Fielded: Interview

Back in October I found myself in London at the same time as Fielded, who was in town to perform with installation artist, Naama Tsabar. I took the opportunity to sit down with her for an interview, where we spoke about her new EP, Young Medusa, as well as displaying vulnerability through art, keeping things varied and learning to enjoy the act of collaborating.

The interview has been slightly edited for clarity.

You’ve been working with Naama Tsabar recently, how did that collaboration come about?  

So, seven years ago, she asked me to do an art piece, where I performed my own music at the Frieze Art Fair. Then after that, she built what almost looks like a freestanding corner of a room, so it’s two white walls meeting, and then inside one of the walls is a guitar and a bass. Then on the other wall you can sing into a built-in vocal chamber. So, she asked me to compose a piece on this wall, which I did at the Guggenheim, and since then we’ve been working together. I’ve performed that piece maybe six or seven times, all around the world, which is fucking awesome. I owe her so much. And then we do what you’ll see tonight, which is really different from the wall piece. The wall piece is its own thing, but tonight it is amplifiers attached to pieces of felt, which have strings on them… 

I’ve seen snippets from the clips and photos you’ve been posting. I saw one of you with a bank of microphones above your head. It looks very interesting. 

Yeah, so the microphones are plugged into amplifiers that she built, these beautiful amplifiers that are in the walls. So, each mic is connected to a different amplifier.  

That sounds really cool. 

Oh yeah, her work is amazing. I feel so honoured to work with her. 

Like a true visionary. 

Oh my god, yes. I was thinking about it during rehearsal yesterday, like she was the first person to think of this string and felt thing, and she totally has a trademark on it. And she’s developing a whole new set of pieces for Miami Art Basel, which I’m going to be at with her.  

I find it amazing when anyone manages to come up with new ideas, using the same tools we’ve all had at our disposal for so long.  

Oh yeah totally. She has other pieces that are amazing, like a double guitar… she’s a genius. And also inspiring as a woman in music too, the way she does business and the way she speaks to people. She’s such an amazing producer, in that she’s so good at being kind but firm with the people that she works with. Which is inspiring because it’s good to know that you can be firm with people, but in a way that’s constructive. 

Now I was quite late to discovering your music. It wasn’t until your features on the billy woods songs that I first heard you sing, but I know you’d been active a long time before that. What was it that first drew you into music? Was there much early inspiration? 

Oh yeah. My sister and I have been making music together forever, like since we were kids. My parents were in a band while I was growing up, and my dad is still in a band. So growing up there was always music around and then my sister and I just became obsessed with it. I took piano lessons, I took singing lessons, but I never quite gelled with being in a chorus or singing with people. Like I always had my own agenda with music. So my own professional relationship started early, at maybe 17. That was the first time I went on tour and I’ve been making music ever since. I started Fielded when I was 21 and that is a while ago now [laughs]… so I’ve doing that for a while and it’s changed a lot. For me it was always like I was in lots of bands with men and I just always felt like I didn’t have my own creative voice, and so Fielded for me was this way to escape, to escape everything really. It started as an experimental sound project, with my voice and then it built into something that was more sort of dark pop, and now it’s very poppy I would say. I don’t even know how to… I’m so bad with genre. 

I don’t even think it’s necessary anymore, to be bothered by genre titles. So, you’ve got all these sounds and creative directions you’re moving in; is that important to you, to keep that variation going? 

Oh definitely. I love working with different people, collaboration is super important to me. I didn’t realise that until later, I think because I felt so suffocated in my early 20’s. My personality was on fire and I was just like, “Let’s do this NOW, I need everything now”, and so collaboration wasn’t a thing for me. I wanted to show that I was a female who could produce, who could make beats, who could make a whole record myself; that was really important to me. Before Demisexual Lovelace I made an album called Drip Drip, where I completely produced that, everything from top to bottom and that was the first time where I realised that this is not the way to make something; this is miserable. I’m proud of that record because it feels like a business card for showing what I can do, but it’s so much more fun to collaborate with folks, and to do different things. Like the stuff I do with Naama, there’s a different voice that comes with that. There’s a different way I sing because of the way the felt sounds and the way the song structures move; it’s just a different experience. Then with woods and ELUCID, that brings out a totally different part of me. Fielded is always different, every album is really different. I feel like as a musician I have so many moods and I have so many different ways that I want to express myself, so as many ways as possible is the way I want to do things. 

