Interview: Rachel Browne of Field Mouse

We recently shared the first single from Field Mouse's upcoming Episodic out 8/5 through Topshelf Records. Leaving an immediately lasting relationship, we were happy to speak via e-mail with Rachel Browne, one of the founding members. 

Photo: Shervin Lainez

Photo: Shervin Lainez

The Grey Estates: A lot of press and your biography mention that this album is one where Field Mouse is coming into their own. What is it about this release that you feel really signifies what the band was meant to be?

Rachel Browne: I think part of that is because this is the first time we (Andrew and I) really sat down and wrote an album. The last record was a mixture of new and old songs that we wanted to record, and that made for less of a cohesive sound and energy. This one was very purposeful. We wrote it after a ton of touring and most of the writing was completed within a six month period.

TGE: This was the first time the five of you recorded an album together. How did that process go? And how do you incorporate all individual ideas into one cohesive thought?

RB: It was a lot of fun, especially after getting to know each other intimately as our tour selves. Recording selves are a little different. Andrew and I wrote the basics, and usually Andrew writes drum and bass parts/ideas for Tim and Saysha to mess around with. Zoë played synth and wrote some great harmonies and I loved recording with her for the first time because she’s my sister and I can’t believe it took us this long.

TGE: Is there a particular track on this record that you really feel epitomizes this new identity or what you wanted the album to reflect?

RB: I don’t think there’s one track that defines an identity, but as a whole the record does reflect where I am at - or certainly where I was at when writing it. I think that after a long stretch of touring, we were able to go into recording knowing exactly what we did and didn’t want to bring to the table. It’s closer to how we sound live, in a major contrast to the last album; it’s loud, angular at times, more dynamic, more energetic, the vocals are more upfront.

TGE: "The Mirror" really struck me with the lyrics and I was wondering what in particular that single was about? Do you ever find that it's hard to include the best and worst of life into your writing and share it so openly? I ask because I have journals of terrible and good things that I'd be mortified if someone found.

RB: I also have journals that I would be mortified if ever read by another human being. I guess parts of The Mirror’s lyrics did come from journal-ish stream of thought, but at the time it felt perfectly natural singing it. Without too much detail, I will say that it was exactly how I felt at the time of recording, and while I am not that angry perso now, I am glad it was documented.

TGE: There are quite a collection of guest stars on this album. How did that come about and what was it about those particular musicians that drew you to include them on the project?

RB: The three people who are guest musicians are close friends of mine and happened to be around during the weeks we were in the studio. They were very gracious to contribute. Everything they added to completely made those songs for me. I love what they do and I love them as people.

TGE: You live in different, but close parts of the US. How does that work as far as collaborating and working on stuff together?

RB: It’s not so bad. Andrew and I are in pretty constant contact about something or other, music-related or not, because we are friends. When we practice Zoë and I usually go to NY together. When we write, Andrew and I hang out in one of our cities for a few days and bring our ideas to each other. It works.

TGE: When someone listens to Episodic for the first time what do you hope they hear? Like what message do you want the listeners to gather from it or what message do you hope is reflected in it?

RB: If people do find any of it relatable, I hope that it is helpful or comforting. There are a lot of defeats in there, but a lot of small victories too; it’s important to recognize and appreciate them.

mp3: "Thick Skin" - Bellows

The music of Bellows has been a constant security blanket for me, with their previously released Blue Breath soundtracking many of early morning and late night musings. "Thick Skin" is the first single from a brand new release Fist and Palm out 9/30 on Double Double Whammy. It's said to mark a drastic change in sound, and the joyous pop found in this first glimpse is a definite mark of that new identity. Despite its sunny sound, the lyrical content is much more poignant, a search for something you won't find and the surprising ability of emotion to appear, even when we think we're "thick skinned."

Album: Puberty 2 - Mitski

words: Jordan Gorsuch

Mitski Miyawaki perfectly captured the messiness of being a twentysomething on 2014's Bury Me At Makeout Creek, an emotional, chaotic album that detailed the scary realization that the "real world" is about to smack you in the face so it might be time to live a little dangerously. Puberty 2 is the aftermath, the afterparty that finds everyone feeling a little shitty and a little worried. The real world is here and now comes the adjustment. Finding happiness in waking up for a 9-to-5 can sound daunting, but Mitski saddles up for the challenge. While the answers feel realistically inadequate, the album itself is anything but.

