Field Mouse members Rachel Browne and Andrew Futral were gracious enough to share some time with me and answer my burning questions. They are fresh off the release of their debut full-length album on Topshelf Records titled Hold Still Life. Supporters of their kickstarter campaign, myself included, have been aching for the moment they would get to hear this album and it was well worth the wait.
They are about to embark on a tour with their Topshelf Records labelmates A Great Big Pile of Leaves, Diamond Youth, and Prawn. If they are coming through your town I would urge you to embrace the moment and show up. You can view all of their current tourdates on their website.
GPtS: Rachel posted a photo of herself holding the new album with the caption “FREAKING THE FUCK OUT” which really captures the feeling well. Aside from taking photos and freaking out, what was the first thing you all did once you had the finished album in your hands?
Rachel: We ordered a pizza and I ate 95% of it. It was a special celebratory pizza.
GPtS: Prior to “Hold Still Life” you had more of a dream-pop shoegaze sound and this latest output is a little faster, louder, on some of the tracks which to me seems to be born out of some confidence in the material possibly from touring and playing it out a lot. Was this a conscious effort to move in more of this direction?
Rachel: It was definitely a conscious choice. We had realized that our live sound was much more loud and aggressive than the recordings, and that we kind of had to go with one or the other for the full length. We love playing loud and have a specific sound live, and worked hard to capture that and translate it in the studio.
Andrew: I think we also felt like we were in danger of using reverb as a crutch if we continued down that path. At the time I was reading an interview with Butch Vig about the making of Siamese Dream, which was in some ways kind of a shoegaze record, and he said the mantra for the recording was “no reverb”. They wanted everything to be super present. We felt like we could pull back on the effects and it would still sound as “dreamy” as we wanted, and then we wouldn’t have to sacrifice the attack and buzz of guitars.
GPtS: How was the decision made to re-record “Tomorrow is Yesterday” for the new album?
Andrew: We re-recorded it because we wanted it to sound like it was recorded at the same time as the other songs and fit as part of the record. We had nothing against the older version. The vibe of the record was to have fewer guitar tracks and less synth. If there was a way to just use the old version we probably would have, but it would have just stuck out like a sore thumb.
GPtS: What influences, music or non-music related or even just personal philosophies, do you have that you apply to your music?
Rachel: The music I love has always been my main reason for making my own music. When something inspires me, I want to write with that feeling. I love using songwriting to tell a story, especially fictional, as it’s a medium that makes sense to me to convey things like that. I’m always inspired and challenged by my friends who make art, probably more than anything else.
Andrew: Personal philosophies can get you into trouble I think. Unless it’s as simple as “do what’s right for the song”. We wanted to have the album sound a certain way, and when we were confronted by choices on how to play the guitar or which drum parts to use, it was always a pretty easy decision because it was in the service of creating a semi-specific sound. That’s not to say the the opposite choices were wrong, it was just kind of a “do whats right for the project” thing.
GPtS: It’s always fun to hear the story about the album-making process. Do you have any interesting stories about the making of Hold Still Life?
Rachel: The only “interesting” thing that comes to mind is that Andrew pushed for us to record twenty songs so that coming up with a final track list would be less stressful.
Andrew: Usually when you record an LP you will find that something you assumed would work (or even something that does work live) simply doesn’t make sense recorded. So you have to kind of re-think the whole song. We decided to record 20 songs (with the intention of having only 10-14 on the record), and anytime we would hit a significant roadblock with a song we would just push it to the side so that we wouldn’t have to force anything to work.
GPtS: I know that several of the tracks on the new album like Happy, Tomorrow is Yesterday, and Reina were written awhile back. I read that you were happy to finally have them all out there. Do you feel that some of the tracks are more fresh or, because they are finally out as a whole piece, do they all still feel new?
Rachel: For the most part, they all still feel fresh in the sense that we get to explore them live more now that people can get to know them on the album. The only much older song is Happy, which was written in 2009 before even forming Field Mouse. It’s still fun to play!
GPtS: Do you already have new songs written that you may be performing on upcoming tour dates that weren’t released on the album?
Andrew: We have the beginnings of a second album demoed out. Lots of riffs without lyrics and lots of lyrics without music, but it’s already starting to take shape. We just record ideas as they come to us, but we are still super focused on Hold Still Life and touring on it. There were about four b-side songs that didn’t make the record. Two of them will likely see the light of day at some point but I think our set list for the Topshelf tour will be all album tracks and maybe and oldie or two.
