Field Mouse Dishes On New Album Episodic, Fights Over Donuts

Meredith Schneider

photo by Shervin Lainez

We caught up with Field Mouse via Google Hangouts on a hot day in July, when every involved party was having technical difficulties. For some reason, I couldn’t figure out how to host a Google Hangout, as I hadn’t run one since the (probably ancient) updates. The lovely Rachel Browne called in from her oasis in Philadelphia, while the hilariously adorable Andrew Futral was looped in a few minutes later from his apartment in New York City. Within moments of beginning our conversation, I felt at ease with the duo. They were very easy to talk to. Rachel – eloquent in her responses, somehow, despite the time of day – was able to provide a lot of background information on their upcoming album Episodic, the contents of which were fueled by not only her sister’s cancer diagnosis, but also by a rough breakup at the time. Andrew reminded me slightly of a much more handsome – and much, much more quirky – Zach Galifianakis, a compliment which I hope can only earn me favors. (Andrew, please don’t hate on it?)

Pre-call, Rachel and I had decided not to partake in a video call, as we were both still slightly waking up and not in the mood to look presentable. Andrew, however, did not get the memo. Read on for an exact account of all things fabulous with Field Mouse.

What have you been up to today?

Rachel: Just waking up and drinking coffee and being a person. I put clothes on. It’s been really exciting.

What’s the origin story of Field Mouse?

Rachel: Andrew and I both went to Purchase College. He was a few grades above me, I’m not even sure if we overlapped. We may have been a year away from overlapping, but there were a lot of people hanging out at Purchase because you have friends in all different levels or grades. People would come back to school and hang out, so there were a lot of alumni around. We became friends that way. We were all in a music conservatory at Purchase. For your senior project if you’re a studio composition or studio production student, you’re allowed to turn in  THIS IS WHEN ANDREW JOINED either an hour long, recorded project – like an album – or an hour long show or concert, basically. That’s in lieu of a thesis. Andrew was in my live band for that. So that’s how we started playing music together. That was in 2008 and is what sort of (slowly) created Field Mouse.

Where did the name come from?

Rachel: It was just written down with a couple of ideas in a journal. We just agreed on it. It wasn’t something we wanted to labor over too much. There are so few good band names that we weren’t trying to knock it out of the park or anything. We just wanted to grab a name and move on.

Andrew: It worked because it brings up absolutely no visual imagery for me. It’s like a bed of white rice. At the time, I felt like all band names were really fun and had a lot of imagery that went with them. Like, Ringo Death Star came out around that time and there were a lot of crazy, fun band names. I thought that if we had something kind of bland, people would just stop thinking about the name and — OHMYGOD someone is at my door.

Keep in mind, Andrew seemed surprised that someone was at his door. Little did the rest of us know that he had ordered iced coffee from Seamless, and was anxiously awaiting said order. 

Rachel: I like that Andrew is the only one on video. I’m just going to leave him there.

Andrew (as he crosses back to the side of the room with his computer on it): I didn’t know anyone could see me.

Hi, Andrew. How are you today?

Andrew (laughing): I just ordered iced coffee so I’m about to be way better.

Rachel: You’re such a lazy piece of shit.

Andrew (agreeing): According to Seamless, this place that just brought me my coffee is 0.1 mile away from my apartment. I don’t know who I am.

Rachel: It’s just like New York to have all of those Seamless options. Only New York has the strongest ability to not talk to anybody.

Andrew: I’m a terrible person.

I’m on that page too, so I get it. Your new album is fucking amazing. I saw there is a bit of a rough back story, so now that it’s all happening, how does it feel to know that this is going to be out in the world?

Rachel: Thanks! We’re so excited. I’m definitely excited about it because I think we all agree it is the thing we’re most proud of having worked on. I’m glad it’s going to be out there for people to hear. It’s sort of a weird feeling because it’s coming out almost exactly a year after a lot of the content on it was inspired. As a disclaimer, my sister – who a lot of the album is inspired by – is doing really well right now. There isn’t a terrible, tragic end to this album being written. Having said that, it was almost a year from the release date when she got diagnosed. A year ago in early August. So it is really interesting to have that kind of as a bookend. It was a total shit show of a year. I hope that if anyone is going through something similar, that they can relate. I want this album to help people feel less alone. I use listening to music as a coping mechanism, and I hope that our album is on the short list of things people listen to to help themselves. That’s my main hope for it, other than people just thinking it’s cool.

Simultaneous to my sister’s diagnosis and illness was a relationship with someone ending in a painful way, and the majority of the songs have a mixture of those two subjects involved. They can easily come off as just breakup songs, I think, but there is that other facet there too.

Andrew: I share every sentiment Rachel said about it. Rachel’s sister Robin has a monthly article she does for Amy Poehler’s blog, Smart Girls. One of the recent ones she talked about how she met other people who are going through cancer and her frame of reference for it before was that it was something that just happens in television shows and movies. But when she met people like her who are going through it at her age, it kind of normalized it for her. I think, hopefully, the album could also do something like that for others. If not now, everyone is going to know someone who is going through it. I want to be able to normalize it – or make it more relatable – for people who know someone who is battling the disease.

Musically, I think it’s the most fun we’ve ever had making something.

Rachel: Yeah, it was really fun to make. That’s a very important thing to add, especially after talking about the dark things that it was about. The actual making of the record was really fun.

For this record, did you guys have any rituals in the studio or any anecdotes from the recording process?

