“Here’s another single we didn’t release here,” quipped David Brewis, one third of the band Field Music, before launching into their second-to-last song in a forty-five-minute set at the Mercury Lounge. “So you won’t know it, either.” The audience did noticeably thin after the friends and family of the New York bands the Diggs and the Big Sleep had cleared the floor, but those who stuck around caught a dose of solid Britpop. The members of Field Music have been touring Britain in support of their 2005 self-titled release on Memphis Industries (home to the Go! Team and Dungen), but they hit New York for a one-off show during a two-day jaunt to America.
The openers are worth mentioning. The Diggs played an energetic set of decent emo-tinged rock that seemed to ride a place between sarcasm and sincerity, realizing neither, and still carved out a sound of its own. When the members of the Big Sleep came on, however, they let everyone know they had it in them to steal the show. Backlit by a harsh white light, the trio stormed through a set of blazing psych-rock that slammed us into the wall and then slipped into our pores. There was some singing in there, but it wasn’t terribly remarkable or necessary; the band traded guitar riffs and resonating organ chords over heavy, sweaty drumming. Keep an eye out.
Field Music is composed of brothers Peter and David Brewis (who clearly draw their protruding ears and shoulders-tight, eyes-closed playing style from the same gene pool) and Andrew Moore on keyboards. Peter was the original drummer for the Futureheads, and he brings the same snappy rhythms to Field Music, although the brothers swapped drum and guitar duties during the show. The band was backed by two local musicians – a cellist and a violinist, who turned out to be a guy I knew in college named Yaniv Segal. When, after the show, I asked him how he hooked up with Field Music, he said, “It was totally random. I had never heard of them, but I really like their music.” The group of glowing, friendly faces that surrounded him as the rest of the crowd filed out the door suggested that the string section probably had as many fans in the audience as the band did, but that they shared his sentiments on the music.
Field Music’s sound opens itself to comparison: Elements of Pulp, Belle & Sebastian, the Beach Boys, Stereolab, and Supergrass are packed nicely into short, poppy, self-contained songs. They’re well-practiced but lively, orchestrated and sharp, happy but not cloying. At one point during the show, Peter Brewis excused himself to take a sip from a nearby plastic cup, at which point one of the audience members shouted, “Beer!” Everyone giggled, and Peter responded in his heavy British accent: “No, I’m afraid not. We’re just not that kind of band.” Although intended as a bit of sarcasm, his comment was revealing; the band members know what they do, they stick to it, they do it well, and they’re not trying to be anything that they’re not. Falsetto harmonies, jangly guitar and the use of strings made me wish for autumn so I could put on some boots and an itchy sweater to go kick around in the leaves. It’s not really music for standing in a dark crowded room, beer in hand.
The show was short on sing-alongs, but the music was tight, accessible and well executed. Although appearing a bit shy, the band members engaged the audience and was seemingly unconcerned by the lack of U.S. name recognition. Field Music seems to be caught in a middle ground at this point: The band is big enough to headline a show in New York, but the members still have to set up their own instruments. In the end, there wasn’t quite enough energy in the room to warrant an encore, and everyone seemed okay with that – although a small group of people were chanting the violinist’s name.
Field Music on Memphis Industries’ Web site