Monday, November 16, 2009

Interview: FIELDS - CATCHING THE BREEZE

Thursday, October 11, 2007 

The rapid ascension to the international stage for British shoegaze-influenced group Fields is the stuff of dreams. The whole story becomes more remarkable when you consider this is a band who claim to "exist in a world where it is permanently 6PM on a summers day, and the sun is about to go down over the village hedgerow." Singer and guitarist Nick Peill explains the whirlwind ride in a typically un-flashy style of someone whose dreams are being realised but whose feet have never left the ground. "I've been doing stuff on my own for quite a while and been friends with Jamie (Putnam, guitarist) for 12 years; we were maybe going to do things the pair of us. As we started to rehearse I met the other three through some friends in London and we all just hit it off really quickly. It was quite crazy really because in a matter of months we went from being strangers to being signed - almost like a dream. It was all a matter of right place right time."

2007 has already seen Fields play several tours and festivals including CMJ and Coachella (the latter an 'incendiary' experience), though Peill's personal favourite is the rapidly-becoming-legendary Bestival. "It's such a brilliant festival. Everyone wears fancy dress on the middle day of the festival, and it's the last one of the summer so there is sublime feel to it." Happily enough, there have been no bust ups or fall outs between this newly thrown together band. "No we're a really a tight group of friends, I wasn't sure what it would be like going on tour, you know, being shut in together for weeks, but almost the reverse happened." It seems the same with writing the songs. "On the first album most of the songs evolved really from the hands of all 5 of us, though I'm still the principal songwriter. We all have a shared vision for the band so we never argue musically, which is why I think it's so harmonious out on the road."

This traveling also saw them take in Dublin, where they recorded the album. "That was mostly down to Michael Beinhorn [Korn, Marilyn Manson, RHCP, Hole - essentially alot of bands that sound nothing like Fields] who produced the album. It's a strange studio, kind of a brick cellar thing with a weird arched ceiling. He thought it had a great drum sound and convinced us to go there to record. It actually backfired a little as the studio got damp, there was no natural light and we kind of ended up regretting using it." The resulting album Everything Last Winter did strike some as an unusually grand-sounding album given the more winsome preceding EP 7 From The Village, but it has still garnered great reviews.

Across all of Fields' work there is an attention to detail that could only have come from having a clear concept of the band's visual aspect. "Fine art was my original creative outlet," says Peill. "When the band began I really wanted to have a strong visual aesthetic. I wanted to draw out the more folky side to the band, and that carried through to the websites, fliers and posters. It is important to me that if you bought the record you should have a nice piece of art in your hand to accompany the music. I wanted to push the folk element because a lot of those songs were written just on an acoustic guitar. It was an appealing world to imagine ourselves within; a slightly dark, rural, very idyllic scenario. There is something to do with the simplicity of it, the handmade-ness of it, more lovingly crafted, more back to basics and honest. I used to make CDs that I would give to friends and I would do little line drawings of trees and birds and rural scenes attached to the lyrics, there were subconscious links between them, something I never intended, but looking at it afterwards there was an obvious connection."

Another connection that seems obvious to some is to the early-90s shoegaze band movement, many of whom started from the same part of England as Peill hails from - a connection he happily endorses, to a point. "I was a huge fan of all of those bands and that was the sort of music I grew up with; Slowdive, MBV, Ride; I think that music really allowed itself to have alot of beautiful, unashamedly pretty melodies, though it could still have darkness and volume too. There are so many other influences in my music as well though, Robert Smith is a huge inspiration to me, the way he was able to write romantic pop songs, ambient epics and all manner of different styles within the band. That is something we intend to do."

Though he may share Smith's elliptical subjects and frequent natural imagery, songwriting for Peill seems like an exercise in being channelled. "It's quite random. Lyrics for me are always a bit of a mystery, I don't really know where they come from. A lot of them are deeply personal but often I won't know what I've written about until long after I've finished writing. I'll write at a computer, be recording a guitar bit say, and within almost no time at all it will have just fallen out. It's those ones that come without any effort at all that seem to be the best ones, and the ones that connect the most with people are the easiest ones to write. I feel like I have a certain number of songs inside me, like I'm constantly chasing the perfect song and they're all sections of the same giant one."

Songs aside, the band themselves are a curious bunch. Bassist Matty Durham is a hairdresser and school friend of Bloc Party through whom he is responsible for clipping the coifs of most of the bands featured in NME at any given week. "He still cuts the hair of alot of bands that we tour with," laughs Peill. Fellow singer and keyboardist Þórunn Antonía is an Icelandic songwriter whose father composed the Icelandic national anthem. Clearly, randomness plays a big part in Fields: "When we were in Ireland I was given an antique book by someone in the studio, and as a joke I said to Jamie "give me an album title" and the end of the sentence he read out was 'Everything Last Winter', and it seemed to fit. This sense of melancholy tied in with alot of the lyrics purely by chance. We'd made a list of potential album titles, but that was one we kept coming back to."


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