Sunday, May 27, 2012

Field Mouse - Heartbreaking yet Uplifting Dreampop

Emotionally engaging, carefully crafted dreampop songs are the appealing sonic domain of Brooklyn’s Field Mouse. The formidable songwriting and recording team of Andrew Futral and Rachel Browne create aural landscapes that can melt the hardest of hearts. Having expanded to a four piece with bassist Danielle DePalma and drummer Geoff Lewit, the group has been playing numerous live shows around the city, as it prepares to release its next record. 


 Your band strategy at present appears to be the measured release of one song at a time (rather than a full album up front) - and playing lots of live shows. Is this an accurate portrayal of what you are doing? Could you further expand on why you are going about this approach?

Rachel: It's pretty accurate. We have a lot of songs but didn't think releasing them all at once would be wise. At some point in the fall we met the guys from Small Plates, who were into the idea of putting out a 7". We thought this was a good way to start. We put out another song (Glass) on our own as well.

Andrew: It feels like there are a lot of bands doing this now. Releasing a song at a time just made sense. There are only two songs on our 7" so it made sense to stagger the release of the songs so that people were interested in it longer. As for playing live often it's a combination of us not getting to see each other that often so usually we have to play shows to hang out and also we are lucky enough to get offered cool shows that are hard to turn down.

The song and video for "You Guys Are Gonna Wake Up My Mom" is lush and gorgeous. How did this song come about? Who started it? Rachel just strumming on guitar and singing? A simple song? How then did it develop in this larger than life sound we now presently hear? How does one build a sound like that?

Rachel: I wrote the verses first and Andrew and I arranged the chorus melodies together. We built it up to sound the way it does in practice sessions.

Andrew: The song definitely started as chords as Rachel strumming and singing but she was playing the lead part with the rhythm part at the same time by changing the voicings of the chords. The main sense of longing that the song has comes from the song being in the key of E major but us never getting around to playing an E chord. So the whole song feels like it's trying to resolve itself and it never does. The main balance of the song on the production side is trying to keep the energy levels and intensity changing and never feeling too aggressive.

The video for that song is really cool too. Lots of overlying images - the point of view you'd have rushing down a highway with lights on the side. Who conceptualized this and put it together? Is there anything interesting you can tell us about the making of this video?

Rachel: Andrew had very specific ideas for this video and he did everything for it. We filmed some of it in our practice space and a lot of it up in Connecticut on a nice autumn day.

Andrew: We shot that ourselves in our practice space and then I went out and shot some time lapse stuff and kind of created a collage of images. It was my first time directing anything so I tried to keep it pretty simple I just wanted it to be a pretty simple visual representation of the dreamy spacey thing that was sonically happening in the song. A lot of the video is me discovering that "Luma Key" exists in Final Cut. Chroma key is when you record stuff infront of a green screen and then you "key out" the green and put in your own background but luma key is when you key out specific amounts of darkness or brightness so that is how everything got over layed. There are lots of layers and they all have a luma key filter on them with separate thresholds. 

Tell me about the song and video for the equally dreamy heart-tugging song "Glass." The big hook in the song is the lyric "When you're out of love" - yet the vocals are so stylized to the point it take many listens (and a look up) to get that meaning. How important is the mood being set with sound - and vocalizing - than actual literal interpretation of words? What does "it would never be us" refer to? Is just another reference to heartbreak?

Rachel: Thank you. Lyrics are very important to me and sometimes I do think it's nice to hear what you want to hear - literally - before you actually know what the person is singing. I wanted the mood of the melody to fit the words, for sure. This song was hard to write because its lyrics are actually pretty upfront about a real situation. To me, anyway.

Andrew: Mood being set with sound is important for every band I think. It might take a few listens to get the correct lyrics of the song but you won’t be surprised when you read them because they are working in tandem with the music and both part of establishing the same mood.

The video that goes with it is this super slowed down image of Rachel. What is involved in putting something like that together? Does it take the latest in super sophisticated film equipment and a tech person who knows the intricacies of using it? Something simpler than that?

Rachel: That video was directed by our friend Shervin Lainez and Andrew. It's actually about 15 seconds slowed way, way down. Nothing too sophisticated. It was fun to make, I had to keep a straight face through a bombardment of confetti, wind and bubbles.

Andrew: It's actually pretty simple. It's 15 seconds of Rachel slowed down to the 3:40 of the song. Twixtor is a relatively cheap and nice plug in for creating slow motion that looks cool at speeds as slow as 8% of the original speed (which is close to what the video was). It was shot on a Canon 7d at 60fps at 720p and really it was just our photographer friend Shervin Laniez and I shooting Rachel with bubble guns, confetti, turning lights on and off and high powered fans and manically as we could and when that gets stretched to 8% speed it just becomes super dreamy and it feels like you are watching this intimate thing but really it's just slowed down chaos.

