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

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“We met at a celebration of Kate Bush’s music, I was asked to come to Glasgow by Emma Pollock.”  Peter Brewis recounts, on the genesis of You Tell Me. “Sarah [Hayes] was in the band and the first song we did was Sat In Your Lap…you had all these guys from [Sarah’s band] Admiral Fallow, and I was totally blown away by how good the band were and how consummate the musicianship was, to the point that I missed my cue when we were rehearsing! That’s how we met.”

After working together again on Asunder, a collaboration between Warm Digits and Field Music which soundtracked footage of Sunderland during WW1, Sarah brought some of her first songwriting attempts to Peter and their collaboration has ultimately led to their self-titled debut album, released via Memphis Industries on 11th January.

You Tell Me is a symphonic record full of twists and turns, with a melancholic tone which draws on a mutual love of artists like Rufus Wainwright, The Blue Nile and, naturally, Kate Bush. Take the plaintive Jouska, the first song Sarah wrote for the record, which is a richly orchestrated chamber pop song that wouldn’t sound out of place on Hounds Of Love, or the effervescent Foreign Parts with its sprightly string arrangement and kaleidoscopic instrumentation in which it’s easy to see the Field Music connection.

There were times I’ve thought ‘should this just be Sarah’s album, should I just press record and play the guitar?’ It was quite a nerve-wracking thing to do

“Sarah brought the songs to our studio and I couldn’t believe that these were the first songs she had written. I’d tried for years and I don’t think it was until my late twenties or early thirties that I wrote something I thought was genuinely pretty good! Here was something fully formed and I had to start asking myself how I could contribute to this body of work, be it through writing songs as good as this or contributing to the arrangement. It was these conversations that led us to decide to make a record that was 50/50 in terms of writing and collaboration.

“I thought a lot of Sarah’s songs were very conversational, or rather about communication or not being able to communicate. This made me think about the experiences I have had, and I wrote about that, which was quite emotional, really – it was quite a personal record for me, maybe more than in the past, and I generally don’t approach things thematically. There were times I’ve thought ‘should this just be Sarah’s album, should I just press record and play the guitar?’ It was quite a nerve-wracking thing to do.”

Sarah acknowledges also that her approach wasn’t remotely thematic, and it was only when the record was coming together that she noticed common threads. “Whatever is happening in your life is going to permeate through isn’t it? But I did notice that communication and conversations were a big part of it.” Peter and Sarah have clearly cultivated a very respectful musical relationship and Sarah observes that this is the first project she has been a part of that has been genuinely collaborative. For Peter, he’s discovered a different way of working that has taken him away from familiar territory. “Dave [Brewis] came down to engineer a bit and Phil from Admiral Fallow came to play some drums but mostly it was just us! With Field Music I’m operating in my own comfort zone, but that was really different and exciting.”

The duo play a record store tour in January, dropping into Newcastle’s Reflex Records on Thursday 17th January.

 

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