Field Mouse

As part of the release of Digcast VI which focuses on NYC music, we are posting on each band in the podcast over the next five weekdays.

Follow the link above to listen to Field Mouse’s Rachel and Andrew discuss their track “You Guys Are Gonna Wake Up My Mom” and some things they like about the wonderful neighborhood of Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Though often billed as a duo, Field Mouse is a four piece dream pop band made up of members Rachel Browne, Andrew Futral, Danielle DePalma and Geoff Lewit. Like yesterday’s featured act, Town Hall, the roots of Field Mouse are in a music school, this one at Purchase College. Although not concurrent students, Rachel and Andrew both went there and were introduced through mutual friends. From there the band has grown, and I am very confident they are really only just getting started, that they have much greatness in store.
At this point, there’s not a whole lot of music officially released. A full length is going to get released eventually, but the band is weighing all their options on the best method and timing of doing so. They’d like do more touring and build on the momentum of their fantastic 7″ record, put out by Brooklyn’s Small Plates Records, of “You Guys Are Gonna Wake Up My Mom” & “Happy,” as well as some good press, like inclusion in The L Magazine’s 8 Bands You Need To Hear 2012. It’s a band with a lot on the horizon, even if that might seem distant at times. I can’t help feeling though, with the quality of the music and the genuinely witty interplay and good-natured ease of how they carry themselves in interviews and on stage that their sun is going to rise high and shine very brightly.
“You Guys Are Gonna Wake Up My Mom” is featured in the Digcast and I’ve also shared the other releases available for purchase on the blog here (“Glass”) and here (“Happy”). Though there isn’t a lot of it out right now, I dig Field Mouse’s music tremendously. It’s incredibly evocative and has a great sense of dynamics. Both these things are big for me. As we discuss in the podcast, there’s an easy entry point emotionally to “You Guys Are Gonna Wake Up My Mom,” whether it’s the words that capture how it feels to question some of your relationships, where things have gone, or how you relate to people in general, or the music that intentionally never quite resolves itself in the expected way. It’s probably one of the best songs you’ll hear all year. “Happy” does a good job of highlighting one of the dualities that makes Field Mouse such a compelling listen: the shimmering, crystalline, melodic voice of Rachel against the roaring backdrop of the music. When she sings ” I’m happy,” it sounds legitimate on its face. But with the crashing soundscape around her, that sentiment becomes questionable. They do this kind of juxtaposition so well.
You really need to see the band live, the songs gain another dimension of power and grandeur. Fortunately, there are quite a few live dates already planned for New York in the next few months. Check out them out here, including performances at the Mercury Lounge, opening this week on May 30th for I Break Horses – ticket here – and headlining July 21st, and the Northside Festival. The band’s website once again is here, and you can find them on Facebook and Twitter. Oh yeah, and buy their music on Bandcamp or from Small Plates (it’s a clear vinyl record, very cool).

I talked with Rachel and Andrew awhile and it felt like I wasn’t really asking questions so much as letting the conversation unfold and just trying to keep up with their banter. Geoff couldn’t make it – he has a dog-walking business that is taking off – and neither could Danielle, who was on tour doing live sound for Frankie Rose. I hope the humor of Rachel and Andrew comes across because they really are quite funny and seem to always be riffing on something, even if generally totally deadpan. It was a real pleasure to spend an afternoon talking with them about a wide range of subjects.
Early on, we discussed how playing in New York provides tons of options versus the challenge of playing shows close together and splitting the audience. From there, it quickly jumped to television.
Andrew  – I feel like people will come out if a bill is good, if there’s three cool bands. I mean personally, if I wanted to see a band that I’m making up right now, let’s say Captain Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters…
Rachel – You didn’t make that up.
TWD – Nice, That Thing You Do!
A – If I think they’re alright and they’re playing Friday and then next Friday, but the bands they’re with are good, I’ll see both shows. Though if I’m a hypothetical person who smokes cigarettes, I might smoke during the Captain Geech set on the second night because I’ve seen it already.
