INTERVIEW: Field Music | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

Narc. Magazine Online

Reliably informed

Image by Nick Wesson

“There were some pretty big things going on when we started the lyrics – some of those things made Dave really angry and made me feel sad but defiant at the same time. We didn’t want to wallow.”

Peter Brewis succinctly addresses the feel of Open Here, Field Music’s sixth album proper. In Open Here, David and Peter Brewis – alongside a cast of many – have produced their most emotional record to date, touching on difficult circumstances in both the personal and political sphere, while maintaining a defiant stoicism that makes for a vital, enduring listen.

Peter recalls a period of emotional intensity for three or four weeks in September and October 2016 which was coloured profoundly by grief. “I’m always keeping notes and Dictaphone recordings of riffs and things, but that period really changed how I approached everything I’d written to that point. It was just an incredibly emotional time. We went up to Glasgow to do the Kate Bush thing [rehearsals for Running Up That Hill: a Celebration of Kate Bush’s work featuring Emma Pollock and now-collaborator Sarah Hayes] and in the context of everything that was just…incredibly emotional. I think it really shaped the vision of the record. It could have been a downer of a record, but it isn’t.”

A downer it certainly isn’t. Gorgeous instrumental accompaniment envelops the songs, particularly on the closing numbers Daylight Saving and Find A Way To, making it some of the most rich and ambitious work the band have produced. Share A Pillow has a Roxy Music-esque saxophone hook married to a coquettish guitar riff, while No King No Princess (a song eschewing the conditioning of gender roles)  starts out sounding like something from Julian Cope’s Fried but then morphs into an incredibly effervescent and joyous song.

Peter attributes the quality of these songs to a looser approach to the recording process. “I mean, Dave and I are still in charge – a revolving dictatorship if you like – but I think this was the first time we let people just go wild on things. Sarah’s [Hayes, flautist] ideas for Time In Joy really took me by surprise – it’s great when someone can just come up with something you’d have never thought of yourself. Same with Liz [Corney, keys], we just wanted her to approach the songs in her own very exuberant way. This time we felt more like band leaders rather than dictators.”

Peter also touches on another core ideal that informed the record. “It’s often about surrendering yourself to the vision or the idea of the song. I honestly can’t remember what I played on Count It Up; I’m sure Pete [Fraser, saxophone] played more on it than me. You only get used if you’re needed, it’s essential to surrender your egos to the songs. Trusting the idea and the vision.”

What is remarkable about Open Here is the seamless interaction between the personal and political throughout the record. “I don’t think we’ve made a political record, really. We’ve made a record that conveys how we are feeling. But I think we’ve approached it with a sense of humour. I’m sure loads of bands have written about Brexit and Trump etcetera…Dave and I decided however we approached it we would do it in our way and in a way that married up to how we would approach music per se.

“Political records are generally ‘this is how I feel about something and this is the way it should be’, but I just feel very confused about everything. It’s more about navigating through that chaos, I think.”

Opener Time In Joy is a meditative reflection on taking solace in the most unlikely of things in chaotic and unpleasant times: “Finally on the pillow/the genie there to pray to/save my friend, my family/save my love for me”

“When I wrote that lyric I knew that was setting the tone for the record but it also made me realise that it couldn’t be all that down in tone, so we responded to that too I suppose.”

On lead single Count It Up, Peter reflects: “I think that came from the idea that loads of things are terribly wrong at the moment, but who is to blame for it? I think on this song Dave is humble and intelligent enough to look in the mirror and accept that we have to accept some of that blame, and we have to have the self-awareness to recognize that. Maybe that’s Field Music’s problem. Maybe we aren’t political enough!”

Field Music launch Open Here with three specially-staged performances at Northern Stage, Newcastle on Friday 2nd and Saturday 3rd February (including a matinee performance). These shows will be recorded and filmed, and will feature an expanded orchestral line-up with strings, brass, wind and percussion, all complimenting the gorgeous, textural nature of the record. For these shows, the core line-up of Peter and David, along with Kev Dosdale on guitar and synth, Andrew Lowther on bass and Liz Corney on keys and vocals, will be augmented by the team of players who performed on the band’s most recent albums.

In that much of the record is a tribute to a very close friend of the band, the performances will be a fitting extension of that; an apt celebration of a profoundly emotional, satisfying piece of work. Thirteen years into producing albums of incredible consistency, Open Here may prove to be the band’s very best.

Field Music & The Open Here Orchestra perform at Northern Stage, Newcastle on Friday 2nd and Saturday 3rd February. They also play The Georgian Theatre stage at Stockton Calling on Saturday 31st March. Open Here is released on 2nd February via Memphis Industries.

 

Like this story? Share it!