School of Language: Pop Parameters

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A mere three years ago, the Sunderland, England-based trio known as Field Music surfaced with some of the most multi-dimensional indie-pop tracks this side of the Arcade Fire. Led by brothers David and Peter Brewis, both of whom have played and collaborated with fellow Sunderland residents The Furtureheads, Field Music quickly enraptured fans both in the U.K. and Stateside with its 2005 self-titled debut and 2007’s Tones of Town. But, much to the frustration of fans that loved their pop bridled with classic Brit-flavor and computer-friendly effects, the group announced a collective hiatus last year. Field Music decided operate more as a brand than a unit, giving band members time to explore solo terrain. Out of that decision comes the first of such endeavors–School of Language.

“This is the first time I recorded with a laptop. Everything Field Music did before was with analog tape,” says School of Language’s sole member, David Brewis. “I had this idea to lessen the gap between writing the songs and the finished recording. With this type of recording, you don’t have to decide what the structure of the songs is going to be before you actually start recording the real thing.”

And the restriction-free essence of SOL’s forthcoming (February 5, 2008, to be exact) Thrill Jockey debut, Sea From Shore, is apparent. Instead of following the overtly acoustic instrumentation of Field Music’s past, Brewis’ new indie brainchild beams with sequenced experimental vocal samples mixed with the Futureheads-esque instrumental pop Brewis has become synonymous with (See Q and Not U, The Beatles, and XTC).

After a brief, bi-continental record swap with Thrill Jockey founder Bettina Richards, School of Language fast had a Stateside home. “Betina came to a Field Music gig in Chicago of March 2007, and we didn’t have a particularly good gig. I was probably at the merch table in a bit of a bad mood. She came over, said hello, and told me she’d like to send me some Thrill Jockey records,” remembers Brewis. “In return, I sent her some things I had been doing, and that was that. If only all label things could be that way.”

The label quickly welcomed Brewis and his newfound pop formula by inviting him to play Thrill Jockey’s 15-year anniversary celebration this past December, alongside the likes of Tortoise, The Sea and Cake, Trans AM, The Fiery Furnaces, and many more newly signed and classic acts. While Brewis as School of Language has, in effect, only performed solo with an acoustic guitar, Thrill Jockey had a more epic plan in mind for the event. “Thrill Jockey kindly found me a band to play with. That’s an experience I haven’t [had] all that much,” says Brewis. “The Field Music members and I have played together for, like, 15 years! We don’t play with strangers.”

Despite Brewis’ collaborative Field Music camraderie, he still intends to bring in a new band for future live endeavors. “I wanna punish people with volume a little more–make it something you can’t ignore.”