"Happy" kicks off the album with a droning electro-drum beat and spectral, distant key strokes as Mitski details an encounter with the personification of happiness - a stand-in for a romantic encounter - that comes and goes, leaving her to pick up "all the cookie wrappers and empty cups of tea" used in aiding in his sexual gain and her temporary happiness. Happiness is fleeting, and she is left cleaning all evidence of its presence.

"Once More To See You" is reminiscent of the slow, woeful synth pop of the 60s with strong vocal melodies and deep bass lines that collide to bring about heartbreak. "If you would let me give you pinky promise kisses, then I wouldn't have to scream your name atop of every roof in the city of my heart."

"One morning this sadness will fossilize and I will forget how to cry" is the beginning line of Mitski's beautiful ode to modern-day cynicism titled "Fireworks." The simple, folksy guitar chords overlay the tinny drumbeat as the song swells around its emotional chorus. Personification pops up again in the form of a gentleman named Silence. Mitski describes shis silence as "a river that will never find home." No one is finding their happiness.

"Your Best American Girl" features the most fearless chorus that Mitski has ever penned. Her signature distorted guitar roars underneath a sugary vocal melody and the quiet/loud dynamics transport listeners to a time in the 90s when geeky boys in glasses were crafting the most anthemic heartbreakers around - well, not anymore. Mitski utilizes her complicated feelings of being an "outsider" to crystalize her insecurities into a fiery contender for song of the year.

"A Loving Feeling" sounds like a deep-cut from her previous album Bury Me At Makeout Creek. It buzzes and speeds through Mitski's blunt sentiment: "What do you do with a loving feeling if the loving feeling makes you all alone?" The cynicism runs deep as she even takes cheap shots at herself, a sweet piano melody underscoring her voice.

On "My Body's Made of Crushed Little Stars" Mitski gets her own "Holland, 1945" moment as she howls over blistering no-fi guitar chords. She grapples over her wanderlust and notes the daily anxiety that takes shape with paying rent and working under deadlines. It's a poignant protest in-between two of the more somber cuts on the album.

Puberty 2 feels like an intense field journal in song-form that is attempting to locate happiness and keep it. In addition, the album throws us deeply empathetic songs like "I Bet on Losing Dogs," and "Crack Baby" that give stunning character to subjects that most writers would never dream of undertaking. Mitski channels Annie Clark as she shares that she'll be on their side - she'll be losing by their side. She identifies with the downtrodden, and she sounds utterly sincere when she sings about these subjects.

This is simply one of the best albums of the year. Mitski almost sounds defeated between the pained chord changes featured on the closing track "A Burning Hill." Mitski dons the white button-down from the album cover as she seeks to project a happier, purer version of herself to the world. She seems to doubt her final resolution: "I'll love the littler things, I'll love some littler things." Well, I have no doubt, this is Mitski's best album to date.

podcast: The Grey Estates Podcast #3 with Sam Bielanski & Cristina Naccarato (PONY)

We're back! Three whole episodes of The Grey Estates Podcast! That's amazing! This week we welcome Sam Bielanski & Cristina Naccarato, two members of the amazing PONY and the creators behind our podcast theme song! Nowah explains it at the beginning, but we had to cut off a bit of the interview due to technical difficulties, but you should enjoy it anyways. These two are the sweetest! As always, subscribe on iTunes and leave your reviews! 

video: "Down Down Down" - The Coathangers

Gender has nothing to do with the music a band or artist makes, and our favorite trio, The Coathangers agree. In the video for "Down Down Down," one of the insanely incredible tracks from their Nosebleed Weekend release, the band pays tribute to those who paved the way, reminding us all that there's no such thing as "girl bands," it's all about the music and The Coathangers are making some of the best rock out there.

7": "I Think You're Alright"/"Rush" - Jay Som

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As often as I write, I still find myself struggling with the words to accurately describe my feelings. Whether I'm uttering romantic thoughts or trying to describe my anxious moments, I find that I'm awful at saying exactly how I feel. Jay Som essentially says everything I can't on the lovely new 7". "I Think You're Alright" is the A-side, a romantic, dreamy promise of all the things one could be and do for a partner. From brewing a morning cup of coffee to wiping their blood off the concrete, the track is gorgeous and growing, finishing with an ending of unruly instrumentals that perfectly echo the whirlwind of love. B-side "Rush" is breezy and bright, with its surf rock meet country twang encouraging listeners to stand their ground, and grow into their own. Together, the tracks act as a brief and beautiful reminder of all the words, thoughts and experiences we so often struggle to share. In about 7 minutes, Jay Som allows us to come into our own, and with a press of the play button, one never has to leave.