TWD – But what if it’s a different set?
A – It’s not.
R – (laughs)
A – Captain Geech has been playing the same set for years.
R – Can’t get off the Boardwalk.
A – I’ve been thinking about that movie a lot recently.
TWD – I’m from Erie, PA, where the fake band is from.
R – The town is all too real.
A – Wasn’t there a TV show about Erie, Pennsylvania?
TWD – You might be thinking of Eerie, Indiana. A lot of people think they’re connected, but…
A – I’m so sorry to have brought that up.
TWD – No, it’s ok. My bitterness has pretty much faded.
A – It’s good that we can laugh about this now.
TWD – Especially when I was living in Indiana, those were the rough days.
R – Yeah, it must have been really emotionally confusing for you.
TWD – It was. As much as a Disney or Nickelodeon show can be. I did notice on your twitters you seem to be pretty big TV fans.
A – Yeah, definitely. I love TV
R – Here’s…can I explain? When you have either social anxiety or are a misanthropic person, but you long to be around people in some dark way, some part of you, television and movies almost make up for the fact that you don’t want to actually go and be around people. Which is something I’ve come to really embrace in the Netflix age. Yeah, I get really into good TV programs. Saying TV ten years ago was kind of like a dirty word I feel like, but now if you don’t watch TV –
A – You’re a jerk
R – Yeah, what’s wrong with you? There’s so much stuff on TV, you just have to not ruin your life over it. Yeah, I’ve watched all of Lost, all of it.
TWD – Me too.
A – Multiple times. I watched the last season once, but the five seasons before, I’ve seen each episode probably three times.
R – I’m in the middle of The Sopranos.
TWD – I haven’t watched that one yet.
R – It’s good.
A – It’s real good.
TWD – Yeah, that’s the ground zero for the TV renaissance everyone says.
R – Amen.
TWD – I know I’m going to have to get to that one. It’s on my list.
A – Don’t jump into it. It’s nice to know that there is an excellent TV show out there waiting for you.
R – What about Breaking Bad?
TWD – No, not yet.
R – Put that one on your list.
TWD – It might be next. There’s that last season coming up and it’s amazing, I’ve made it this far without knowing anything about it, no spoilers. Which is really a tightrope act, I’m going to get burned soon if I wait too long.
R – Don’t push it.
TWD – It’s either that or Curb Your Enthusiasm.
R – I love Curb Your Enthusiasm, but the thing with that show…
A – I don’t think it can’t get ruined for you, it’s just about the awkwardness.
R – And you can’t watch more than two episodes in a row because you get too frustrated. Or I do at least. From season one to season five are golden. They’re knee-slappingly funny.
A – For me, it’s hide your face, so brutal. It’s like if Seinfeld was a pizza pie…
R – Why would you call it a pizza pie?
A – Cause I was actually going to say a pie, like a cake-y pie. A cake-y pie? Anyways, like a regular pizza and each slice has a different thing. I feel like Curb is maybe two or three of those slices and they make those slices taste amazing. It’s maybe not the full spectrum of what Seinfeld does, but what it does do is better than any other show. It’s very niche, but what it does do is the best of what that is. That’s the craziest…I could have said that in such a simpler way.
TWD – It was a delicious analogy though.
R – Yeah, I’m hungry.
A – Me too. I was going to get an egg but someone had to get the last one.
R – They are making more, I’ve looked into it.
TWD – I was thinking about a doughnut.
R – They look mad fresh.
We were soon talking about where we live. Rachel & I both live in Greenpoint. Andrew lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He grew up there, his family moved out when he was a teenage, and he is now back at that same apartment.
A – It’s like a whole other city up there. It’s very clean and everyone has a child. It’s like if Park Slope were a little less hip, and Park Slope is already not that hip.
R – Yeah, it’s not.
A – But I saw Sara from Tegan and Sara walking down the street. Yeah, there’s some cool celebs up there. Tina Fey, the guy that played Wolverine.
TWD – Hugh Jackman?
