We’ve had our eye on Brooklyn’s Field Mouse ever since we first heard them early last year. The band strikes an enticingly delicate balance between 90s shoegaze/noisepop influences and more contemporary sounds, keeping it al rooted in solid song-writing. To date, they’ve released a few songs digitally and as limited edition 7″s, but now Field Mouse is working on their debut, as of yet unnamed full-length. After catching a couple of their live shows—shrouded in a beautifully curated wall of sound—and hearing some of the new material, we’re predicting big things for them in 2013.
We recently got a chance to catch up with Field Mouse singer/guitarist, Rachel Browne, and got her thoughts on shoegaze, how many guitar pedals is too many, what’s she’s listening to lately, and we get a brief interjection by bandmate, Andrew, regarding the most terrifyingly awesome tattoo we’ve ever seen.
Read on and then give their newly released track, “Tomorrow is Yesterday” a listen and watch the video for their earlier song, “Glass,” below.
So, first off, tell us how + when the band started. Is it something you + Andrew struck up with any goals in-mind or was it begun more organically?
We went to a music conservatory in Westchester, NY and Andrew played bass at one of my recitals. We had fun and just kept making music together and eventually we made a band out of it. Andrew has always liked to focus on production and tone and I focus more on the songwriting and melodic aspects, so we compliment each other well and are able to write together pretty effortlessly.
That’s great. Sounds like a balanced creative partnership. You all seem to have gone through a number of lineup changes over the years, growing beyond a duo and then back down again. Last we saw you, you had a great live drummer and seemed to be playing with pre-recorded bass. Plan to keep it that way for a while or…I don’t know, throw in a six-piece horn section?
We have not really gone through that many. The core of the band Is just Andrew and myself. Geoff has been playing drums since the first 7″ we released. We would love to have more focused bass and synth players, but that’s more a matter of meeting kindred spirits with free time (which hasn’t proven to be easy).
Fair enough. Yeah, the resulting live sound you all get with just three people is really impressive—very deep and layered. I’m guessing there are a lot of live loops going with the guitar, but is that something that was difficult at first to get down in the live setting?
Less of the sound than you would think comes from the programming. We spend way too much time thinking about guitar tone and I think that is the lion’s share of what we are working with live. I’d love to have a full-time synth player, but I think, in the meantime, Andrew and I will be alternating playing them with guitar live in the coming months.
How many pedals do you all use between the two of you?
Well, one thing I’ve learned is that if you aren’t careful, the more pedals you have, the more it can just become a wall of reverb and distortion. We each just have a few fuzz, reverb, and delay options but that’s about it. I’ve been using an analog chorus pedal lately which I really love. But I’d say the live pedal count is about 10 between us.
Ah, that’s not bad. Having been a big fan of the early-90s shoegaze sound, I hear a lot of that influencing your songs, but how do you think you differ from a straight retro act in that sense?
It’s hard to say because shoegaze isn’t exactly a well-defined sound. Souvlaki sounds a lot different than Loveless. There is a similar production aesthetic to much of it but I think the thread that tends to carry is that drums and bass are pretty buried in the mix. Where I think we differ is how those elements are super important to our songs and how they come out in production. If you strip our songs down to their demo form, they are clearly influenced by many other things in much more obvious ways than shoegaze. I like to think that we borrow from that era of production a bit, but less so with the actual songwriting.
Great answer. I’ve always thought that truly well-written should be able to stand up on their own, with minimal production—say, acoustic guitar + voice in a café. Are they any particular bands, albums, or songs that you feel directly fed into your early sound or the things you’re writing today?
Early on when we were working together as a duo, a lot of common ground music fed into the things we wrote. Early Smashing Pumpkins, Pixies, Breeders, and some poppier bands like Rilo Kiley and even that first Anniversary record—just things we grew up loving and emulating. We’d both been in a bunch of bands before we met. Today I feel incredibly moved and influenced by my local music scene and my friends within it.
God, I love that first Anniversary record. Where did the band name come from?
It’s just a name. It came from a note I wrote in a journal when I wanted to make the band a real thing.
