Peter Brewis left his position as drummer for The Futureheads in 2004 to start Field Music with his brother David, and eight years on after a fourth album and a sold-out show at The Fleece, the siblings from Sunderland will feel they have come a long way. Their first two studio albums gained strong reviews yet did not find the commercial success of some of their contemporaries, and after a brief hiatus in which the brothers each released their own solo albums, Field Music returned to release Measure, a double album that consolidated their position as one of the few survivors of the early 21st century Brit-rock revolution (remember The Rakes?). Fourth studio album Plumb was released last month to further critical acclaim, and despite only running for 35 minutes it is a welcome addition to a strong discography. The brothers make lots of jokes and talk about the music business with refreshing modesty and honesty, and while their music may deserve more attention than it has received, it will not leave them disheartened.
After initial success with their cover of ‘Hounds of Love’ by Kate Bush and a strong self-titled debut record, The Futureheads struggled to maintain momentum and in April they will release Rant, an entirely a capella album, in an attempt to recapture some of that early success. The Brewis brothers joined forces with friend Andrew Moore to take their own path, and in the early days Maximo Park drummer Tom English joined the project. They agree their upbringing had a big impact on their music, saying ‘we grew up in both Sunderland and South Shields, I think where we’re from has shaped our music. We’re influenced by what we see everyday, the people we share our lives with, the work we do, everything.’ The brothers cite ‘Mam and Dad’s record collection’ as a huge influence on their music, however nowadays they have less of a focal point to draw inspiration from; ‘I don’t think there is one particular location that the [new] record is linked to. There are a few references to different places in the North-East but I’d like to think the general themes are not place-specific.’
Many famous musical siblings are more famous for their squabbles but the brothers Brewis insist that they feed off each other well; ‘I think we work together very well. We don’t really disagree that much or rather, we agree to disagree whenever we want, and one of us always holds the veto. I think we generally work towards helping realise each other’s music. If we do have a real disagreement it’s usually sorted out with a game of rock/paper/scissors!’
The brothers obviously enjoy working on new material; ‘the studio is a part of our compositional process. It’s a creative part of making music and doesn’t really have a to follow a set process. We can follow our whims and try things and either keep them or chuck them. It’s us, on our own making music for ourselves.’ On the other hand, they feel that playing live is ‘a conversation between the band and the audience. We present the music and then the audience reacts.’
Like many bands who have experienced critical success without making any considerable commercial breakthrough (Plumb spent one week at 49 in the UK album chart), the brothers are left frustrated by journalists’ attempts to classify their music into a genre (‘angular-anthemic pop’ say the Guardian), admitting that ‘the only thing that annoys is me is people making poorly based assumptions about our intentions for the music. Like most things, music is hard to classify. I think it’s better heard than talked about, but that doesn’t mean we should talk about it. It should be fun and hypothetical rather than aspiring to facts or classification. If we are compared to a wide range of things then that’s fine.’ They do have some sympathy for the press, saying ‘I do, however, think people often only hear the surface things, which is understandable. After all we play music with guitars, and drums and sing songs.’
Field Music are one of many artists releasing new material for Record Store Day (21st April), and they are playing a homecoming gig in Sunderland to raise funds for The Bunker, an arts organisation that has developed from a musical youth group for the city’s underprivileged teenagers.