Brooklyn’s Field Mouse began life back in 2012 as a meeting of minds between vocalist Rachel Browne and guitarist and producer Andy Futral, but after a year or so of creating music together and releasing a set of independent 7″ singles, it become apparent that the songs were becoming more and more ambitious and it was time for the duo to upsize. So, with the recruitment of a full time rhythm section, they graduated to a fully fledged band and the stage was set for Field Mouse to realise its full potential. With the imminent release of their debut album Hold Still Life, there can be little doubt that this potential has been realised… and then some. Awash with dream pop sensibilities found in the likes of Beach House, Hold Still Life is ample evidence that Field Mouse have a knack for taking delicate tones and pumping them into fuzzy, anthemic indie rock that would put the likes of The Breeders or Juliana Hatfield to shame. Ahead of the album’s release on 22 July, we were lucky enough to catch up with Rachel and Andy for an exclusive chat about the evolution of the band, how the album came together, and the benefits of a DIY approach to creating something beautiful.
Where are you and what were you doing just before answering these questions?
Rachel: Watching the new Cosmos with Neil DeGrasse-Tyson and learning about SPACE!
The band has expanded from a two piece to a four piece over the past year or so. How has taking on a full time rhythm section changed the sound of Field Mouse?
Andy: It honestly hasn’t changed all that much on recordings. The addition of our new bassist Saysha has changed a lot because we have had a rotating cast of friends playing with us for a while, but now we have this solid relationship with her and it’s awesome. I think bass is a bit more prominent on the new record because of that. I have written all the drum parts from the first single through the new record, so it’s a pretty slight difference overall. I’m looking forward to not being a drum part bully on future songs. We did press photos as a duo because our rhythm section wasn’t set for a while, but it was always the intention to be a regular full band when we met people we could get along with in a cramped van for months at a time.
Has the live dynamic of the band changed?
Rachel: I think it has. We’ve developed these specific ways of interacting with each other on stage from touring and playing together so much. Sonically I guess we’re just louder than we used to be, fuzzier, less reverbed out, and I finally learned to sing louder.
Let’s talk about the new album. Hold Still Life is the first full length you’ve produced as a fully fledged band. How do you feel about the album finally being released into the world?
Rachel: I am so excited and relieved that it’s happening. Some of these songs are years old and have been developing into what they are now the whole time, and it feels so good to finally put them all out there.
What sorts of things (music or otherwise) influenced you while the album was being produced?
Rachel: I thought it would come off scatterbrained thematically at first, but it really isn’t. The songs are just about a period of time in my life, and whether they’re more introspective and abstract or about one thing in particular, they’re all part of that snapshot. A lot of it had to do with feeling stuck in New York and stagnant in life in general, and how to break out of all of that.
The new album sounds pretty different to your previous output, there’s a darker edge to the songs but it also has more of a pop sensibility to it. How did the songs come together in this way?
Andy: I think that is probably because we recorded the album right after we got off a long tour, and it’s more fun to play big loud songs live, so everything had gotten little faster and more aggressive. We also made a decision to curb our “more is more” attitude that we had on our singles. Between the two songs on our first 7″, there were probably 60 guitar tracks. Which is pretty crazy. There are still a lot on the record, but it’s way more reasonable.
Hold Still Life was largely funded through a Kickstarter campaign and the support you received was pretty phenomenal – you ended up raising nearly double your target. How did it feel to receive that level of support from your fans?
Rachel: I cried. It didn’t seem real to me. I didn’t even think we’d meet our goal. It made us crazy inspired to make something that we could be proud and that people would like.
Given your experience, do you think bands really need advances from labels to make records these days or do you think the DIY method is better?
Andy: No one needs any serious amount of money to make a good record. Steve Albini said Kickstarter is for people too stupid to figure out how to do it on their own, and I think there is a lot of truth to that. We’re not THAT smart. We were fully prepared to record this on our own, but one big downside to recording on your own is not having any pressure or time constraints. I really wanted to have a small budget and days in a studio and just know it had to be done by a certain date. If we recorded in our homes and practice space like we did with previous releases, we could have wasted a lot of time. If your guitar recording setup is a few feet from your bed (like mine tends to be), there is this sense that anything you record doesn’t have to be perfect because you can just do it again in a second. The part where I think DIY can potentially fail is mixing. You need a good mixer and a decent mastering job to make things work, and you need to pay those people what they are worth. You are doing your music a big disservice if you don’t know how to properly mix. The thing with recording is that if you like how something sounds then it’s good. There might be some slight phase problems or something, but if you like how the individual tracks sound then that’s great, but mixing is a whole other thing. That being said, anyone can take the time to become good at mixing!
You guys have played a ton of shows in your time as a band. Do you have any crazy tour stories?
Rachel: Our craziest tour stories are probably food poisoning related, and should probably never be told. Memory-wise…I once drove overnight, halfway from San Francisco to Portland, after our van window had been smashed and things were stolen. It was insane and we didn’t leave San Francisco until 4am, but it was a really beautiful drive and I watched the sun come up while everyone else slept.
What do the next 12 months have in store for Field Mouse?
Andy: We just want to tour as much as possible, hopefully with friends or with cool strangers who then become friends. A year from right now I’d love to be working on the next album and also binge watching a new and amazing TV show that doesn’t currently exist.
Hold Still Life is released on 22 July on Topshelf Records.