Field Guide Riding a Wave of Feel-Good Indie Rock
Field Guide is too busy having a good time to think morbid thoughts.
When Joshua Luttrull, Ivette Colon and Vincent and Victor Bui first crossed paths in junior high, they had no idea that they would one day share the stage. Many years later, the band known as Field Guide came to form their unique brand of breezy, psych-tinged indie rock.
With shows lined up next weekend for the coOompound's farewell show and King Camel's Camelversary at the end of the month, Field Guide's getting in on as much Dallas action as they can. "They pretty much rule," says King Camel owner Jeffrey Brown.
Field Guide got their start with Luttrull’s work on a solo project, where he first recorded early versions of what would become the band's debut single, “Stay Lit,” alongside Vincent. But those early beginnings made for a rocky start as the pair tried to fill out a workable lineup. "The floating lineup thing was more stressful than anything, really," says Lutrull. "Like, we'd get offered shows and Vincent would have to text around to see if anyone could play drums for us before we could say yes to the show."
Finally, a few chance encounters on the UTD campus, and some coOompound (pause for a moment of silence) shows later, Colon entered the fold, bringing her vocal and songwriting talents. After a few studio sessions on bass, Victor joined the group, leaving only a hole where the drummer should be. After cycling through several temporary solutions, studio drummer Nate Litz added the last piece of the puzzle.
"It felt like a perfect fit," says Lutrull. "Not only to have someone as multi-talented as him, but also one of our closest friends consistently there at rehearsals and gigs made the band feel complete — at least for me."
Still, Field Guide have proven productive in their first year together, churning out five songs so far in the studio and building a buzz with their upbeat, energetic performances. Their most recent single, “Red Line,” is a simultaneously acerbic and haunting jam with slick guitar, lilting vocals and a shoegaze finish. It’s B-side, “Chinese New Year,” is equally excellent, brandishing an uncanny breadth of talent and style. It's accessible stuff, never harsh and always remembering to have fun with itself.
"I just get tunes stuck in my head during the day. But those intermingle with the day-to-day actions that I have to do, and so it becomes a kind of stream of consciousness — a kind of absent-minded humming that you do," says Colon, who brandishes a particularly strong influence on the band's songwriting. "I tend to write from an observer's point of view rather than as an active participant, although it's only because I paused in the middle of my participation to look around."
The band draws on an eclectic group of influences, citing everything from Bob Dylan and Fleetwood Mac to Modest Mouse and Television. There's a healthy dose of '80s synth pop and shoegaze, too. But they have no desire to imitate. "As far as influences go, we've never really had conversations about what type of band we wanted to be or who we wanted to sound like," Lutrull says. "We'll say, 'I kinda want the drums to come in like they do at this part in this Fleetwood Mac song,' or, 'I was listening to this Sufjan song, I think it'd be really cool if we took this idea and used it like this.'"
Sometimes the influences are more apparent, like when they included a cover of Camera Obscura’s “Books Written for Girls” as the B-side to their second single, “Filtered,” at the suggestion of Colon, who wanted to pay tribute to a close friend who passed away. But she says working with the other members of the band has also given her the confidence to develop her own songwriting.
"I didn't know how to express particular ideas because I thought I might not be respected as a songwriter. That people wouldn't take me seriously because I was a 19-year-old girl," Colon says. "[But] they were my friends."
Field Guide's busy at work on their debut album, The Best Friends I Ever Had, which will be released view Luttrull and Terrence Shipp's band-turned-label, Art for Motels. It's due to be released before the end of the summer, but Luttrull is busy with plenty else as well: "We have a couple projects in the works," he says of the label. "Obviously, the Field Guide album is coming out sometime soon. Plus we're starting work on our annual compilation which will feature unreleased tracks from about a dozen of our friends. We're hoping for a fall release on that one."
The band has hometown pride. "People I know are always writing off Dallas in favor of more 'creative' cities, and move away," Colon says. "I love being here, and I love my friends that are here, and as Josh says, you'll never love somewhere more than your home."
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