Toon Tunes: A Rigby Mix

curated by Jeremy Sroka

If you were to ask me what my favourite cartoon show is (I suppose, in a roundabout way, by you reading this post you kinda have asked me) I would probably go “ooooohhhhhhh!”. And if you didn’t join in, I would then (and only then) explain that I was doing an impression of the best catchphrase from the modern era’s best toon, REGULAR SHOW. If you haven’t seen it yet, I suggest you go fix that (I think some episodes are still on Netflix).

Now, even though I feel like I relate more to Mordecai, Rigby is a funner character to make a mix for (although, I’m pretty sure Mordecai would be pretty stoked to have this mix popped into the golf cart stereo). If you’d like a little primer on what kind of cat Rigby is (racoons are cats, right?), this video will give any of the uninitiated a pretty good idea

If you’d like a more in depth background on Rigby before listening to this mix, someone else has gone waaaay deeper on the topic than I could/would ever attempt, so I won’t. I’ll just add that my favourite moment on this mix is probably the heavy metal cover of the Double Dragon theme song. I wasn’t specifically looking for that, but goddamn if it isn’t absolutely perfect for this. Also, I ended up not being able to get 'Summertime Loving, Loving in the Summer (Time)’ to fit in anywhere on the mix, so go listen to that at your own peril if yr interested.

Album: Goodness - The Hotelier

words: Jordan Gorsuch

“Though nothing can bring back the hour Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower; We will grieve not, rather find Strength in what remains behind; In the primal sympathy Which having been must ever be...” ― William Wordsworth

On the third album from Massachusetts rock band The Hotelier, bassist/vocalist Christian Holden channels William Wordsworth for a far-reaching, impressive, innovative, optimistic, and flawed meditation on acceptance and finding the goodness in the world. New England's endless fields and lush wilderness set the stage for the album as Holden evokes transcendentalism, which recognizes the inherent goodness of humanity and the natural world, while also highlighting individuality and the value of meditation. Wordsworth famously hated city-life and would retreat back to nature to find joy again. He felt that tranquility in nature was the only way to tap into his powerful emotions that urban living snuffed out over time. There is no direct causation for the despair that The Hotelier are running from, but the band seeks answers in similar places.

"Goodness Pt. 2" represents a tapestry of instruments, disparate guitar chords and woe some bass lines converge with drums after a disjointed beginning. These elements interlock to create a beautiful, rousing song that represents the band's new image. The troubled beginning signals the struggle that the band had to put behind themselves in order to unlock their new sound/identity. It's a battle to embrace the happiness, the light in our lives. On the last album, The Hotelier thought it as impossible to find this sunlight, but it turns out it's just really damn hard. "Piano Player" opens with an exhilarating rush, the drums and guitars are loud and bright as the bass guides them along before a fade into darkness and the rise of uncommonly low-key vocals from Holden. After the first verse, the mixing levels off and everything is sonically placed, as we hear the new mantra: "sustain." He encourages us and himself to break out of the oppression and comfort of the dark forces that keep us down. Once we do, it is paramount that we stay in that light. Sustain.

"I don't know if I know love no more." He keeps searching for happiness, even in his doubt.

"Two Deliverances" features some lovely guitar picking and the rhythm section is especially assured. Christian's vocals are the most like their previous record, delivering a catchy chorus and and a heartbreakingly memorable bridge. It's a moment of emotional relapse that shines through the cracks in the exterior of his new and assured outlook. The bridge is chock-full of questions, questions he will never get the answers to; questions that we will never get answers to. He leans back to his naturalism for comfort and answers but recognizes that he cannot just drop his past in favor of moving forward. People constantly adapt and evolve, but our past hangs over us like an oppressive fog. Distinctive bass lines and double guitar melodies drift together on the notable "Settle the Scar." Very purposeful sequencing allows the listener to hear Christian leaning on old habits and themes after his moment of self-doubt on "Two Deliverances." Powerful illustrations of comparing his relationship to wrong turns on a road, a shaky Venn Diagram, a dull picture book, and brick and mortar that can never repair, the collapsing walls of a failed relationship. "I am shaking off my chagrin, flaking snow, and dead skin that buried me in all my past mistakes." He is searching for Buddhism's fabled middle path.