A – No. I mean, Wolverine’s enemy.
TWD – Liev Schrieber?
A – Yes.
R – Hugh Jackman does live in the West Village.
A – So cool. I wonder what makes him tick. Liev Schrieber is very tall.
R – He was in The Ten.
A – He was funny in that.
TWD – Is that that State movie?
A – Yeah. It’s good, but it’s not nearly as funny as Wet Hot. Liev Schrieber is 6 foot 6 maybe? Maybe not that tall, but he’s a very imposing character. I kind of almost stopped in my tracks when I saw him on the street.
TWD – I haven’t really seen anyone famous. I’m still trying to figure out how much you can look at people in general. It seems like making eye contact is a giveaway you’re not from the city or are new to it.
The conversation then turns to a bit of my life story, which I’ll spare you. But it did lead us to the notion of what we might call our autobiography or memoir.
A – I came up with one for me, “I’m Just Not that Into Me”
R – That’s a good “learning to love yourself” memoir title, or self-help book.
A – I wanted it to be like a joke book, instead of self help, self-hindrance.
TWD – Why isn’t that a thing? I know a lot of people that would be great at that. Myself included
A – It’s a funny idea, but filling 200 pages with that one joke, it’s like an Onion article where the title is the funniest part.
Here’s more on how the band started and their experiences at a school for music, and then on the field of education.
A – We went to the same music school
R – That’s how we know each other.
TWD – What was the school?
R – Purchase.
A – (affects English accent) The conservatory.
R – Purchase is a liberal arts school, but it’s really an arts school. There’s visual arts, theater, dance, music. It has two music degree programs. One is studio composition. It focuses on songwriting and arranging. But you also take science, music history, theory, piano, just whatever. The other is studio production, you’re supposed to graduate as an engineer. It’s four years. When you graduated they were BAs, but I have a Bachelor of Music.
TWD – Yeah, probably don’t call them BMs too often.
A – I think that’s what they are unfortunately.
R – It’s shit, Andrew.
A – There’s classical and jazz too. We did things like piano reductions of big orchestral scores or deconstruct Avril Lavigne songs. It might not be what you think when you think of a conservatory. Lots of electronic music…
TWD – That sounds pretty cool.
A – It was definitely cool.
R – It was fun.
TWD – It started this, right?
R – We didn’t overlap at all. We met through mutual friends, Andrew graduated first, then I had a senior recital that I assembled a band for. Andrew played second guitar, that’s how we started Field Mousing I guess.
A – Yeah, it is.
R – It’s a hideous campus, just a disgusting campus.
A – It was designed by the same Rockefeller who designed a lot of prisons in New York. The rumor is that it was designed to withstand a student riot in the 60s. So there’s open spaces and lots of buildings without windows, brick.
R – In the winter it’s a nightmare.
A – Such a nightmare. But I think it bands the students together. In the same way a prison gang might get banded together.
TWD – The world’s largest Stanford prison experiment.
A – Except with waking up at noon and hallucinogenic drugs.
R – “I’m doing the time of my life!!!” (everyone laughs. This wouldn’t be Rachel’s only Arrested Development reference, but the others didn’t make it on the recorder unfortunately). I’ve thought about going back to school, maybe auditing at NYU or New School. Even illegally showing up.
TWD – What would you go back for?
R – I minored in psychology, so I always want to take psych classes, but probably music education. It’s like the only thing you can reliably get a job in. Even Andrew taught music, he only has a Bachelor’s degree, look at him.
A – I taught music, only to smaller people though.
R – One of my oldest friends, who doesn’t have a college degree. He moved to New York not knowing what to do with his life, got a job at a second chance high school to do after school music, like helping kids make beats. It was a salaried job. Totally coincidentally, the schools had nothing to do with each other, Andrew got basically the exact same job at another school.
A – There were a lot of grants then. A lot of the second chance high schools, they have to get the kids in. Everything has incentives. Like, “If you stay all through school, this guy will make beats with you.”
