Field Music: ‘We’re In A Fortunate Position’

David Brewis speaks to DIY about forthcoming album ‘Plumb’.

Before their last album, ‘Measure’, Sunderland’s Field Music nearly split up. This time round, in the making of new record ‘Plumb’, the group experienced a different kind of departure.

For ten years the band had been sharing studio space with The Futureheads, but this came to an end when the community building that housed it was closed down. Building their own studio, the band - fronted by brothers Peter and David Brewis - got to work on their next record.

‘Plumb’, like the settings it was created in, is entirely different to ‘Measure’. While the latter was a 75 minute epic double release, the band have brought things back to their core with this offering that totals at just over half hour. Despite, or perhaps because of this, it stands as possibly their most cohesive effort to date.

David speaks to DIY about ‘Plumb’.

Your fourth record comes out in February, how was writing and recording it?
We had a lot of fun mostly. There’s nothing better than going into the studio every day and getting stuck into new songs. We moved to a new studio space at the beginning of last year and so the new space is pretty much perfectly set up for how we record. The only real hiccup was that I trapped a nerve in my right arm while we were painting the new place and that meant I was relatively useless for the first 3 months of the year.

You reportedly nearly split up after ‘Tones of Towns’, what was the interlude between this and the last release like?
It hardly feels like there’s been an interlude really. We did the last few ‘Measure’ gigs in December 2010, then we moved studio and started recording. Around the same time we were mixing the album we did auditions to find a bass player as Ian Black who toured ‘Measure’ couldn’t do it this time round and now we’re starting to tour again. There’s an endless stream of things to do.

This release has taken you longer to make than the others, why do you think this is?
In terms of time between releases, this is indeed the longest gap so far, but because we did a fair amount of touring it feels like we’ve never been away. We probably spent about the same length of time making this record as the last one too. In the studio, it’s really just me and Peter, and we’ve been making music together since we were pre-teens. I don’t think we need to be any tighter!

‘Plumb’ is a rather strange title for an album, if you don’t mind us saying, and there seems to be a motif involving the colour purple. What was the reason in naming it this?
The name ‘Plumb’ was just the best and most amusing choice from a long list of titles. The fact that it means straight or level has a bunch of connotations. Also, I love the fact that the English language has so many homophones. I think it’s one of those unique things about the language which really informs the English sense of humour. It tickles me that we can colour all of the album text and the vinyl plum.

The album art is quite striking, could you explain the story behind it? Did you design it yourselves?
Peter made the collage and we both chipped in to how it would work for the album layout. He has a print of an Ed Ruscha painting called ‘Standard’ in his bathroom. Basically, it’s a gas station rendered in such a way as to highlight the perspective and the colours and the geometry. Peter wanted to do something which referred to that but also had some parallels with how we record (i.e. part naturalistic, part collage). We did ask about using another ‘service station’ artwork by a fellow named Richard Galpin who makes incredibly beautiful and striking pictures by cutting out segments of photographs, but he was busy doing someone else’s album artwork! I think we’re a little bit obsessed by petrol stations - they’re so charged with political and environmental and economic implications.

You’ve already shared the insanely-infectious ‘(I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing’, could you tell us a bit about the background to this track?
I’ve spent the last couple of years, since the financial crisis, reading up on economic theory in my spare time and dipping my toe into political activism of one kind or another. My head is totally spinning with ideas and anger and frustration, as I’m sure is the case for a lot of people at the moment. Unfortunately, any kind of mass communication, including pop music, involves trying to simplify things to make them understandable without having to pay too much attention. This song is just me struggling with how to communicate anything complicated and venting my fury about the tenor of political debate at the moment.

Do you think as a pre-album lead-single the track gives a clear impression of what the rest of the album will sound like?
Not at all. The album is made up mostly of short tracks that slot together, and even the individual tracks are quite modular and skip from section to section in a much more linear way than you would usually find on a pop record. ‘A New Thing’ is by far the most normal song on the record! To me it sounds like Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers trying to cover Michael Jackson’s ‘Black Or White’.

Are there any tracks you have up your sleeve, and featuring on the record, that you think will surprise a few people?
I’m really not sure. I think we’re in the fortunate position where people expect a few twists and turns from us. There’s one entirely a cappella track on the record, which is something we haven’t done before. Mostly I think people will be surprised when they look at the track counter on their CD player and realise they’ve already listened to three songs when they thought they were still on track 1 or think “those last three songs were quite short” and discover that it’s actually all been one song.

Support on your coinciding tour comes from Stealing Sheep, who are hotly tipped for great things this year. Are you big fans?
I heard a track of their’s on Marc Riley’s show on 6 Music around the time we were talking about a support for the tour. I really liked the song and the singing so I checked out a few more things and it seemed like it would be an interesting and complimentary match-up. I’m really looking forward to seeing them play and getting better acquainted with their tunes. I knew they’d signed to Heavenly but I wasn’t really aware of how hotly tipped they were. That kind of thing generally passes me by.

Field Music’s new album ‘Plumb’ will be released on 13th February via Memphis Industries.