Field Music tell us about the inspirations behind new album ‘Flat White Moon’ (out this week)
Field Music release their terrific new album Flat White Moon this Friday and they've just shared one last song before the whole album is out. "When You Last Heard From Linda" is a little different from anything else on the album, folky and powered by striking cello. You can listen below.
Peter and David absorb a lot of music that seeps into Field Music's sound, from prog to Prince and Fairport Convention to Free. The latter comes up in a list of Flat White Moon inspirations we asked them to make for us. It also includes Parliament, Joni Mitchell, De La Soul and more. Peter and David also gave us thoughtful commentary for each pick, offering up insight to how their musical minds work. You can read that below.
For even more insight and influences on the new album, you should check out the Field Musicast podcast dissects songs off the album and the songs they were thinking of. It's available wherever podcasts are listened to, but the Spotify version also has versions of the episodes with full songs of influences they talk about. You can listen to the episode about "Do Me a Favour" below.
FIELD MUSIC - INSPIRATIONS BEHIND NEW ALBUM FLAT WHITE MOON
Free - "Fire and Water"
David: Free were one of the first bands we really got into when we started playing music. This was around the time that "All Right Now" was on a Wrigley’s commercial and suddenly Free Best Of’s were everywhere. Even better, our parents actually owned some Free records, including Free Live, half of which was recorded in our hometown, Sunderland. Free fell by the wayside for us once we started writing our own songs and when we started delving into music beyond the classic rock which made sense to the audiences we played to around the local pubs, who were mostly twenty years older than us. But I think they’re one of the building blocks of what we do; sparse guitar parts; un-showy but grooving and heavy drums; melodic, syncopated bass parts which quite often lead you through the song; and a small number of instruments playing across each other rather than all hammering the same root notes. After a couple of years where our live set-up had to be somewhat complicated, it makes sense to me that we might try and get back to some of that spacious, Free sound and lots of the first run of songs we did for Flat White Moon aimed in that direction. It hasn’t necessarily stayed as a primary focus but I can hear it in songs like "In This City" and certainly "in Out of the Frame" and "I’m The One Who Wants To Be With You," which manages to both be a Free tribute and a song about a band named after a Free song. Meta or what?
Parliament - "Mothership Connection"
David: On a whim I bought a set of five Parliament albums a couple of summers ago -- weirdly just after I’d finished the last School of Language album which sounds fairly Clinton-esque in places. All five records are great but I’m particularly taken with Mothership Connection and The Clones of Dr Funkenstein. Of course, they’re funny and they’re funky, the horn arrangements are incredible and Bernie Worrell’s keyboards could spin you into another dimension, but the thing that I’ve found myself trying to pinch is the group vocal sound. Now in Field Music, Peter can sing pretty high, I can sing really high and Liz (keyboard player) can sing ultra high so we quite often build harmonies up and up into the upper atmosphere. Ha! On those Parliament records there are a lot of male group vocal harmonies which sound really thick and strong. I feel like you can hear their origins as a vocal group. Of course, we completely failed to make that kind of sound but on a song like "You Get Better," or one we left off the final album called "Endlessly," which we’ll probably put out one day, we were definitely informed by it.
Various Artists - Atlantic R&B 1961-1965
David: The first song I wrote for the album was "Do Me A Favour." I wanted to write something really simple, really direct and it tickled me that making something unapologetically simple was probably the most unexpected thing Field Music could possibly do. Some of that probably comes from listening to Tom Petty or Neil Young but mostly it comes from listening to a lot of Atlantic R&B. This compilation is probably my favourite, featuring as it does Otis Redding, Booker T and the MGs, Solomon Burke, The Ikettes, The Drifters and more. Not that all of this is simple -- I’d argue that there’s a poetic elegance to a song like "Under The Boardwalk" which is the equal of pretty much any pop music ever made. I can almost smell the hot dogs and french fries, I really can. But these are songs written and played to make you dance or cry or laugh, or maybe all three, but whichever way they’re trying to make you as a listener FEEL something. And they aim for something universal. Everyone’s baby has left them all alone at some point. Everyone’s arms have yearned. And everyone’s wanted a loved one to do them a favour, because they’d do the same in return.
Joni Mitchell - Court and Spark
Peter: I'd been pretty sad for a while and, as you do in these circumstances, I'd been listening to a lot of Joni, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon. I started to really notice how they used certain words and referenced certain objects that were particularly North American. They really conveyed a sense of time, place and personality with just the words they chose to use - I have no idea whether that was their intention but I can't imagine they weren't aware of it in some way. I wondered whether I could try that in a 'British Isles' kind of way but without sounding too 'kitchen sink'. I realised that Peter Gabriel, Robert Wyatt and John Lennon (and other unheard ofs!!) had been doing it all the time and I hadn't really noticed. Despite realising how daft I'd been I kept trying to think of ways of writing in a voice that I was happy with. I was drawn to Court and Spark in particular for a few reasons -- how she presents a scene or a situation without giving everything away but enough to create an image for yourself -- it's not overly obscure - the way she handles the big stuff like love and sadness, with wonder and humour too. These were just the right thing for me at the time and had a very tangible influence on what I was writing.
De La Soul - 3 Feet High and Rising
Peter: After the click-track-a-thon live performances of Making A New World we'd decided that the next record was going to be a 'performance record' - rocking the hell out, playing together, back to basics (that kind of thing). About a third of the way through recording the initial tracks the world changed, and we couldn't go in to the studio to play together anymore. I really needed to keep making stuff to stay sane and as luck would have it, I'd also been going through a sort of 89-96 hip-hop phase which, in all honesty, had pretty much passed me by at the time (I was into The Bangles in 1989 and then I was straight onto my parents Led Zep stuff). It wasn't until Odelay by Beck that anything resembling hip-hop had found its way into my CD deck. So, listening to 3ft was a new experience for me and I loved it -- great songs and great sonic collages full of ideas and references, humorous and serious, and full of performance. Of course, we did not set out to make any kind of hip-hop record but I think 3 Feet High has very much been an influence, especially on tracks like "Not When You're In Love" and "Out of the Frame." I think the ideas and the sensibilities on 3 Feet High, and like lots of great records, cross the boundaries of genre.
Becoming Cary Grant (Documentary Film by Mark Kidel)
Peter: I was up late one night feeling really upset, flicking around the TV channels and drinking a lot of Lidl's cheap Beaujolais. I was lucky that I caught the introduction to a documentary film that I might otherwise had left alone. The film charted Cary Grant's life through memories and realisations brought on by his use of LSD and also featured narration taken from his unpublished autobiography. I must have been really into it because, although I don't remember everything about that night, I woke up to find I'd written loads of notes (and made some terrible sketches) which I later used as lyrics to "Orion from the Street." I wouldn't say I'd had anything like a drug-induced psychedelic experience but that the combination of far too much wine and an intense feeling of grief brought on hallucinations of images and feelings of my own that had previously been hidden.