My Firsts: Peter Brewis of Field Music | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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My Firsts: Peter Brewis of Field Music

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Apr 23, 2021 Issue #68 - Japanese Breakfast and HAIM (The Protest Issue)
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My Firsts is our email interview series where we ask musicians to tell us about their first life experiences, be it early childhood ones (first word, first concert, etc.) or their first tastes of being a musician (first band, first tour, etc.). For this My Firsts we talk to Peter Brewis of England’s Field Music.

Brewis leads the art-rock band with his brother, David Brewis. Field Music formed in 2004 in the Northern England city of Sunderland. The band’s new album, Flat White Moon, is their eighth and, like all their other albums, is being released by the UK label Memphis Industries. In a press release announcing the album, Peter said he was inspired by Beck’s Odelay and De La Soul’s Three Feet High and Rising when making Flat White Moon. “I love how they use samples on those albums, taking parts that are obviously played—that are gestural—and then reconstruct them.”

The band’s last couple of albums were fairly complicated. With this one they wanted to be a bit looser and perhaps, despite the pandemic upending live music, make something that comes off well onstage.

“We don’t usually record a song thinking about how we’re going to play it live,” said David in the press release. “We’re not that kind of band. But there was a sense that it would be fun to do new songs which didn’t have those complications.”

“We say it all the time: You make music with your ears and your brain first,” Peter added. “But I trust my ears and my brain, so let’s make something which just feels good and feels physical.”

Accompanying the album announcement was an amusing video for its single, “No Pressure,” which made fun of YouTube tutorial videos, with the band jokingly explaining how to construct a Field Music song. Such an ability to poke fun at the band’s signature sound speaks to the looseness of Flat White Moon.

Read on as Peter Brewis talks about his first visit to the hospital, his early musical influences, seeing his first Star Wars movie on the big screen, and how he may or may not have drunk his first beer as a preschooler.

First best friend?

My first best friend is the son of my mam and dad’s best friends. So, when Iain O Brien (aka Brien Iain O, Ray Solar, O’Beef, OB1) was born on the 2nd Jan 1978 I forced him to be my best friend and we’ve not seen eye to eye since.

First pet?

My first and only pet was a black and white cat called Lucy. She grew and grew an awful size and had great big googly eyes.

First time you had to go to the hospital?

Other than being born, it was probably to find out what was wrong with my wobbly eye. I had glasses and a patch. It must have worked because I have decent eyesight.

First time you fell in love?

I’ve still not figured out what this means. It’s seems like everyone has their own rules and ideas on this.

First person you kissed?

Nobody needs to know this.

First time your heart was broken?

See above.

First movie you saw in the movie theater?

The first film I remember seeing in a cinema was Return of the Jedi in 1983 or 1984. We were in London and went to the Leicester Square Theatre. I remember the huge sign for the film at the entrance—Luke Skywalker wielding a massive lit up lightsaber. Exciting stuff.

First TV show you were obsessed with?

I was obsessed with a few shows when I was young but Top of the Pops was the one. Shakin’ Stevens was my hero—dancing on top of a piano behind a green door etc. Amazing. I didn’t realize he was basically a ’50s throw back—it was new to me then. The same happens every now and then when I hear something from years ago that is new to me. That’s the nature of recorded music—it’s a time machine.

First record your parents played for you?

I can’t remember but my mam gave me a few records for my birthday—“The Birdy Song” by The Tweets, “Happy Birthday” by Altered Images, and “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell. All stone cold classics.

First album you bought?

I’m pretty sure this was Push by Bros on cassette tape. You can imagine how cool I felt in my ripped jeans and BHS aviators, swaggering up to the village shops to buy fireball gobstoppers with “It’s a Jungle…” blasting on my Walkman.

First favorite band?

Other than Bros I really liked The Bangles. I loved their songs, their look, and the fact that they all sang. Debbi Peterson, the drummer, was possibly the main reason I wanted a drum kit.

First concert you went to? The first proper concert I went to was with my parents and it was Jethro Tull, Newcastle City Hall, 1991. I remember being disappointed to find that the drummer in the program Doane Perry had been replaced by some folk-rock drummer I’d never heard of. Years later, I realized it was my deeply fab friend, Dave Mattacks. Sorry, I meant The Great Dave Mattacks.

First music festival you went to?

My first and last proper full-on fessie as a punter was Leeds 2000—sounds like a Yorkshire-based apocalyptic disaster film and it kinda was. I think this was one of the first years that setting fire to chemical toilets was fashionable. I wasn’t into it. Still, I got see Beck, Pulp, Slipknot, RATM [Rage Against the Machine], and some other good stuff.

First time you got drunk?

There’s a photo of me with a can of McEwans lager aged three or four wearing Superman pajamas. I think it was one of those classic late ’70s/early ’80s “Hey look, the bairns are boozing” set-ups. Or was it?

First job you had?

I was a tutor at a youth-music project. £20 for Saturday morning session—not bad when you’re 18-19. It was great and it was where I met many of my best pals. It helped me get into youth work and follow in my mother’s footsteps (although I’ll never be the youth worker she was).

First time you got fired?

I’ve never been fired. It’s always been restructuring apparently.

First car you owed?

I owned a red Rover 214. Very much towards the Alan Partridge end of the cool spectrum.

First computer?

This was a Commodore Plus/4 (possibly a 20k machine and a successor to the Commodore 16?). I think my dad chose this one because it has a built in word processor, database and spreadsheet, which you could access with the F keys. I never use them and instead spent my time playing classics such as Kickstart and Treasure Island.

First book you read outside of one assigned for school?

I struggled to enjoy reading outside of The Beano, Dandy, and other comics. I don’t think I even read the Shakespeare I was meant to at school—I just watched Marlon Brando playing Julius Caesar instead. I probably got into reading books for pleasure thanks to Terry Pratchett and his Discworld novels. The mix of satire and fantasy appealed to the 16-year-old me.

First time you voted?

I voted Labour in 1997 and it was one of the greatest nights of my life. I’d lived in a left-wing household all my life (my mam was a Labour party member) but lived under a Thatcher government all my life too. It felt like a revolution at the time.

First major disappointment?

Probably Peter Davison as Doctor Who after Tom Baker. I was only three but I remember it well—the transformation from this wild-eyed crazy fella to a cricketer wasn’t impressive. Looking back, I was wrong. Peter Davison was a very good Doctor.

First instrument?

I tried piano when I was younger but I didn’t have the patience. Drums were the first thing I put any real effort into.

First recording device?

I’d used stereo tape recorders to record daft little songs and what-not but it was the Yamaha MT3X 4-track tape recorder which changed everything. It was my introduction to the world of multi-track recording—I loved it and it still works!

First professional recording session?

The first time I was in a professional studio was with our band Underfoot (not too hard to imagine the vibe there, eh?). It was me, David, and Andrew [Moore] (who went on to start Field Music 10 years later) with Dave Dorwood on bass and Paul Taylor on drums. We were a good little bluesy-rock band and we had Frankie Stubbs of Leatherface engineering. Although it didn’t sound quite right (largely down to the ADAT machines, the very digital sounding reverb, and the fact we didn’t know what we were doing), we learned a lot from Frankie.

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