Rachel: There are probably some really funny stories toward the back end of it when we were thirteen days in and starting to lose our minds. First of all, we worked with Joe Reinhart who is an incredibly fun person. No matter what you’re doing, it’s going to be fun, so it was amped up because of that. This is the first time we had a producer that we reported to every day, even though he’s a friend of ours. We were showing up and not just doing it ourselves on our own time. It was on a schedule and we were working 10-12 hours a day with just a couple days off. By the end of it, we were all in what we call “space madness,” which is when you get to the end of something and you’re just like, “I don’t know what time it is or what this sounds like anymore” and you all just kind of lose it together.

Andrew: We knew that we didn’t have enough time to do everything that we wanted to do. Joe and I talked about that. We pulled each other aside, and realized we would just have to go until we were out of time. There were a bunch of guitar parts that just didn’t get recorded on the album because we ran out of time. The thing I remember most about it is they have a tiny, closet-sized other room with another computer setup. So I would be in there, editing things and writing harmony parts and doing little guitar things while other things were happening in the main room. I just remember thinking, “This is absolutely crazy.” I could either let myself give in to anxiety – which I absolutely did, I think I work better with extreme amounts of anxiety. I mainly remember the last half of it being a really fun nightmare.

If you guys could each pick one song off of the album to perform with any artist, who would you choose and which song would you perform?

Andrew: One of OURS? It’s hard for me to get over the hurdle of thinking about asking someone huge to work on something of mine. I’m waffling here. But I feel like the people I really wanted to work on the record did. I mean, when I think of someone whose guitar playing is very inspiring right now, I think of Sadie. When you hear them recorded, you assume the lead guitar parts are not being played by the singer because it doesn’t even make sense to me how a singer could sing and play a guitar part that isn’t matching. But she does all of it. She’s a rockstar. This must be what people in the 70’s thought when they saw someone like Led Zeppelin.

That’s adorable. 

Rachel: Thank you, Andrew. There are not a ton of bands where the singer is the lead guitar player. It’s always notable, and Andrew’s precious Smashing Pumpkins are one of them.

My answer is Björk you guys. So sorry. I don’t know which song I would perform. In this dream realm, I don’t even know if there is something that would make sense. She could just wail on “Out of Context”, probably.

Andrew: When you said “Björk” I was thinking of her as more of a producer. Like, adding bleeps and bloops and stuff.

Rachel: I mean, I’m into that too. I would just love to work on anything with Björk. She’s a longtime hero of mine. That’s my answer and I’m sticking to it!

You’re coming up on your tour quickly here. What are you most excited about?

Rachel: We haven’t been on tour this year. We just made the record and went back to part-time working, so I’m just excited to be on tour. But we love Cymbals Eat Guitars, who are taking us out. Big fans. Also, one of them is my boyfriend so that’s cool. I’m excited to see them play every night. They’re a truly phenomenal band and really great live.

Andrew: When we started thinking of the band in earnest a few years ago – as far as really going forward with it and touring – I think Lenses Alien had come out and it was one of our favorite records. It’s funny that three or four years ago, this would have been a dream tour. It still is, it’s just not that crazy anymore.

I’m only one coffee in so, it’s really anyone’s guess. But I’m still trying and I did order two. I just don’t understand how iced coffee could be made at home, so I have to order it.

If your music was a donut, what kind of donut would it be?

Rachel: I just wrote a sentence about a donut in an article. What a funny world.

Andrew: We’re not a filled donut, I’ll say that.

Rachel: Absolutely not, absolutely not. I’m a huge chocolate glazes fan.

Andrew: But what does that say, though? I feel like if you were working on a TV show and you were in the prop department, that would be your first thought. “We need a donut for this scene.”

Rachel: In my mind, that donut looks like The Simpson’s donut. It’s just a pink glazed donut with sprinkles. But I don’t know what Field Mouse would be.

Andrew: Honestly? We’re toasted coconut and I’m going to apologize in advance, but it’s been said. It’s done. That’s us.

Rachel: I’m going to agree to disagree. But it’s going to read however it reads in the press.

Tour Dates
08.04.16 – Philadelphia, PA @ Boot & Saddle (w/ Swanning, Missing Earth)
08.06.16 – Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade (w/ GROOMS, Leapling)
08.09.16 – Hamden, CT @ The Ballroom @ Outer Space (w/ Best Coast)
09.08.16 – Allston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall (w/ The Anniversary, Laura Stevenson)
09.17.16 – Providence, RI @ The Parlour *
09.18.16 – Washington, DC @ DC9 *
09.19.16 – Raleigh, NC @ Kings *
09.20.16 – Atlanta, GA @ Drunken Unicorn *
09.21.16 – Orlando, FL @ Will’s Pub *
09.22.16 – Tallahassee, FL @ Club Downunder *
09.23.16 – New Orleans, LA @ House of Blues *
09.24.16 – Dallas, TX @ Three Links *
09.25.16 – Austin, TX @ The Sidewinder *
09.27.16 – Phoenix, AZ @ The Rebel Lounge *
09.28.16 – San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar *
09.29.16 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo *
09.30.16 – Pomona, CA @ Acerogami *
10.01.16 – San Francisco, CA @ Swedish American Hall *
10.03.16 – Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge *
10.04.16 – Vancouver, BC @ The Cobalt *
10.05.16 – Seattle, WA @ Barboza *
10.07.16 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Metro Bar *
10.08.16 – Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge *
10.09.16 – Omaha, NE @ Reverb Lounge *
10.10.16 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry *
10.11.16 – Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle *
10.12.16 – Ferndale, MI @ The Loving Touch *
10.13.16 – Toronto, ON @ The Garrison *
10.14.16 – Montreal, QC @ La Vitrola *

Episodic is out August 5th on Top Shelf. It is currently available for preorder.

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