Photo by Jeanne RiceIt wasn't until I drove past the three bundled-up smokers standing outside Limerick's Pub in Long Beach that I realized just how in-over-my-head I really was. With an untested, hours-old tape recorder on the seat next to me and a loosely constructed list of questions floating inside my head, I was about to meet the members of the gloriously dreamy pop/rock outfit Fielding—former Detroit Bar resident band, MTV's Dismissed soundtrack contributors, and all-around nice folks—for my very first band interview. As it turned out, it was their first as well. Let the learning begin.
1. Know how to use a tape recorder.After first killing time outside with Aaron, Adam and Kevin—Fielding's bassist, drummer and guitarist—as they finished their smokes and waited for fellow band mates Eric and Beth to arrive, we piled into a large wooden booth, and I set the recorder down. Check. Commencing the interview with a round of pints, we followed the lead of singer/keyboardist/violinist/ Irish ex-pat Beth and exclaimed, "Slante!"—the Irish greeting for cheers.
I caught Adam peering at the tape recorder from beneath the brim of his fisherman's hat, so I glanced to make sure the red light was still on. Check. But then, picking the recorder up in his hand, he began to speak directly into it, vaguely muttering, "Yeah—we just love being in a band" before stopping, rewinding and playing the tape back. He was just checking that it would be able to pick up our conversation, he informed me. "Oh, right. Good idea," I said and winced, feeling like an idiot and worried that he considered me—rightly so—a novice. Turning to the others, I asked how they met.
2. Exploit the obvious angle."We were all roommates, the three of us," Kevin started, indicating Aaron and lead singer Eric. Adam added that he and Eric had mutual friends in Huntington Beach. "We're all native Californians. Except Beth," Eric noted. Right! Beth, the beautiful, fair-complexioned, sweet-voiced scarf addict with a strong Northern accent. Beth, who happens to be married to Eric. Check.
"I'm curious about how you got here," I began.
"Do you want the long version or the short version?" she asked before continuing, "I came from Ireland about six and a half years ago to do a music internship here for six months and then ended up staying a year. At the end of that year, I met him [Eric], and then ended up trying to extend my visa so that I could stay and meet him more. But my visa expired, and I got sent home for four months." On her return visit, they married.
Eric explained, "I like to take credit for having some frickin' backbone. I said, 'Let's keep her in the country.'"
It might appear to be the perfect way to capitalize on the talent of an imported songstress, but Eric was in the dark about Beth's musical talent—she taught herself to play the piano as a young girl and also tackled the fiddle with the help of some free lessons courtesy of her grade school—at least in the beginning.
"I didn't know she was a musician before we were dating until a couple of weeks later," Eric said. "It turns out she's a superior musician. She's the apotheosis of musicians."
Blushing, Beth challenged, "Spell that."
3. Avoid pigeonholing at all costs.Moving on, I asked what music first influenced them as a band. Kevin answered, "Well, when we were living together, we were just starting to play music together and had a lot of acoustic stuff. Me and Aaron were working on some stuff, and we got real into Elliott Smith for a while, and then Eric had a bunch of folk songs, so it was pretty cool 'cause it was the same vibe."
Given the slow, quiet snare and romantically despondent violin on "The Red and the Blue," the last track on their self-titled debut, not to mention the effortlessly gorgeous lullaby "Where Ships Sleep," these quieter folk influences made sense. But what about the criminally catchy riffs and refrain on "Legless" or the intensely dark OK Computer-esque "Indigo"?
I inquired if they liked Radiohead. And then promptly winced, once again.
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"Radio who?" they joked, as Adam noted that he hopes their influences are "something that is evoked as opposed to something that is derivative. I think objectively they've [Radiohead] done something so unique. You have to respect it. We try to write our songs in a similarly integrous way without biting them. Nobody's trying to bite anyone in any way."
4. Don't run out of tape.We discussed their two-year plan—they don't envision there ever being a Fabulous Life of . . . Fielding—and the encore they received at their Oct. 30 show at the Joint in LA.
Once again, Adam proved an instinctively succinct interviewee, reflecting that "Somebody, even just a small group of people, appreciated what we were doing enough to say, 'Give us another one.' That's the essence of why we're together, why we hang out, why we argue about shit, why we play music. We want to write music, but we also want to write it well. We'd rather hang out and drink beer with people who would come to our shows than stand onstage and say, 'Buy our record. We're awesome.'"