R – And he’s a white guy and you can make fun of him cause he’s kind of a ginger.
TWD – So you don’t do that anymore.
A – No. My last day I kicked a chair across the room and screamed “I’m fucking out of here!”
TWD – Was that your planned last day?
A – Nooooo. I quit. It was really intense. I was good for them for the most part. I stayed there so long because there was one girl who was one of those “Holy shit, she’s an exceptional singer.” And she could freestyle rap the best things I’ve ever heard on the spot. I was like “I have got to make sure that this girl does something.” And then when she graduated, I was like…
TWD  – “My work here is done.” So what do you do now, anything besides music?
A – Nothing besides music. It’s all little musical things. I produce this rapper MC Chris, who’s this nerdcore rapper. He did a lot of Adult Swim voices and writing. He was MC Pee Pants on Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
R – Or Sealab.
A – I’m his producer and we’re working on a TV show together that I’m scoring. And then I have some other film scoring projects coming up. Everything’s music.
TWD – Oh, you’ve scored films?
A – Yes, I’ve only done one so far.
TWD – That’s awesome.
A – It’s pretty awesome. Everything I do is pretty much musical. But it’s still, you know, Ramen days.
TWD – At least you’re doing what you’re interested in.
A – Yeah, it’s great. It’s a gift horse I won’t look in the mouth.
R – Don’t write that down. Don’t write any of this down, anywhere.
A – Yeah, when does this start?
Andrew wasn’t the only one who worked with kids. Rachel did during high school and college as well.
R – I was a YMCA after school counselor for all of high school and even though I decided I didn’t like children, I took a job as a co-runner of a Teen Center. I think I spent six years of my life working with kids.
TWD – Where is this?
R – It was all in Connecticut, where I grew up.
TWD – Oh, you’re from Connecticut?
R – I am. I’m from the woodsy part.
TWD – The woodsy part? Where is that?
R – There’s a coast that has Bridgeport and New Haven and Greenwich, and then everything above it is the woodsy area. Not part of the gold coast, as it’s called. Which doesn’t make complete sense.
TWD – So between the two of you, that’s a lot of helping the children.
R – Yeah. Reluctantly.
A – Reluctantly helping the youth (both laugh).
TWD – Field Mouse is for the children.
A – Reluctantly for the children (laughs). That is funny how that worked out. I never thought about it, probably because it didn’t overlap.
R – I did the teen center during college. I would commute home because I needed money to live. They had a budget to have real bands come, Paramore came. I got Paramore pizza once. This is like, we’re talking 2006ish.
A – Really the heyday of pop-punk.
R – That’s the end of my entire life story.
If you haven’t read The L Magazine piece, Rachel and Andrew share some “dream” concert line-ups. I had to ask about them because they were very similar to what I might have answered. We have many mutual loves it turns out.
TWD – Those ideal shows you listed, those hit close to home for me. Especially that ideal one, all the early 90s stuff. My favorite of those bands has always been the Smashing Pumpkins. (Andrew nods) That’s you?
A – Oh yeah. That’s my jam.
R – We both love the Smashing Pumpkins. Well, there’s a point where things change.
TWD – Right, exactly. As much as I love the music, everything I’ve learned about them since, it’s like they’re trying to kill my childhood. It’s like, “Billy Corgan, what???”
A – That’s why I try never to read interviews or listen to what they do post-
R – So bad. He dated Jessica Simpson and Tila Tequila.
A – Weezer does that too.
TWD – Oh Weezer is the most heartbreaking, but they’ve been that way for awhile.
A – Yeah, Smashing Pumpkins are only jumping into the new music territory in the past four years or so.
R – I liked Zwan, I’m not going to lie to you.
A – There’s some good songs on there, hell yeah.
TWD – Yes. And when I learned more about who those other people were I was like “Why isn’t this better?” And then I realized, “Oh, right, Billy Corgan.”
A – Yeah.
TWD – But for Weezer, they were becoming bad as they were going. For the Pumpkins, they stopped and then all of a sudden you learn all this stuff.
