MEANING – THE THIRD ALBUM BY AMERICAN ALTERNATIVE BAND FIELD MOUSE – HAS JUST BEEN RELEASED BY TOPSHELF RECORDS, AND ONCE AGAIN MAKES ALL THE RIGHT NOISES.
Seeming to tip a hat to Lush, Belly, The Breeders, and even the pure-pop sensibilities under the scratched surface of Blondie, MEANING develops Field Mouse’s signature wall of noise topped by sweet female vocals. You’re unlikely to find a more lovingly crafted or more enjoyable indie album in 2019. At the creative core of Field Mouse is Rachel Browne, and she answers a few questions about MEANING for The Mouth Magazine…
I’M STRUGGLING TO BELIEVE IT’S FIVE YEARS SINCE WE HOOKED UP FOR A CONVERSATION ABOUT THE HOLD STILL LIFE ALBUM. SINCE THEN THERE’S BEEN FOLLOW-UP EPISODIC, AND NOW A NEW ALBUM, MEANING… SO WHAT’S BEEN GOING ON FOR YOU, AND FOR THE BAND? HOW HAS LIFE BEEN TREATING YOU? AND HOW HAVE YOU BEEN TREATING LIFE?!
I can’t believe 2014 was five years ago! There’s been a lot of life between then and now. But in the past year we focused on recording and putting out MEANING. Things are good, at least on a personal level! Things in the world, not so much.
ANDREW HAS BEEN NOTED FOR BEING A MUSICIAN WHO LIKES TO LAYER UP GUITARS ON STUDIO RECORDINGS… BUT THIS RECORD DOESN’T FEEL QUITE AS ‘DENSE’ IN THAT WAY… WHEN I FIRST LISTENED IT WAS RECOGNISABLY YOU – BUT THE MORE I LISTENED, THE MORE I THOUGHT THAT YOU’VE SUBTLY PUSHED THINGS OUTWARDS ON EACH ALBUM. THE OPENING TRACK OF MEANING (WHICH IS THE TITLE TRACK) IS DIFFERENT. IT’S ALMOST AMBIENT COMPARED TO THE WALL OF GUITARS THING… AND BLACK HOLE, SON IS VERY DIRECT… HAVE YOU CONSCIOUSLY BEEN LOOKING FOR WAYS TO DEVELOP THE SOUND, OR DO THESE THINGS JUST GROW EXPONENTIALLY THE MORE YOU CARRY ON DOING WHAT YOU DO?
Andrew does love to layer guitars, and we definitely leaned into that sound on our earlier stuff. I do think we wanted to open up some space on the new album and try out new balances in general. I can’t honestly say that it’s always a conscious choice when things like this shift. I think it’s often just a natural progression for us. I think this album could have been produced a lot of different ways that may have worked. But I’m really happy with the choices we ended up making.
AS A SIDE-NOTE, HERE, RACHEL YOU PUT OUT AN EP UNDER THE NAME ANOMIE A WHILE AGO. MAY I ASK WHY THOSE PARTICULAR SONGS ENDED UP THERE, AND NOT FIELD MOUSE? AND HOW DO THE FIELD MOUSE SONGS END UP HERE, AND NOT ANOMIE… IS THERE A DEFINING CHARACTERISTIC IN THE SONGS, OR IS IT JUST ‘WHAT HAPPENED’..?
I did! I wanted to write some songs that were consciously not for Field Mouse, and Anomie is just a name that I’ve used for various projects instead of my real human name over the years. It’s a solo project. There are a few songs that I self-produced that I think are distinctly different from Field Mouse songs, but the EP could easily be Field Mouse b-sides I suppose. At the time I had just moved out of NY, where my band lived, and wanted to be able to write and release stuff by myself regardless of how often we could do band stuff together.
IT’S ALWAYS INTERESTING TO HEAR FIELD MOUSE RECORDS BECAUSE, TO ME, I’M NEVER SURE IF IT’S A NOISE BAND WHO HAPPEN TO HAVE A TRULY GREAT POP SENSIBILITY (I MEAN, GOSH, THOSE MELODIES!)… OR A REALLY GOOD POP BAND WITH MASSIVE NOISE SENSIBILITIES… I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS TRADE-OFF / ARGUMENT IN MY HEAD ABOUT IT – THOUGH I KNOW IT DOESN’T MATTER, ULTIMATELY ‘COS FIELD MOUSE IS JUST “A GREAT BAND” EITHER WAY… BUT ARE YOU BLONDIE OR ARE YOU MY BLOODY VALENTINE?! WHERE WOULD YOU BE HAPPIEST ON THAT SCALE TO BE THOUGHT OF? AND DOES MY CLUMSY ATTEMPT TO FIND A DEFINITION FOR THE BAND ANNOY YOU?