Fine then. What do you all do day-job-wise?
Psychic cops is what Andrew told me to say. In reality I am a pretty bad waitress.
I’m assuming you don’t mean that in the Michael Jackson sense of the word. I won’t ask where you work, but what originally brought you to New York?
Andrew and Geoff are both native New Yorkers. I’m from Connecticut and my college was halfway between the city and my home, so moving here was not so much a big decision as it seemed a default choice. We are not exactly sure why we are here at this point, to be honest. I think the cons are starting to outweigh the pros—namely the cost.
I hear you on that. The neighborhood in Brooklyn where we our studio is just got crowned the priciest in the borough. So that’s fun. Do you all have any notable goals for the new year, musically or not? Debut full-length, sell out Radio City, cure lycanthropy?
Definitely finishing our full length and releasing it; touring, of course, and hopefully writing much more.
Excited to hear about the record. How about any acts you’d love to be paired with in coming live shows? You know, besides a split ticket with Jay-Z at Barclays.
I have been freaking out about Melody’s Echo Chamber lately. I think that would be a fun show.
Oh, yeah, that’s a great album. So French-psych. Not the answer I would have expected, but I could totally see some commonalities between your sounds now that you say it. What other new stuff are you all listening to lately?
Grooms, Swearin’, Foxygen, Widowspeak.
Good that you got Foxygen in there lest we be accused of insular New Yorkers. Okay, lightning round time—Best thing about New York?
Any food at any time of night.
Absolutely the cost of living. Runner up is the brutal summer/winter climate situation.
Both bummers. Most ridiculous potential album name that got shot down?
We are just starting to work on the LP so we have not come up with any names. I think I will pitch 2 Phast 3 Phurious though.
I was 100% going to suggest that. Best bar in Brooklyn?
Lulu’s is my general go-to place, but Night of Joy has delicious cocktails and I usually have my birthday there, so try em both I s’pose.
Oh, haven’t been to Night of Joy. We’ll have to check it out. Cat or dog people?
Geoff owns a dog-walking business, so we hear about dogs a lot. I am neither, and Andrew has a rabbit, so I think we will go with two rabbit people + one dog person.
Rabbits do seem oddly shoegaze. Pro- or anti-wammie bar?
Deeply, deeply pro. I think calling them wammie bars is a bit silly though. They are definitely tremolo arms. There is a way to make them sound stupid but where would My Bloody Valentine be without them? The vibrato effect they can produce is one of the most beautiful things about guitars and is part of the reason we tend to play Jaguars and Jazzmasters.
Agreed, and apologies on the terminology. I’m a child of the 70s. Favorite venue in New York?
A tattoo of Sharon from Lost crying from the pilot episode.
Where the FUCK did that tattoo come from? It’s nuts.
(from Andrew) Haha! It was one of those things floating around on the internet. I saw it a year ago in a Lost related tattoo blog post. The place where I found this specific version was a comment on a videogum article. I would LOVE to know the original source though. Someone out there is FILLED with regret.
Good god. Ideal guest musician you’d want featured on a track?
Nice. Best town you’ve played on tour?
Atlanta was really nice the last time we were there.
A drink I just now invented. It’s a bunch of top shelf stuff mixed together in a bucket with ice.
I think that’s called ‘the Bucket Kickah’. Best Hitchcock movie?
Vertigo is my favorite!
Finally, how do these pants look? Can I pull them off?
You can pull off anything, but the first thing you need to do is not ask if you can pull them off. Pulling something off is about confidence. Some clothes can make you feel confident by themselves, but some clothes are more adventurous and it just means you need to supply the confidence. Straight up put them on and give zero fucks.
Damn. It’s like you’re channeling Clinton Kelly.
Field Mouse will be playing—as luck would have it—Shea Stadium along with the superb Darlings March 8 and Pianos on the LES March 20. Check their Shows page for other coming live dates + stay tuned for their debut full-length album.
Band photos by Shervin Lainez.
Field Mouse – “Glass” from stereogum on Vimeo.