A – Though it seems like they’re floundering and don’t know what to do whereas Weezer feels like they’re actively shitting on people.
TWD – Yeah, and I don’t understand it.
R – Well, Matt Sharp’s not a part of Weezer anymore and the Rentals are still pretty good. When they come out with something I don’t hate it.
A – Yeah, when Matt Sharp left…maybe it’s a Rivers-Matt Sharp thing, as a duo they just complemented each so well.
TWD – And what you said, the active disdain for their past is what’s really hard. It seems like they are really trying to be bad. When I heard Green Album, I thought “alright,” Maladroit, I was like, eh…I can kind of…
R – If you don’t think about how good the other stuff is, it’s not that bad.
A – That’s the way I rationalized Green Album. If this was a new band, “Oh, it’s a fun pop record.”
TWD – That’s when I got to see them was around those albums, so I was like “I can accept all this” because they played a lot of stuff from Blue Album and Pinkerton. But then when that next came and the “Beverly Hills,” “We Are All On Drugs” combo came out, I was done.
R – “Beverly Hills” is such a joke.
A – I felt like on Maladroit, I knew it was happening. That’s when I bowed out.
TWD – And now they’re doing a cruise line or whatever.
R – Rivers, I loved him. But now I think he’s an insane person, I really do. Probably a narcissistic personality disorder. Insane person, that would be my analysis.
TWD – Putting your psych hat on for a moment.
R – I’ve thought about it. I’ve thought about it a lot.
We have another food & drink break. Andrew gets a coffee, Rachel gets mixed olives, and I go for a doughnut.
A – That is a doughnut.
TWD – You want some?
A – I just want to know that you’re enjoying it. I have no off switch with treats.
TWD – You can have some, I don’t want you to be agonizing over there.
A – No, I know, but here’s how that ends if I have a bite of your doughnut. Flash forward, it’s like 3AM, I’ve got frosting all over my face, there’s blood on my hands and I don’t know how it happened.
Here’s a little more about Rachel’s early childhood.
R – I’m a Sagittarius. I was born in late November in the middle of the 1980s in Sarasota, Florida.
TWD – Sarasota? What was all that Connecticut talk?
R – I lived in Florida until I was five.
TWD – Do you remember much of it?
R – A fair amount for being one through five. A lot of lizards, it was hot. Humid. A lot of sand. It was on the coast. Probably if I were a sentient human being I would have noticed how many old people and drug addicts there were in Florida.
We soon jumped back to the L Magazine article to discuss one of my all-time favorites – and theirs too – Built To Spill.
TWD – Built To Spill, go!
R – Huge influence, huge.
TWD – I’m not sure, I mean, I haven’t really thought about this conclusively, but I’m not sure there’s a better album sequence of any band ever than There’s Nothing Wrong With Love, Perfect From Now On,
R – Keep It Like A Secret. Yeah. There are no songs I skip over on any of those.
A – I feel if anyone else played guitar like that, it would come across as douchey or silly. There’s just a sensibility he has, he can pull off things that no one else can. It’s a little like, a J. Mascis thing to it, there’s some wanky things going on, but it just comes across as “Aw yeah!”
TWD – He’s kind of a shredder in a way. I like music but I don’t know a lot of the theory, but for me, there’s something really visual about his guitar playing, it makes me see stuff, it feels like shapes.
R – Yeah. I get what you’re saying.
A – Definitely. As guitar-y as he gets, I think what it may be, it seems like in the front of his mind is always melody. It’s never just going off on something. His parts get stuck in your head too. As intense as they are, it’s kind of, you know, pop music in the broader sense.
This eventually led a discussion of some memorable live performances we’ve seen, which mutated into the resurgence of 90s reissues and debating on whether or not “selling out” is antiquated concept.
R – I saw Elvis Costello in 2007 with my mom. He played three full sets. He was with the Attractions. So impressive.
TWD – Yeah that is.
A – It’s amazing. Paul McCartney also plays for three hours and he’s over 1,000 years old.
