Talk to any aspiring artist and you can bet that they would sell every scrap of hair off their head (and nostrils for that matter) for any kind of big break.For Field Report, perhaps it was a series of well-received gigs in March at South by Southwest or maybe it was opening for Counting Crowes this past summer or was it once being band-mates with Justin Vernon? The funny thing is, Field Report never even played a show before this year’s SXSW; there must be something in the lyrics.
Led by Christopher Porterfield (Field Report is an anagram of “Porterfield”), the singer-songwriter has created a quenching interest from those with mature ears. By creating a poetic sense of place and character with an interesting yet generous splattering of proper nouns, Porterfield writes about himself and the people he’s observed: cinema-graphic, thought-provoking and un-forgivingly raw.
Saying the six piece folk band was a work in progress would be putting it generously. Porterfield – who from 2003 to 2005 played in DeYarmond Edison, the seminal Wisconsin band that included Vernon (Bon Iver) and three members of Megafun– spent years honing and prepping his style in his current home of Milwaukee.While Bon Iver has elevated its woodsy namesake to a step just below Arcade Fire popularity, and Megafaun is quickly building a solid fan base, people have been waiting for Porterfield to nail his creativity to a higher platform. After five years crafting songs for his debut LP, Porterfield has finally come through with his critically praised final product. Before gearing up to open a run of shows for Aimee Mann, Porterfield gave us a few words here and there about the playing days of Field Report.
You’ve had a lot of positive press from amongst the likes of Rolling Stone and most recently Billboard.How much did your performances at SXSW in March have to do with you gaining momentum?
SXSW were our first shows. We've probably played nearly 100 since then. We've certainly gained momentum as a band. The energy around the band seems to be growing too. We're just following that.
The ten song album deals with redemption andself sabotage through drugs and drink – how much of the songs were autobiographical – and do you feel you revealed too much of yourself through this song cycle?
It's easier to be honest with strangers. I'm kind of dreading having some of my family hear the record.
You commonly use proper nouns in your songs- something that Neil Young and others use –do you feel it helps gain traction amongst listeners?
Proper nouns help the listener triangulate where they are in the stories. Some of the narratives are a bit oblique; people and places they've heard of give them something to figure out where they are.
You question your place in the world geographically through you songs – do you feel as if you’ve become more comfortable with your place through writing this album and how would you describe your current place?
Over the course of writing, recording and touring this record, I've come to learn that home is where you have your loved ones with you. Nothing else matters- every place is great and terrible. Restlessness is either is symptom of or an excuse to put off doing important things.
The recording is very lyrically deep and isn’t musically catchy in a rhythmic way but in turn is a an album to be heard from beginning to end –do you have any concerns that this recording might fall on deaf ears as the general listening public has a more impatient ear these days?
I didn't think we were talking to a very large audience. It's already gotten a far larger following than I anticipated. If anybody hears it and feels something, that's a win for me.
How much did the breakup of DeYarmond Edison cause a creative spurt and looking back now – does it all make sense in some ways why things happened the way they did?
I've learned to trust your instincts. Don't do anything that doesn't feel right.
Do you feel there is things you are trying to accomplish vocally that you may not have done before?How would you define yourself as singer and was there always a sound or genre that you were going for?
No genre… just an honest performance. I think I've grown as a singer since the record was made, actually. I haven't listened to it since we finished it. I don't think I can. I don't want to hear how much more capable we are now.
How did Adam Durwitz get hold of your music and what was it like opening for an established touring outfit like Counting Crowes?What was the response from their fans?
Their team and fans were incredibly gracious. Our being able to connect with them was kind of the first real inkling that we might be talking to and connecting with more people than I thought.
Imagine having a long and rewarding recording career – what types of albums do you hope to make?
I have no idea what the next one will sound like, but I've already written a few songs for it. I want a career where there is trust between us and the audience to follow whatever direction we need to go to make honest music. The rest are details that will get filled in when we get there.