Sense Field's new album is a batch of passionate, spiritual, melodic, guitar-stained songs that could break the decade-old South Bay band wide open—something any self-respecting radio programming director would be wise to jump on. There are moody, feedback-speckled tunes like "Love Song," ornery enough to fit nicely into KROQ's current all-anger-all-the-time format. There are wispy-but-meaty melodramas (none dare call them "emo") like "Open Heart Surgery," a hymn begging for Triple-A airplay of the sort that 103.1 used to proffer before it went off the air in June.
Too bad no one will ever hear it.
Here's the sad, sordid tale: after cutting a couple of fine albums for OC indie label Revelation, Sense Field got what they thought was their big break in 1996—a deal with Warner Bros., the gargantuan major. So gargantuan, so corporate and so bottom-line-watching, in fact, that if things weren't going well at the label—if the label put out a record that bombed—then executive heads promptly went a-rollin'.
This happened a lot when Sense Field was with the company.
"We kept having to re-introduce ourselves to new people and executives," explains singer Jonathan Bunch. "After a couple of years of that, there was no one who'd been there when we first signed with them. They just gradually became uninterested in putting out the record."
Sense Field opted to be released from their contract earlier this year, bringing an unceremonious end to what amounted to a sexless four-year marriage.
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It wasn't exactly an amicable parting, either. In a game commonly played in the music industry, Warner Bros. let Sense Field go but held the album hostage, in exchange for what the band deemed an exorbitant sum of money. Sense Field had an alternative—take their songs to another label and re-record them on their own dime—but they weren't even allowed to do that until this past August, when Warner waived that part of their contract.
Lots of deep frustrations and disappointments to be sure, suffered not only by the band but also by their intensely loyal following (log on to www. sensefield.net and peruse the message board for rather testy fan comments about Warner Bros.' business practices). But Sense Field remains a determined band, despite the innumerable migraines. Since the Warner debacle, the band has had several promising meetings with other labels, and they plan to release a new full-length next year. They say that disc will include reworked takes from what'll inevitably become known as the Great Lost Sense Field Album, plus a heap of new tunes as well.
"We don't want this to become our story," Bunch makes clear. "We don't really want to dwell on it, either. I mean, every one of my friends' bands have been dropped at some point—Samiam, Shudder to Think, Sick of It All, Rocket From the Crypt and Jawbox. We want to move forward and just hope that people will be patient and ride out the storm with us."
SENSE FIELD PERFORM WITH THE PRESSURE, THE MEASLES AND ELEMENT 17 AT CHAIN REACTION, 1652 W. LINCOLN AVE., ANAHEIM, (714) 635-6067. FRI., 7:30 P.M. $10.