Demisexual Lovelace was the first album that properly introduced me to your music. It was a very honest record and I know you were going through some stuff at the time, so how did it feel to create something like that and then share it with the world? Was there any sense of vulnerability when you put it out? 

Oh yeah. I almost feel more comfortable with being that vulnerable though. I’m just a natural over-sharer anyway, that’s my personality… I definitely felt nervous about certain songs, but overall I felt, because I worked on it with my collaborator, Dave Lackner, I felt really confident because he felt really confident with it. I almost feel more vulnerable about the new EP, because it’s less deep and it’s more about having fun with the production. So, I almost feel more insecure about that, because it’s not deep enough, we’re not brooding over something like love lost, it’s lighter subject matter. So, I’m wondering are people going to think it’s shallow? [laughs].

I’m always interested in the idea of creativity as a cathartic process, so did it help you to make that album? 

Oh yes, absolutely. That’s how I work things out for sure, through songwriting. It’s a very therapeutic outlet for me. 

And is it easy for you to be creative when you’re feeling like that? For me personally, I suffer from my own mental health issues, for example, and I find that I can write when I feel like that, but it comes out pretty dark. 

Yeah, it’s hard to say. Full disclosure, I’m on a lot of medication right now after I was diagnosed bipolar and it’s kinda the first time in my life where I’ve been on a pretty even keel. I’ve rode out so many manic episodes throughout my life and I can’t write in the low lows, or in the high highs. It’s almost on the verge of the high where I’m like, I could write a whole album in two weeks! But now, it’s an interesting experience… so, no I don’t find it easy to write when I’m depressed, but collaboration helps in those moments, because it forces me to do it. And now I’m a little more prone to depression, I definitely feel that sometimes I’m like, “What’s the fucking point?”, and then I remember that this is really fun. So, now I’m on more of an even keel and I’m able to deal with my day-to-day in a way that probably most people are able to, it’s easier to build little pockets of time to write and it’s almost more intentional. But then the way melodies come to me – not to be cheesy – but it always feels like a really spiritual thing. It feels like it just comes from somewhere, it pops into my head and then I write these full songs without any accompaniment. 

So, do these melodies appear when you’re out and about doing your other jobs? 

Oh yeah, all the time. 

Do you then have to stop and get it down? 

I normally just voice record. Or if I’m at my serving job, I’ll go into the bathroom… luckily with my other job, I do deliveries so I’m in my car a lot, so I can record in there. With the new EP I wrote every song a cappella and then Dave put the chord sound for every song, and it was a really fun way to work. 

Yeah, it sounds like it. So Dave Lackner has worked on the last two Fielded projects? 

Yeah, I’d say Dave is almost a part of Fielded by this point. I really enjoy writing with him, he’s so intuitive. He can hear what I hear in my head, which is so important. And his chord progressions are much more interesting than mine could ever be… I’m way more of a vocalist than I am a pianist. And Willie Green also worked on it. 

That’s what I was about to ask, because I know he’s been on board in the past as well. 

Yeah, he made all the beats and was kind of like the overseer in terms of the production. Then Dave and my friend Adrian Knight both played quite a bit on the album. They did their own thing, so we all had a little hand in the production. So everyone did their bit, but Willie Green was really overseeing the whole thing. I would say even his mixes alone are a form of production, because he brings so much life to the songs. Like I felt as though he gave every song on Demisexual Lovelace its own language, which I really appreciate. This EP is actually my first time professionally recording a project and it almost feels uncomfortable, because everything is so clean and well produced. I’m like, “Shouldn’t it sound like shit?” [laughs], and he’s like, “No, this is what a studio sounds like…”, so I had to get used to the sound. 

[laughs] But you like it now? 

