THEY are one of the most exciting…
and engaging bands around right now. Chris Porterfield of Field Report talks me through the band’s latest L.P., Summertime Songs, and how it feels knowing it is out. He discusses the themes that go into the record and how Field Report got together; whether there is a big music scene in Milwaukee (where they are based) – what they have planned regards touring.
I ask whether Trump’s leadership and U.S. politics affect their music; Porterfield shares a great moment from his time in music; how he spends his time away from music; if the band all share tastes in music – the advice he would give to new artists.
Hi. How are you? How has your week been?
Hi. I am doing well. Just getting ready for a week in Texas at South by Southwest next week.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
My name is Chris Porterfield. I write and sing - and play the guitar in a project called Field Report.
Summertime Songs, your new album, is out. Are you excited it is completed? What was it like recording the album?
I couldn’t be more excited to get this album out.
We recorded it at a studio in Milwaukee called Wire & Vice over the course of a few months in 2016. We were there working most days: writing, gathering; recording, trying new ideas; killing bad ideas and responding to the work from the day before.
What sort of themes and ideas compelled the songwriting?
There are a lot of narrators in various stages of relationships ending or changing.
Will there be any singles coming from the record? What are your plans on that side of things?
Yep. Three singles are out now already. Get them while they’re hot.
Take me back to the start. How did Field Report get together?
The first Field Report record came out in 2012. I’m the only original member left - people get busy and priorities change. But this lineup, Thomas Wincek on Keys, Barry Clark on Bass and Devin Drobka on Drums, is the best I’ve ever had. I’ve never been in such a good band.
I hope we can keep this lineup in place for a very long time.
You guys are based in Milwaukee. What is the area like for music? Is it quite a busy scene?!
Milwaukee is a big enough city to have clubs to play in and for touring bands to stop through - but small enough to keep a low profile until you’re ready to share something with the rest of the world. There is a great creative community here and home to many amazing players, writers and artists. It’s been a perfect incubator for Field Report.
It’s also in the middle of the U.S.; so we can easily route tours for a few weeks on the East or the West Coast.
Do you all share tastes in music? Who are the artists you all grew up around?
I’m fundamentally a ‘songs’ person - I grew up with singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon and Leonard Cohen. Tom and Barry both have Electronic projects and Barry is a Classical double bass player. Devin is a Jazz drummer. We all overlap, too, but everyone has their wheelhouse. It’s important to me to have influences in the band beyond my own idioms - it keeps ideas fresh and exciting.
How much of your music is affected by politics and what is happening in America? Do you get riled by the situation at present?
Music and politics are inextricable.
Music is how we view the world: politics is a tool to shape the world. They mix all the time. Songs are political acts. There is a lot of parallel narrative about America in all of the breakups and relationship changes on our record. What is happening in America now is terribly upsetting, damaging and embarrassing. The majority of us here have just enough faith in the institutions of democracy to muster the patience to wait this mess out.
I am trying hard to believe that this awful moment will motivate a new generation of American leaders to get involved and right our course.
Can we see you tour soon? What gigs do you have coming up?
Lots of American gigs for now...
Do you think you’ll come to the U.K. this year? Are you a fan of British music?
I hope so! I love the U.K. We got to come to the U.K. a few years ago supporting Jeff Tweedy. We had our own London gig, too, and Frank Turner came out to see us. It was a highlight for me. One of my favorite bands ever is The Blue Nile from Glasgow. I think there are moments on our new record that wouldn’t be out of place on a lost Blue Nile record.
What do you hope to achieve, personally, in 2018?
I hope that people hear our new record and find it a useful and exciting tool for discovery - and that they come out to our shows so we can be in the same room and explore the songs together.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
I was a part of a John Prine review at Eaux Claires festival last year. I was rehearsing with the band for the show the day before at April Base. We were in the middle of running the song I was leading and suddenly the energy in the room changed.
John Prine sauntered into the barn, walked past the band and right by me; pulled up a chair about five feet in front of me and sat down. He liked the arrangement and told me so. That was one of those moments that this job occasionally blesses you with.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
The only thing that all active artists today have in common is that they did not stop. Just don’t stop. Keep doing better work and keep trying to find your audience. That’s really all there is to it.
You never arrive at a place where you can coast...
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I have a one-and-half-year-old daughter who I stay at home with - unless I’m on the road. She takes up pretty much all of my time. I read a lot. I like coffee a lot. I also like watching NBA basketball (go, Milwaukee Bucks!).
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
The Blue Nile - Stay
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