Field Mouse’s new album ‘Episodic’ will draw you in quicker than you can say ‘Hey look, it’s another great band from Philly’.
Words: Sammy Maine.
“We have never been a scene band.” Rachel Brown is the vocalist and guitarist of Field Mouse – a band who have just made one of the best albums of the year with their third full-length ‘Episodic’. As a semi-Philadelphia based band, it’s easy to lump them in with the (very good) bands that have been pouring out of Philly for the past few years but as Rachel insists, they’ve never really seen it that way. “We’re all totally fine with that,” she continues. “Some of our members live here, and some live in Brooklyn still. While I do hang out at a lot of Philly shows and have a lot of friends in bands here, I don’t think that Field Mouse is a ‘Philly scene band’ at all.”
Scenes aside, Field Mouse do have some great friends in high and helpful places. ‘Episodic’ was recorded by Hop Along’s Joe Reinhart, with the band approaching the record for the first time as a five piece. Rachel explains that their previous releases were often “some older songs and some things we did last minute,” describing the last album as a sort of “hodgepodge” but with ‘Episodic’, the band wanted to produce a fully cohesive record. “I cannot say enough good things about Joe Reinhart,” she enthuses. “He was so fun to work with, and it’s cool recording with someone who is a producer but also has to record his own band, and has to think about new ideas that maybe no-one in our band had come up with. It was like having another member come in with cool potential ideas. Super fun.”
Hop Along aren’t the only band connected to Field Mouse on this record; Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis, Swearin’s Allison Crutchfield, Cymbals Eat Guitars’ Joseph D’Agostino and Palehound’s Ellen Kempner can all be found collaborating in some wonderful shape or form. But instead of this being a planned get-together of some of the greatest artists around, it turns out to be just a couple of buds having some fun. “One day – I think the day after Christmas – I went on a hike with Sadie, Joe and our friend Ellen, and it was the first day of recording and I wasn’t there. They thought they were ruining my album, but then said ‘oh, we’ll just come and sing on it!’ so it was a good trade-off. I love everything all three of those people do, and was so glad they were into it.”
Moving from a two to a five-piece is going to bring along some bumps and bruises but as Rachel continues, it sounds like it couldn’t have been easier. “There were never too many cooks. The first week was rhythm stuff so Timmy came down and did a few weeks of drums, and Saysha did bass, and because they live in Philly, they just kind of did their parts and peaced out. Andrew and Zoe and I were there every day with Joe, and I don’t think that was too much. Just a lot of me and Joe gently arguing. Nothing hostile.”
The band introduced the album with ‘The Mirror’ – a song that quite literally tells you to fuck off within the first line. It’s this kind of vigour that makes ‘Episodic’ a stand-out effort but as with almost any project Brown puts her hand to, she brings a certain unabashed vulnerability that makes that juxtaposing bite all the more encompassing. Andrew [Futral] brought the song to the table musically, with Brown bringing the lyrics later. “I think it was always intended to be the first track. I was a little trepidatious about having those lyrics as the first on the album, but usually everyone votes against any kind of trepidation I have. I guess it’s attention grabbing if nothing else,” she laughs.
During the writing and recording process, Rachel’s family were dealt a blow with a sudden and very real illness; the recording process, she says, was a way to feel normal. “You’ll do anything to distract yourself from what’s going on, so I use writing and playing music as a way to detach myself momentarily from that stuff,” she continues. “It was a crazy year and I’m not sure if it’s obvious that that’s what a lot of [‘Episodic’] is about, but it definitely is.” And it’s not just songwriting that Rachel finds a cathartic process – if you head over to her website, you’ll find a selection of abstract landscape paintings and a wealth of original poetry. Describing herself as a “hobbyist” painter, she explains that she often paints the “woodsy” areas of her youth to escape her now industrial surroundings.
Rachel also finds her fun in hunting down her one true love – the burrito. As she discuss her sheer outrage over the extra-charge on guac – “it’s always something about the avocados being more expensive because they come from Mexico or whatever, and it’s like, just get it together” – she says silly stuff like this is a welcome escape from our often nightmarish surroundings. “One day, I’ll wake up and read the news and think ‘what’s the point?’ and think that I need to go and be a nurse and do what little I can to help like a hundred people in my lifetime,” she says. “I think some days you’re able to ignore it, and some days you’re not.” She’s also pretty passionate about star signs, using a star sign app when she feels a little lost in life. “Usually it makes a lot of sense. I think a lot of these experiences are totally universal, and they’re going to be helpful no matter what your star sign is, but they definitely interest me.”
With Jurassic Park band t-shirts – “my sister and I were obsessed and used to dig for dinosaur bones in our backyard” – it’s clear that Field Mouse are here to have fun. Something that Rachel concludes is hugely important, “I actively try to not take myself too seriously. I don’t see another way in this state of the music industry.”