GPtS: I saw you during your tour in 2013 and you said you were still working on the label situation and now you’re releasing your new album on Topshelf Records. This is a pretty great, and quite active, indie label. How did this relationship come about?
Rachel: We ended up meeting each through mutual friends. We share a lot of the same ideas and goals within the music world and they are just really great people. It’s inspiring to me that they’re so active and so interested different types of music.
GPtS: I have a pretty bad memory but I believe that Saysha was playing bass during your tour in 2013. At least I seem to recall it was more than just Rachel and Andrew up on stage. I could be wrong. Regardless, can you talk about what brought about the full-time additions of Saysha and Tim to the band?
Andrew: Saysha was absolutely on our 2013 tour. She actually had joined the band only about a month or two before that tour. We’ve never wanted to be a two piece, so bringing in other members just meant finding people that we love and can vibe for days with.
GPtS: What types of things do you do while on tour to have fun?
Rachel: We listen to comedy podcasts on tour. Comedy Bang Bang, How Did This Get Made? and a bunch of others. That is the most fun you can have in a van. Andrew likes to play the game “Name 30 Tom Hanks Movies” because he loves Tom Hanks and refers to him as America’s True Father. That game is fun but only once per tour. You always forget “The ‘Burbs” and “Man With One Red Shoe” until the very end. Saysha goes running almost every day, and we are all really into trying tons of food in every city.
GPtS: You funded the recording of the album via kickstarter back in 2013. This was your second crowdsourcing experience. I know you’ve been asked about this in other interviews, but I was curious about your current thoughts regarding the process you went through and if there might be anything you would do differently based on what you know now.
Andrew: We do have reservations about the whole crowdsourcing thing. It can be really wonderful, but I think you have to view the whole enterprise as a very early pre-order when it comes to things like this. I like the idea of fans supporting ideas, but I like to think of it as selling goods or services for reasonable prices.
GPtS: I personally find it a little agonizing, as well as eventually gratifying, to see the whole process. Knowing the music is out there but not being able to hear it. What do you think about the level of trust that your backers have for you in order to essentially fund something that has no guarantee?
Andrew: I think it’s fantastic, but it’s also nice to do things like that for yourself every now and then. Buy an album without hearing it first or go to a movie without having seen the trailer. It can be a nice thing. When I pre-order a record or when i donate to a bands kickstarter, I am never thinking “this better be good” – I’m usually thinking “I like this band and I want to support them”.
GPtS: If you were given a massive budget for your next tour and could do anything…this could include certain cities you would go to, crazy stuff with the stage show, or anything else tour-related. What would you do?
Rachel: I think we would just want to tour with friends and have it be a very comfortable and magical experience. It would be great to be able to, you know, stay in nice hotels and have a brand new van and to share the adventure with friends.
GPtS: Are there any goals or wishes you have for the band this year? Anyone in particular you’d like to tour with? Musical collaborations?
Andrew: I jokingly asked Britty from Pity Sex if she wanted to cover all of Garbage’s 2.0, and while I doubt it would ever happen, that’s totally something I would love to do.. Touring with Prawn, Diamond Youth and A Great Big Pile of Leaves is more than enough of a dream tour for us to not ask for more, but I think other dream tourmates would be Now, Now (they are some of our favorite people).
GPtS: If people could only take away one thing from listening to your music what would you want it to be?
Rachel: I would want them to think we are good, but if that couldn’t happen then I would at least want them to think we’re incredibly funny.
GPtS: What is one thing that fans of your music would be surprised to hear about you?
Andrew: Well, we were not born on earth, but rather forged in the crucible of the big bang when the universe was but the size of a pin and all forces in nature were combined into one. I think that might surprise most people.
Rachel: I played four years of little league softball.
GPtS: Aside from music, what interests you?
Andrew: Naps, snacks and TV!
Rachel: Those things, plus reading from my stack of books and hanging out with friends, painting and holding my cat.
GPtS: What’s next for Field Mouse?
Andrew: We’re breaking up! No, I have no idea, but tour and more tour and then more records!
GPtS: Ahhhh, don’t joke about breaking up
Check out Field Mouse’s website @ fieldmousemusic.com
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