R – He’s a Galapagos tortoise.
A – He’s older than our dads. Imagine your dad doing something for three hours, physically like that.
TWD – I saw Jenny Lewis a few years ago and Elvis Costello was also in town so I was hoping maybe he’d show up for “Carpetbaggers.”
R – Did he?
TWD – No. So not really a great story at all. But that was the closest I’ve come to seeing Elvis Costello.
R – I saw Jenny play with her boyfriend. But I never saw Rilo Kiley or her solo shows and those are what I really like.
A – I’ve seen Rilo Kiley like 6 or 7 times, they toured with Ozma a few times.
TWD – Is that the band you’ve seen the most?
A – I saw the Smashing Pumpkins probably 8 times between 1996 to 2000. The last time I saw them, they played a secret show at like a 400 person venue and played a bunch of old songs and I was like “I’m not ever seeing them again.”
TWD – Have you got any of their reissues?
A – Yeah, I got both. They sound great. I might have fallen out of love with Gish in the interim though. The thing about all the albums from the 90s, the technology, the digital to analog convertors that existed weren’t that great. So pretty much every album from the early 90s should be remastered at this point. What the bands were hearing didn’t quite make it. I’m really excited about the My Bloody Valentine reissues that are coming out. Nerd talk.
TWD – No that’s fine, I’m always into hearing someone talk about something they know a lot about and are excited about.
A – Long story short, everything from the 90s should be remastered and reissued.
TWD – It’s kind of happening.
A – It’s definitely happening.
TWD – Part of it’s financial
A – Oh definitely.
TWD – And people like us will buy it. Sometimes I get more excited about that stuff than new bands I should be supporting.
A – I may not buy anything new now, but I’ve given them so much money. I’ve seen them eight times, I bought Mellon Collie three times. I bought it the day it came out. I would play video games and listen to it, then it wore out. Then a girlfriend gave me a copy. When she broke up with me, I was like “This one is tainted” and I had to buy it again.
TWD – Wow. To go that far.
A – In general, I don’t like to pay for art. No, I’m kidding.
TWD – It’s a tricky thing. I feel like so many people are ungrateful now that this concept of free stuff exists. Sure I get some things for free, but it’s not a bad thing to pay for some things. That mentality kills me.
R – I’m afraid of it running away with itself, like to the point where “Of course I didn’t pay for it? Why would I ever pay for something?”
A – I think right now it’s more magical. There’s a weird kind of thing because people have stopped paying for albums, it’s kind of accepted that bands can put stuff in  stupid commercials or on Grey’s Anatomy and get paid for that, and 10, 15 years ago, that would have been “Fucking sellout.”
TWD – It’s almost required, right?
A – Oh, it’s definitely required. Placements and touring is how to make money. It’s more accepted, people are like “I’m not really buying in” so it’s not about selling out.
R – I don’t people think that far.
A – I just don’t hear people shouting “sellout” as much as I did when I was in high school.
R – Cause you’re not in high school
A – You think people still say that?
R – I remember when the Shins were in a McDonald’s commercial and I was like “That’s fucking disgusting” (laughs).
A – Is it disgusting if the Shins have a placement on One Tree Hill or something like that? That’s more what I mean.
R – A show production like that, to someone, even if it’s something like One Tree Hill, it’s someone’s art. You’re trying to make this story happen and the song is supposed to propel the story along. Having a song in a commercial with a plane taking off and it’s supposed to sell fast food?
A – McDonald’s is a very extreme example. That’s the shady one.
R – Yeah, but at the same time, the entire band probably got to buy houses. Where do you draw the line? I feel like if you know something is evil and you personally would not give them any money or would want to support them as much as your music is going to help them out, then you shouldn’t sell it to them.
A – That’s fair.
R – So you guys were talking about Anti-Flag?
A – (Laughs) Yeah, we haven’t even touched on DC Hardcore yet and just how that shaped me in the early 80s. Saw Rites of Spring when I was 8 months old. Shit changed my life.