Oh yeah, I’m digging it. 

Just sticking with Demisexual Lovelace for a minute, because there was one track in particular that interested me. On Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool you talk about your experiences with Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, and I’ve dealt with my own co-dependency issues over the years, which stemmed from a lack of love for myself essentially. But I’ve worked through it and now I’m in a really good place. Was that the same for you? Was it similar circumstances? 

Oh my god. I mean I have to work so hard on my co-dependency… 

I think you said in an interview with Bandcamp, that it came from the female position in society and that you’re taught that co-dependency is part of that… 

Oh absolutely, it’s definitely something that is taught. But also, I choose avoidant partners, that’s part of my problem. The less attention you give me, the more I’m going to want to date you. But I’m working on it and it’s changing. I would say that group really helped. I’ve worked through a few different programs, so I’m always doing self-help stuff. I’m always pursuing a better version of myself, which is its own addiction in a way. But yeah, I think it is a self-worth thing, just reminding yourself of your own value. You don’t need someone to reflect that you’re worthy, you just have to know that you’re worthy, which is hard. 

Oh yeah, it’s very hard. And have you felt a change in your creativity as you’ve worked through those issues? 

Yeah, I think it’s got a little lighter. I still find myself writing sad love songs about wanting more from somebody and not getting it, but also there’s other stuff to explore; there’s other subject matter that’s interesting to me now. I was just thinking recently about whether I’ll ever be a mother and I got really selfishly excited about the idea of me being a mother, because imagine the songs that would come out of being a mom and having a family! That would totally change your perspective on what you wanted to write about. So yeah, it’s always changing. The more comfortable with myself I am, the more I’m open to trying different things and working with more people. When I was at my lowest, I didn’t want to work with anybody. I was just pushing people away left and right, because I didn’t really feel worthy of the attention but I also felt like I had something to prove by myself. And now I’m just happy to be making music. 

And do you find the results are better now because of that? Or maybe ‘better’ is the wrong word… 

I’m so hard on myself, I’m definitely my own worst critic. That’s going to be my lifelong struggle. But I’d say it’s evolving in its accessibility – emotionally, lyrically… even in the melodies. It’s taken on a language that’s more widely understood. 

With your songwriting, have you ever tried writing for anyone else? 

No, I’ve never done that and people bring it up quite a lot. Like they say, “You should do this”, and I say I would if I was ever given the opportunity… 

So is that what it is, the opportunity hasn’t arisen? 

Oh yeah, I’ve never had that opportunity, but I would totally do that. It sounds really fun. In my mid-20’s, I went to LA and I tried to be a pop songwriter. But it was so hard to get into that game, it was just so cutthroat and cliquey. So, for me it would have to come up organically. Like if I was invited to a songwriting camp, or someone reached out to me and asked me to come and write for them… but pursuing that? Oh my god, it was just not for me. 

Now lastly, I want talk about the project that you’re working on with The Lasso, because you strike me as quite similar in some ways, like needing the different forms of creativity for example… 

Oh yeah, it’s so fun. Originally I was writing songs and then sending them to him to produce, but we found that the best way for us to work is for him to make the beat or the track, and then for me to record over it. 

And he came to stay with you right? 

Yeah and he’s just such an easygoing, chilled guy. His personality is so unusual, he’s a very one-of-a-kind person, I would say, and so his way of working is so laid-back, accessible and fun. Plus he’s so psyched on everything, so it’s really encouraging. We made one track together which we feel really good about, so we’ve still got a long way to go before we make a full album, but I definitely feel like I trust him to make the music completely and just for me to be the vocalist. He’s the perfect person for that. 

So you’ve got the new EP and The Lasso thing; is there anything else on the horizon? 

For right now that’s it. But hopefully another EP soon… I have a bunch of songs, I just need to produce them. 

And will that be a Fielded thing? 

Yeah, Fielded is my main focus. So yeah, mainly just trying to produce the songs that I have written, getting more music out. Maybe vinyl, maybe not, because the line is so long [laughs]. Who knows?

Young Medusa is out now via Backwoodz Studioz.

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