A Field of their own

Sunderland band Field Music have set out to demystify the recording studio with its latest release, writes David Davies
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Sunderland band Field Music have set out to demystify the recording studio with its latest release, writes David Davies

A lengthy roll call of performance, production and engineering credits is to be expected on most physical album releases. Rather less common is a detailed breakdown of the principal equipment used to record, mix and master the music in question.

But that is exactly what critically acclaimed band Field Music has elected to include on the sleeve of its new double album, Field Music (Measure). Operating from a shared studio facility in Sunderland, Field Music has consistently won rave reviews for its ambitious, literate pop, which will resonate with anyone in thrall to XTC, Prefab Sprout and early solo Peter Gabriel.

Followers of post-punk will recall the inclusion of recording and production costs on early Scritti Politti single Skank Bloc Bologna, and Field Music’s Peter Brewis – group co-founder alongside brother and fellow vocalist/multi-instrumentalist David – tells PSNE that a similar motive of demystification informed his band’s decision to go public on the choice of equipment at its Eight Music studio.

“One of the reasons we wanted to print the list on the record was as a bit of a riposte to the attitude that you can’t make anything good with fairly inexpensive equipment,” he says. “There is also this air of rock music mysticism, which suggests that people shouldn’t know too much about the process or the magic will be lost, and I really think it’s nonsense.”

The Brewis brothers in no way have the spec of an Ocean Way or a Rockfield at their disposal, but it has not prevented them from engineering an appealingly earthy-sounding record that avoids all the modern pitfalls. “There is this tendency to over-compress and over-brighten everything,” laments Peter. “We wanted to make it a pleasurable listen rather than something that would just be loud on the radio.”

Located in a community enterprise building, the Eight Music facility allows the band and a number of other local musicians, including members of the Futureheads, to work at their own pace for a total monthly rent of just £260. Collected over the course of eight years as and when funds have allowed, the key spec includes Behringer Truth B2031 monitors, a Fostex 24-track digital recorder, a Focusrite Saffire Pro 26 I/O Audio Interface, TL Audio 5001 mic preamps and an Allen & Heath GS3 16-channel recording mixer. The GS3 was one of the Brewis’ earliest purchases, and Peter praises it for being “really, really straightforward to use”. (Allen & Heath’s Carey Davies says the desk’s “compact in-line feature set, VCA fader automated option, advanced MIDI control and classic analogue sound” mean that it is still sought-after today.)

A dedicated mixing/mastering station features Yamaha HS80M monitors and a Behringer BCF2000 USB/MIDI controller desk, among other equipment, while the permanent MI spec includes a Yamaha CP70 piano, a Fender Deluxe Reverb amp, and percussion from Pearl, Gretsch and Paiste.

“The studio is good value and we simply couldn’t afford to make records otherwise,” says Brewis, adding that the latest version of Logic and a Neumann U 87 microphone are among the items on the long-term wish list. “The reason we try to earn some money from music is so that we can continue to make music. But whatever happens, me and David will go on making records one way or another – whether it’s full-time, part-time or as a really badly paid hobby.”




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