Dubbed “Prince’s favourite pop duo” (Mojo), the esteemed Brewis brothers, Peter and David, began making records as Field Music in 2005. With a Mercury Prize nomination for their 2012 album Plumb under their belt, Field Music have received critical acclaim for their distinct and adventurous approach to songwriting and collaboration. Alongside their five ‘proper’ album releases, they’ve recorded a collection of covers and B-sides, film scores and spin-off projects, The Week That Was and School of Language. Field Music have toured the world and worked with the likes of Slug, The Cornshed Sisters, Pea Sea, The Futureheads and Maximo Park. All of the brothers’ recordings have been made at their own studio space in Sunderland. We can’t wait for them to lead a very special music studio residency with us this November.
Here Field Music share their top tips for aspiring musicians…
1. It’s the part, not the player. Most people get into making records from playing an instrument and, of course, your style as a player is likely to be pretty fundamental to the music you make. But, to make a song into the best record it can be, you often have to put your instrumentalist side into a drawer. Just because you can play a fiddly drum part doesn’t mean it should be on every song (or any song!). People generally don’t listen to music to hear how clever your playing is. (See also, it’s the idea, not the gear)
2. Can you drop the chords? Just because you’ve written a song on piano or guitar doesn’t mean that the guitar or piano chords need to stay as part of the arrangement. Once you’ve built up what the other instruments and voices are going to do, you might find that stepping through the chords isn’t really necessary. Or you might find that by adding that strummed guitar or chugging piano in a particular section lifts things more than if it was present all the way through.
3. Find what’s true to you. Try to find the music that only you can make. No-one else has exactly your combination of experiences and influences. I don’t like to use words like authenticity and originality. They’ve almost become genre signifiers. But if you can synthesise what has shaped you as a person into your music then that’s as original and unique as you can hope to be.
4. Be influenced by everything. You never know what might inspire you to write something. It might be an overheard conversation on the train, or a line in a book or a newspaper. It might be the synth sound on a record you hear while walking through a shop. Keep a notebook handy. Get a dictaphone app for your phone. A little snippet might turn into something amazing.
5. Editing is not a dirty word. To turn an inspired snippet into a song takes a bit of work. It can take time and focus, hearing the music in your head and imagining what’s going to happen next. You might come up with some ideas which don’t work. It’s okay to ditch them and try something else. Cut out a line, change a chord, find a better word. Creativity and craft are partners, not enemies. It’s not all about flashes of magic. Inspiration doesn’t come ready-wrapped in sonnet form.
6. Can you do it yourself? The money which used to slosh around the music industry is mostly long gone so if you find yourself thinking, we need a manager, we need a driver, we need a producer…think a bit longer. If you want to make music long term, keeping the costs down early on will serve you well. Feeling too embarrassed to ask for gigs is probably not a good reason to get a manager. Wanting to have a drink at a show is probably not a good reason to hire a driver. Hoping that a producer will work magic if you haven’t rehearsed enough or if you haven’t figured out your arrangements might well lead to disappointment. It’s worth trying to do as much as you can yourself until you really can’t manage it.