I’m not annoyed! I think there is a spectrum and we don’t ever try to define ourselves – so it’s up to the listener to place us somewhere. I mean, we’ve always been a rock band although that’s a pretty broad definition. And I love Blondie and MBV, so there are going to be elements of both things that colour our sound…
AS WE DISCUSSED A LITTLE WHEN WE PODCASTED FIVE YEARS BACK, I’VE ALWAYS FELT THE BAND HAS ITS OWN IDENTITY, BUT IS NOT SHY ABOUT PAYING REFERENCE TO INFLUENCES… DID YOU LISTEN TO MUCH OTHER MUSIC WHILE WRITING YOUR OWN FOR MEANING? SOME MUSICIANS DON’T LIKE OUTSIDE INFLUENCE, WHEREAS SOME I’VE SPOKEN TO LIKE TO BE PRODDED IN DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS BY IT…
I think it would be impossible for me not to be under some outside influence. Things are just ingrained in me from repeated listens of things throughout my life. I am careful these days to really make sure I’m not accidentally ripping something off – because boy, is it easy to do that. There is a limited amount of chord progression / key combinations. I go through periods where I’m consuming a lot of music, and stretches where I realise I’m not listening to much of anything. During the year or so that I was writing the songs for MEANING, I listened to a lot of music – but no one thing really influenced the overall sound or anything like that.
IS THERE A PARTICULAR TRACK ON THE NEW RECORD THAT YOU REALLY FEEL EPITOMISES WHAT THE BAND IS ABOUT? I THINK THE FIRST SINGLE HEART OF GOLD WAS A VERY GOOD ‘GUIDE’ FOR NEW LISTENERS…
HEART OF GOLD is certainly the most classic Field Mouse song on the album. I’m not sure there is one epitomic song, though. They are each part of the whole, and different guides in each one.
THERE’S A REALLY GREAT LINE IN THE SONG IN BLUE – “WE STAY ALIVE, TO SEE THE PLANETS REALIGN A SECOND TIME” – WHICH FEELS LIKE IT COULD BE ABOUT A LONG-STANDING ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP… THOUGH I UNDERSTAND THAT THE SONG IS DEDICATED TO YOUR SISTER ROBIN (ALSO IN THE BAND). IT’S A VERY GENEROUS SONG, I THINK – GENEROUS IN SPIRIT. I FOUND THE LYRICS QUITE MOVING, AND SO IT MAKES ME WANT TO ASK YOU ABOUT WRITING… DO YOU THINK IT IS AN ABSOLUTE NECESSITY TO ADDRESS YOUR LIFE THROUGH WRITING? IS WRITING YOUR ‘VENT’ FOR YOUR FEELINGS? ARE YOU SELF-CONSCIOUS ABOUT ‘PUTTING YOURSELF OUT THERE’ IN SONG?
Thank you! That song was written for Robin, yes. I don’t think it’s necessary, but it helps me. I’ve always been fairly vague when it comes to lyrics, but I wanted to be more overt on a lot of the new stuff. It is a little strange to put out a song and then explain that it’s about this very personal, serious thing. I think I’m a little desensitised to feeling self-conscious about things like that in our social media era.
ONE OF THE THINGS I MOST LOVE ABOUT THE BAND IS THAT THE MUSIC DIRECTS THE LISTENER TO THIS IDEA THAT YOU’RE POSSIBLY A VERY SERIOUS BUNCH OF INDIVIDUALS… BUT YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA AND SO ON, THEY TELL A DIFFERENT STORY. THERE’S A LOT OF HUMOUR AND JOY AROUND FIELD MOUSE. IT SEEMS LIKE A REALLY GOOD BALANCE..?
Humour is very very very important. Above almost all else, it’s what has gotten me through the most difficult things in life. The balance of humour with serious matters, or the balance of comedy and tragedy… I think about that a lot. I think we are a pretty funny group of people. Andrew is a full-on comedian and is responsible for our most insane tweets. We try to have fun with things. There’s so much heavy stuff in life that requires seriousness. It’s important to counter it all with some levity.
EARLY DAYS, REALLY, AS MEANING IS JUST OUT… BUT HOW FAST DO YOU GUYS MOVE ON? AND DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEAS OF WHAT MIGHT COME NEXT FOR YOU? ANY PLANS?
We take our sweet time. We’re touring in America this fall… and we’ll take it from there!
Order MEANING here
Field Mouse portraits by Katie Krulock