The third song you've relased now - in this, your modern era - is "Happy." To my ears another perfect piece of sugar coated dreampop that still exhibits a sonic urgency. The emphasis once again is centrally focused on Rachel's voice. Your credits indicate the songs are produced by Andrew - and that the vocals are engineered by your band member Danielle. Does she have a particular skill or expertise in bringing out this amazing vocal quality? The guitars, on the other hand (and possibly synths) create a musical base, making it all sound like an orchestra. While the drums build and create tension. You all play so well together. Is the lyric "that's what you get for loving your regret?" It's good if so. I really like it (and of course can relate to all this kind of wallow) - but - what's that got to do with being "Happy?"

Rachel: We work with Danielle at a studio she works at called Seaside Lounge. She and I have been working together since college in various studios and she does know how to get a solid vocal sound. Seaside Lounge also has some amazing gear, including a real plate reverb. Yes, that is the lyric. "Happy" comes from the sarcastic, or maybe not, part of the chorus: "You give me nothing/I'm happy." I think at the time I meant it.

Andrew: Title is 100% sarcastic. Danielle is great at what she does! She decides the general chain of what preamp and how much reverb is used. We all went to the college together at the music conservatory at Purchase College so we all kind of know our way around the gear. I think the secret behind the vocal quality is 90% Rachel's natural voice and 10% the Plate reverb used at Seaside Lounge where the vocals are recorded. Usually Danielle will set up the mics and everything and then we leave the room and Rachel runs protools until she likes the takes she has done. As for the guitars, I don't think there is a single note being played on guitar that isn't being played by a synth too. I just wanted the chordal instruments of the song to have a kind of anonymous texture. The goal with that is to have a sound that the listener doesn't 100% understand but because it's so reverby and anonymous sounding. I wanted it to be intense but ignorable so that Rachel's vocals were definitely the focus. 

1. Band address:
2. Origins: Brooklyn, New York
3. What it is: Alternately uplifting and/or heartbreaking dreampop
4. For those who like: Lush, My Bloody Valentine, Asobi Seksu, Cocteau Twins 


William said...

sounds great- really enjoyed their tracks- i like your alternately uplifting and heartbreaking comment- i find it true as heartbreak is often very uplifting - once youre done with it you feel better than you did at the same time being uplifted can be heartbreaking cos i mean who wants to be happy all the time haha

DaveCromwell said...

Listen closely to the lyrics of their song "Happy" William. Especially after the answers they gave me on it. Happiness is an elusive dragon we constantly chase.

Patricia Mena said...

Very interesting interview, great job Dave! Cool band, very nice songs, i like so much Glass", made me feel i was on heaven.. :)

DaveCromwell said...

That "Heaven feeling" is *also* an "elusive dragon" we constantly chase.

I guess that's why I love the music this band makes so much. They create three minute "heaven breaks" - but - the lyrics of "Glass" caution on how fragile is all really is.

Anonymous said...

Great interview Dave! I think it's cool that they release things song by song. And I quite like 'Glass', I believe you had posted that one some time ago on the forum?

DaveCromwell said...

I did, Anouk. That video is one you can't forget. I'm glad they explained how it was made.;

Mr Smork said...

ooh. they totally rock.
remember you mentioning them earlier. they sound really great!
one of my pleasant discoveries. ;)

The Grim Reefer said...

.....a mutual friend provided a link & I'm happy that he did.

DaveCromwell said...

Indeed, Mr. Smork.

and pleased to know you were pointed in this direction, Grim Reefer. Field Mouse make quality music, so spread the word.

Andy Von Pip said...

Wow I love these tracks, Great sound. Why is it all my fave bands at present seem to come from Brooklyn ...I mean there are so many. I'm adding these guys to near the top of my list !

Good work my man!

DaveCromwell said...

Brooklyn is the present day equivalent of what was "the CBGB's scene on the lower east side of Manhattan" back in the beginnings of punk and alternative music.

Field Mouse, however owe as much of a debt to your faves Lush and groups like My Bloody Valentine - than anything Ramones or NY Dolls related.

I knew you would love this, Andy!

Unknown said...

Dave, I really LOVE the sound of Field Mouse!! Hearbreaking Drempop- they remind a little bit of Lost in the Trees, but of course that is just a reference point. I love the points about happiness and the sarcasm always helps!
Nice write up, thanks!

DaveCromwell said...

Reference points are essential in any attempt to describe what a certain music sounds like.

It's the first thing I look for in any kind of written description! I only ask that they be accurate.

Davey said...

Another great interview Dave...and another band you've turned me on to that I wasn't familiar with. Liking what I hear quite a bit. I definitely hear the Lush reference.

DaveCromwell said...

Yeah, Lush was the first band that popped into my head when I first heard (and saw) them - via their "You're Going To Wake Up My Mom" video.

The tripped-out imagery and densely recorded layers of sound - combined with Rachel's facial image - all reminded me of the golden era of the 1990's. Dream Pop is alive and well!

Ivanka said...

sorry for my late comment but oh well better later than never :)
great interview, great musicians.. and I truly loved that Glass song (video too) said...

pretty cool, think you have turned me on to this duo before, I am loving that Gonna Make Up My Mom 7", the sleeve looks gorgeous, but the song is something to behold. I would like to catch a performance so I can pick up the record indeed! Awesome work Dave, especially uncovering some details regarding the writing of that song too!