"Opening Mail For My Grandmother" is a beautiful, soft, introspective centerpiece. It signals a transitional period for a band that is looking for new ways to write about the world and express tough feelings. This song and the album cover depict elderly beauty and power. Taking the time to breathe life into the people we turn into after our melodramatic youth, the people that are often overlooked and taken for granted. It's a powerful concept in the midst of a style of music that is chiefly focused on the heartbreak and discovery of youth.

"This isn't Home #2, this is a transition. You have to find a way out. You can't live in anguish your whole life," Holden concluded in a recent interview with Stereogum. He's right, this is not a continuation of the overwhelming tragedy found in the heightened emotional stakes of young experience. Goodness, more than anything, broadcasts that personal tragedies are going to hit us as we age, and with each hit, we'll be more ready for the next. Eventually, you're conditioned for the hardships of living, and then you get to move on. The Hotelier never gave their listeners an answer about what comes after the wreckage of their break-out album; however, they give us a sort of map to happiness, and the light shining at the end of our individual tunnels might appear brighter after spending some time with this musical offering.

Interview: Told Slant

Words: Alex Wexelman

Over email I ask Felix Walworth what, in retrospect, is a dumb question: What do you wish your fans understood about you? Their answer was a resounding, “nothing!” It seems obvious enough. Walworth already gives so much of themselves through their lyrics in musical project Told Slant that revealing anything more would strip them bare. 

Going By, Told Slant’s sophomore LP out now on Double Double Whammy, is as life affirming as it is heartbreaking; it oscillates between the highest highs and lowest lows inflicting on the listener the emotional heft of both the sender and recipient of a break-up text. 

Felix brings the candor of their songwriting to their detailed answers of my questions. Read our interview below. 

Photo: Richard Gin

Photo: Richard Gin

TGE: Going By will be your first release in four years. You've been playing a few of these songs live for several years, but did the album come together across those four years or was there a concentrated effort to put a full album together? 

Felix Walworth: Going By took a very long time to put together! I’m hesitant to call it a “concentrated effort,” because for much of the writing process I wasn’t exactly sure what the record was trying to say, or what I wanted its points of return and reference to look like. Those things revealed themselves as I began recording.

TGE: Your music often touches upon personal themes, but manages to stay universal. Do you have an intended audience when you write? If so, who?

FW: I’m not sure I’d call my music universal, but I do find it useful to search for broad meaning in personal experience or small moments. I’m writing for people who have found themselves in a state of illegibility in an otherwise ordered world. 

TGE: Has your songwriting process changed over the years? 

FX: My songwriting process hasn’t really changed since I began writing songs. I tend to walk around thinking of different melodies and words, and wait until I find a melody and language combination that I feel works to the larger goal of what I’d like to try to explore with a song. I almost never write with any instruments present, but I’ll write out basic chords on guitar after I’ve finished all the melodies and lyrics for a song.

TGE: What mood inspires you most to write? Do you feel more motivated by happiness or sadness? 

FW: I think sadness gets me more motivated to write, but often draws out sloppier, less articulate, over-specific songwriting from me. I think I’m better at using the broad brush when I’m upset, but without specificity I can’t really access secret angles that I try to access with my songwriting. I take a lot of time with my songwriting, so it’s pretty rare to find an entire song written within the context of a particular mood, and I think it can be important to give yourself time and space to approach an idea from different places.

TGE: With each member reaching a larger audience in the past few years, how has the Epoch been evolving to keep up with your budding careers? What have been the positive and negative effects of your growing profiles?

FW: The Epoch has been an experiment in mutual support, creative community, non hierarchical decision making, and skill sharing. I’m not sure it has changed much since its beginnings, but over time I’ve noticed what works and what doesn’t about an organizational structure like this. First off, I don’t really believe there is such thing as non-hierarchical structure. I believe that folks can keep non-hierarchy in mind when approaching decision making processes, but I think power always seeps into the cracks and inevitably creates disparities that always have to be called into question, discussed, worked on. Like all other non-hierarchical spaces I have occupied, The Epoch has struggled with dissensus where consensus isn’t possible. On the other hand, with all of this messiness comes a wealth of creative energy, and a level of commitment to one another’s projects that can be very rare. It’s a lot like a V of geese. We are constantly losing things, gaining things, changing shape and form, but trying to do it together. 

TGE: Which artists challenge you the most to evolve as a songwriter?

