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Field Music: Sunderland's Number One Sibling Success Story

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Undoubtedly Sunderland's number one sibling success story, the Brewis brothers have been writing, recording and performing together as Field Music on and off for the last 14 years, building up a considerable fan base.

Their last release in 2016, Commontime, was hailed as their most accessible album to date, bringing a collection of new fans - including Prince, according to Twitter - who have been excitedly awaiting the follow-up.

We managed to catch a few minutes to chat with Peter Brewis about the new record, Open Here, set for release on 2 February.

What have you been up to since releasing Commontime two years ago?

Well, good question. When Commontime came out we played that quite a bit. We were touring, generally just at weekends. We find it keeps it fresher just playing at the weekends and we can see our respective families without being away for too long. We did go to the States for a few weeks though, which we haven't done for something like five years. After that we did a couple of extra bits, but got straight on with writing this record.

So has the album been in the pipeline a while?

Yes, we started recording probably last February, but we're always doing other things as well, so it takes a while. We have our own studio space, although saying that we're moving studio at the moment. By taking our time doing things, it means we can be very specific about how we want things to sound and what we want to write about. We can revisit and re-do things and scrap songs if we want to scrap songs.


If Commontime is considered your pop album, what's Open Here?

It seems to be in all different directions at once. I think it's got a few things which I would say are sort of 'poppy', but in our sense of the word. I think everybody likes the pop music that they grew up listening to, the pop music that speaks to them. Our idea of pop music is totally different to other people's view. We do listen to contemporary pop music, but as curios really. We know it's not intended for us.

But there are definitely influences of our generation of pop music in the late eighties. For instance, in one of David's songs, 'Count It Up', I listened to it and I thought, "God, that sounds like 'Material Girl'". I don't think he necessarily meant it to sound like that, but there's a glimpse of Madonna in there.

Was it a deliberate decision to give the album more of an eighties feel or did that happen naturally?

I think it's just some of the sonic traits that we're into. I don't think there could be a record like Open Here made in the eighties. It just wouldn't have happened. But I think there are certain sounds that we're drawn to from that time.

Did you have any direct influences specifically for this album?

I think with any record we make, in relation to the music that I'm into, it all gets filtered into the idea of making a record. Records are there to present rock and pop music really. So all the influences I have outside of rock and pop music, you can't really hear them. It just sounds like a rock/pop record, which is what all records are really. But that's alright. We're always trying to push ourselves in new directions and I feel like we're always trying to test the boundaries of what will make a coherent record.

Did you have anybody else working with you on the album?

We have a lot more people on this record than we've ever had, which gives us more freedom. Vocally, we have Liz [Corney], who's in the live band. She's done a little bit of recording with us before, but we've had her much more involved this time. We've got a quasi-choir at the end. I think because we knew we were leaving the studio where we've been for eight years, we tried to get more people involved and get a community atmosphere about it. It's been kind of dark times, especially in the past two years. The world in general has been an odd, weird, dark place. There have been personal circumstances as well which have been testing. I think we tried to defy that gloomy feeling. You know it's in there but we've tried to do our thing. There are a lot of people who are very good at making gloomy, dark music but we can't do it, just like they can't make music the way we do. It's the way we deal with things, like, "Right, what are we going to do about this?"

On your last album you touched on your introduction to fatherhood. Does Open Here follow any more of your life events or is it all more politically charged?

The thing is, even the politics always comes from a personal reflection of things. There have been some challenging personal things that have gone on. We've lost friends who were close to the band, had big personal issues. Then on top of that, when you're looking at world events, you see children, refugees and kids who are struggling in the world, and I think that now, being a dad, we can see that. 'Shit, that could be my child.' It becomes a more emotional and personal thing for me in a way that I wasn't able to feel before.

Do you find it easier to juggle family life and the band, being brothers? Is there less pressure in having to be formal about getting together to write and record?

Yes, there is less pressure. Dave and I don't always need to be in the studio together. It makes sense in the way that we work. It's not easy, but it must be easier than some people that have 9-to-5 jobs, where they have to arrange childcare. I can't complain.

You've talked in the past about the lack of profit in being a full-time musician. Have things changed for you over the years with Field Music?

A little bit. But I mean still, I think people are surprised by what me and Dave are able to live on. Again, I'm not complaining about that. It's absolutely fine. We're lucky with the position that we're in.

Are you touring the new album?

Yes. Well, we're starting by doing something slightly preposterous in that we're doing three shows in Newcastle on 2 and 3 February, with one being a matinée for the kids. We're doing that at Northern Stage. It's going to be a theatrical show, with everybody who has played on the album.

Will the rest of the UK tour just feature the core band?

It was meant to be that way, but different people have said they can play different shows, so each show will be a bit different.

Is there anything else to look out for from Field Music or either of you individually?

Me and Dave are always doing new things, so I think there will be. We're moving studios at the minute and I'm just trying to finish up an album I'm doing with Sarah Hayes, so lots going on.

Tasha Franek

by Tasha Franek (she/her)

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