‘Hiatus’ is usually a code word for a bitter fall out, writer’s block or what happens when diva-ish band mates want to ‘explore other projects’.
Field Music’s self-imposed three year hiatus was a strange one. During their break brothers David and Peter Brewis played on each other’s solo records and performed together live on the tours to promote David’s outing as School Of Language and Peter’s as The Week That Was.
What’s more, both albums had more than a sprinkling of Field Music about them. So what was the point of the split?
“The break gave us time to figure out what we wanted to do next, and better ways to do things,” explained the softly spoken elder Brewis, David. “We needed chance away from Field Music as a project, away from the expectations. We didn’t have a break from each other – we helped out playing on each other’s records and with touring, but doing something like that, the expectations are very different. It was getting to a point where we could have gone ‘Field Music is quite successful, if we do this it’ll be better. Come on everybody, we’ve got to be bigger and better’. There were expectations and pressures from other people, and ourselves, and it was good to just get away from it and think about what Field Music really was again, and to come back and do what we really wanted to do.”
They announced their temporary split a mere week after their second album Tones Of Town was released, and turned down a potentially career-making arena tour supporting Snow Patrol. And with former band mates including members The Futureheads and Maximo Park, they’ve had their fair share of brushes with the big time. “I wouldn’t swap places with them,” says Brewis. “They’ve got a lot of expectations to deal with, a lot of admiration. They’re close friends, there’s no envy there. We’ve been to see both bands and it’s fascinating to see the interaction they have with their audience. It’s very different to anything we’ve ever had. We have very personal lyrics – a lot of them of them are about misunderstandings and… I don’t know, very personal things, and I think it would feel wrong having my lyrics shouted back at me.”
Shouting is unlikely at a Field Music gig but, with their new double album Field Music (Measure), there’s likely to be a fair few fans singing. Their most eclectic record to date, it’s more experimental and doesn’t sit together as simply as their previous works, but it’s strangely familiar and very, very Field Music. “We wanted to redefine the double album as something very varied. We thought about how to break through the restrictions of an album, and we decided the best way to do it was to make a massive record. The others have had a coherence, the preoccupations you get from writing songs very close together, but making this one, we just felt a bit more free, and I think you can tell that.”
Fiercely independent, the brothers run their own studio, produce, engineer and master their own albums, design their artwork and direct their own promo videos, which may explain the rambling nature of their 20-track offering. “We wrote this album in bursts, I suppose. We were writing all the time we were recording. I like the fact that a lot of really long records have their own micro-narratives you can discover over a long period of time. I Like Tusk, by Fleetwood Mac. We love that, but then again I probably miss out all of Stevie Nicks’ songs. And The Wall; that has some amazing songs on it, but some really boring guitar solos. I suppose we wanted to redefine the double album, make it interesting again, do all these things we want to do.”
The new album sees a slight line up change – long term keyboardist Andrew Moore left the band to train as a chef when they reconvened last summer. “He was ready for real life and wanted less of the uncertainty of being in a band. We talked to him about the new record and it was kind of obvious he didn’t want to be going back to it. He was so hard to get hold of. So the record ended up being just me and Peter.”
The reformed group thus looked a little different this time round. “We asked Kev (Dosdale), who played guitar and synth for The Week That Was live and was keen to keep playing with us, so he’s joined. We wanted to get someone in on bass as well and we were thinking ‘who shall we ask’ and we thought of Ian (Black), who’s someone we’ve known for a really long time. Me and Peter used to teach at this sort of music youth club and he was one of the kids there – he’s only about a year and a half younger than me though!”
“We wanted to redefine the double album, make it interesting again.”– David Brewis, Field Music
Brewis is happy with the alterations. “They’ve really changed the dynamic of the band. Before there was only one person standing up, now there are three standing up. I’m surprised how different that feels, and we’ve never had a real bass, so we’re rocking out a bit more.”
What sort of music were the young Brewises listening to when they were teaching their protg? “Mine and Peter’s first musical love was Led Zeppelin – not that you could tell that from the first two albums. As I got older I became kind of embarrassed of that and ignored the stuff I used to like. There was a lot I didn’t like about that sort of music – the sexism, the self indulgence and hippy mentality that really grates on me. But it’s a shame to let the great things about it escape.
“When I first started writing songs I was very shy and embarrassed about everything and there was a kind of conviction against rock mythology. You know, people might say Oasis‘s first albums were great and stuff, but to me the kind of attitude they’ve fostered, I wanted to go in completely the opposite direction. Noel Gallagher seems an intelligent guy, but then he says that he never learnt anything at school and things like that, and I think ‘You total dick – you don’t really think that’. It’s patronising. It’s such a clich. Actually, I’m a fan of clichs – they can be great if you take them in a different context and convert them. Bands like Roxy Music took clich and turned it into something else.”
With, effectively, four Field Music records and two solo albums under their belt, fans can expect a more varied, and longer, set on their forthcoming tour. “We’re going to do some School Of Language songs and some songs from all the albums. We’ll do The Week That Was songs when Peter’s over doing the same set every night (the dozens of gigs Peter played as The Week That Was consisted of the album played in its entirety, in order) and of course, the sets can be longer now. So you’ll get more Field Music for your money!”
Field Music’s album Field Music (Measure) is out on 15 February 2010 through Memphis Industries.