FW: There is a band called Loone who I just came off of a very long tour with, who have a very different approach to songwriting than I do. Noel’le, who writes the words for the project, writes with descriptive, world-painting language that asks you to leave your grief and tiredness and join her somewhere else, in some other space where those things can be safely and lovingly unfolded. It’s music about showing up for people in a sort of shepherding sense, but instead of sheep we’re a bunch of queer freaks who are having a hard time finding each other. Seeing Loone perform each night was an experience in collective healing. I’ve been feeling totally inspired and I hope that I can do for other folks with my songwriting what Loone was able to do for me over the course of that tour.

TGE: One obvious sonic shift from Still Water is the addition of vocals from Emily, Oliver and Gabrielle. What was the motivation behind adding them to the performances?

FW: Recording this album was a pretty isolated process for the most part, and the songs themselves explore a certain kind of contextlessness. Other voices appearing on the album was a way of pushing back at detached feelings, and of trying to look to relationships for some meaning or sense of self. There is a lot of asking happening on this record. Lots of grasping, too.

TGE: You and Emily both sing about creeks often in your lyrics. What do the references to bodies of water and, creeks in particular, evoke for you?

FW: I’ll never tell you what water means to me! It has meant quite a few different things in different contexts, and I’m sure Emily’s water has a different significance than my own. Sorry for not answering this question, but I’m pretty sure you don’t want to know. Art is no fun if you can’t write your own meaning on it.

TGE: What would you say the main themes of your lyrics are?

FW: Legibility, assemblage, unclear relationship with oneself, distance, asking, becoming, unbecoming, and water.

TGE: Is writing a cathartic experience for you?

FW: Not really. Or, at least, writing doesn’t lift a weight from my chest. It is not a process of translating feelings into something useful, but rather an exercise in a sort of archiving or mapping of feelings. Or of trash fires. There is no “ah yes!” or “now I understand.” I think it’s more like “let me try to figure out what happened here, and how to revere or deconstruct this idea or this feeling.” I wonder if people think that I write songs in a fit of emotion with an acoustic guitar…Really I’m just walking around my neighborhood singing to myself like a weirdo.

TGE: Your songs have always been about very specific moments and memories. Is it ever difficult to perform them live as a result of this?

FW: It can be difficult to perform a song shortly after it’s written, but in general my words have meanings that shift and change over time. They might be about specific people and places, but in different contexts I can read them and perform them in service of other things. The songs don’t exist in a static or congealed sense just because they’re finished. Instead we grow around each other.

TGE: Who in your musical circle, Epoch members aside, do you think deserves more recognition? 

FW: Hello Shark has some of the most beautiful lyrical moments I’ve ever heard from any songwriter. Lincoln, who writes for that project, has a way of accessing secret emotional places with a series of small thoughts, fragmented memories, and glances around his surroundings. His songwriting has been hugely inspirational for me. 

Anna McClellan, who I toured with recently, is an amazing songwriter from Omaha, Nebraska. Lots of wisdom in her lyrics, and an almost structureless, meandering approach to arrangement. Her songwriting is really concise and direct, and her voice and piano playing are both really amazing! Gabby, Oliver, and I have called her a “sly master.”

Yowler is another project y’all should check out. Maryn put out her first record under this moniker on Double Double Whammy last year, and it’s been one of my favorite records for a while. Utterly despairing words and sounds, feelings of stuckness, freezing, sitting, lack of movement in general under the weight of something huge. I don’t think my record is anything like this, but I was listening to Maryn’s music on repeat while I was recording Going By.

Other folks you ought to listen to: Loone, Emily Reo, Attic Abasement, Crying, Trace Mountains, Vagabon, Palm, Advance Base, Hand Habits. All of these projects mean a lot to me.

mp3: "Not Dead Yet" & "Bike Riding" - Brunch Club

Maybe it's because I internalize all music to somehow fit whatever I'm going through, but the two singles from Brunch Club's DEMOS are kind of the perfect blanket to cover any life woes. "Not Dead Yet" is a jangly beautiful glimmer of hope, a reminder that no matter how fast the time goes, we're still here and should revel in the moment. While "Bike Riding" uses breezy strumming and deeply honest melodies to bring a tale of riding a bike with the chain undone to life. But it's more than just a bike ride, as the single is one of admittance, acknowledging life faults, shrugging them off and finding the hope in today. Find your own inner peace or just a new way of looking at things with the music of Brunch Club.