned Wire produced by The Beach Boys.
In terms of constructing our recordings, we’re very conscious of avoiding clichés and not just doing things for the sake of it, which is a classic punk or post-punk artistic approach. On the other hand, we can play and sing pretty well and aren’t afraid to incorporate harmonies or make a feature of unusual melodies in our songs, which is probably quite a Beach Boys-style thing.
You’re not believers in repeating yourselves, ie through the use of choruses?
As David Byrne once sang, “Say something once, why say it again”. That kind of sums it up — if there’s a good reason for repeating something then I’m all for it.
People have said there’s an element of prog-rock, particularly some of Andrew’s Genesis-style keys, in your music. Do you agree?
There’s a lot of music in the prog-rock cannon which is lazy and cliched, thoughtless, smug and trite. However, generally the idea of being progressive, which for me means trying to do something new, seems like a pretty good idea.
I’m a big fan of Peter Gabriel but the only Genesis album I really like is The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway — it’s funny and irreverent in a way which they’re not usually given credit for. Funnily enough, I don’t think Andy has any affinity for prog-rock whatsoever.
And you appear to like keeping things short and sweet, just 31 minutes . . .
It would be even shorter if we didn’t repeat ourselves at all. I find most songs that last more than four minutes have boring bit in them. I’d rather do songs which don’t have boring bits, even if that means they don’t quite hit the two-minute mark.
Where do you hope Field Music will be by this time next year?
We’re trying really hard to keep working and not let touring and admin stop us from coming up with new ideas, writing and recording and being brave.
Field Music's new album Tones Of Town will be released domestically on February 13th.The band will be playing SXSW and touring the US throughout February and March 2007.
Video for "A House Is Not A Home"