By Maureen Odell
Not too long ago I revealed in this very publication that I was a "staunch anti-sisters Of Mercy activist". That is, I am usually not one who favours the adornment of death rock garb while listening to the pessimistic wails of mortality and morbidity.
It was also not too long ago that I found myself completely and utterly enamored with the brilliant Fields Of The Nephilim, a British quintet that is, sadly and wrongly, often mentioned in the same breath alongside Andy and Patty.
Fortunately you groovy readers cannot shout "hypocrite" at me because I obtained the information right from the mouths of Fields bassist Tony Pettit and lovely vocalist Carl McCoy on where Fields Of The Nephilim stand in relation to the Sisters ("I think we're worlds away"). This and other more pleasurable subjects were discussed when they visited California on their second US tour.
Fields Of The Nephilim formed over twelve years ago in Stevenage, England. After several brief stints in various "unknown and unnamed bands" McCoy, Pettit, drummer Nod Wright and guitarist Paul Wright and Peter Yates (he replacing another guitarist early on) pooled their talents together and FOTN resulted. "Basically we all got together because we all ended up living in the same place at the same time. We didn't advertise or audition members or anything like that. It was great. It works. It's worked from our first rehearsal really," says McCoy. "We started playing our music that made us feel good, and it's just gone from there."
What exactly is Fields Of The Nephilim music? What is the secret sound that has these guys basking in one of the biggest, if not the biggest, underground following in Britain? McCoy explains, "In England they call us a 'goth' band. I don't know what they mean by that. It just seems to be a label for bands that are on the more gloomier side."
Pettit interjects, "It (the music) is pretty dark, but I think a lot of it is not dark."
McCoy continues, "I find our music really uplifting. I don't find it dark and gloomy. We're not slow and boring. I don't think we fit into that category. It's (the music) really hard to define. We don't like to give ourselves a label because as soon as you give yourself a label you're limited. You limit yourself. Whether we're called a 'death-rock' band or a 'goth-rock' band or whatever it is we're labelled as, we're the best at it."
And what about those frightening Sisters Of Mercy sound comparisons constantly haunting the band wherever they go?? "It's a shame really," states McCoy. "When the Sisters started people were saying 'Bauhaus rip-offs'. When we started the Sisters were about as well, but people weren't saying it then. It's only when the Sisters split up that people were saying it. It's a shame. I think we're worlds away. They're taking a different path. They just want to be a pop band and that's what they are. I just don't like to be compared to them cause I don't think we're like them!"
Carl McCoy isn't alone in his praise of his own favorite band. Plenty of British record buyers are agreeing with McCoy these days, proving he's not the only one who feels that Fields Of The Nephilim are the best at what they do. The band's second album entitled 'The Nephilim' leaped all the way to number four on the English national chart, and the only single to be taken from the LP, 'Moonchild', climbed into the top 20 on the singles chart. Not bad for a band whose tremendous debut album 'Dawnrazor' remained at the top of the UK independent chart for months on end, but failed to do much in the nationals. "We don't like to take singles off the albums really. The 'Moonchild' single went well into the twenties which is amazing cause it stood out like a sore thumb. So odd amongst all that disco and plastic music. Daytime radio refused to play it. It was a great feeling," states McCoy. "We were reluctant to even take a single off this last album," Pettit adds.
Speaking of 'The Nephilim,' what was it that attracted so many new people to this second effort and not to 'Dawnrazor?' "We allowed ourselves a certain amount of time to just specifically write an album. With the first album we had been playing together a couple of years before we actually went and recorded our first album. So when we did it ('Dawnrazor') it was like a collection of all songs we'd been playing the last few years. Whereas this album was like a fresh project. So now it's more finished, more complete sounding. It's much more of an honest album," McCoy reasons.
"It's smoother sounding. The first album was probably recorded a lot cheaper than the second one. I prefer the second to the first album. Production wise and everything it still could have been better. We did it all live, again, did it all in one go. We went for the performance rather than the production," explains Pettit as McCoy concludes, "We were much more interested in capturing the feel of the song, the emotions. That's a lot more important to us... the feel of a song as opposed to the production of a song."
What are some of the lyrical inspirations that would constitute a correct feel for a FOTN tune? "Most of my lyrics, they come from inside of me, feelings and emotions," explains lyricist McCoy. "Things that I've experienced. It's hard to explain because a lot of them are not about, sort of, material possessions and things. I don't write songs about cars, and I don't write songs about money or anything like that. My songs are more to do with the other side of my life, not this physical sort of existence. It's a big subject to think about."
Following the completion of a record, how does one go about transferring that final vinyl verdict to the stage? Well, no one could tell you better than FOTN. If there's one thing Fields Of The Nephilim is it's one of the most powerful live bands I've ever seen. Carl has these thoughts. "I think we certainly open up another world for our audience. A chance they only get with a band like us. I don't think there's a lot of shows that people can come to see a band and actually have the sort of experience they can at some of our better shows. We look at them as more of events rather than gigs in England. There's a lot they get out of it which you can't write down in words. It's a feeling. We like to create that feeling" he points out. "They didn't understand us when we started in England. They really didn't know what we were all about. All they did was to come to the gigs and say that it was a good feeling, but they couldn't describe exactly how or pinpoint what they liked about us. Since then it's grown. It's really good."
Now that Fields Of The Nephilim have conquered the UK underground and have given a good, firm jolt to the British mainstream, both live and on record, can America be far behind? "We've got a massive underground following in England. It's brilliant. We're in the best position we could possibly be in England. We just gotta try to do the same thing here. If we could do what we've done in England over here, it'll be great. We want to achieve what we've achieved in England. (then tour here for more than just nine dates... -Editor) I think we want to show them (Americans) what a real English band is like. Which is what we are. We don't want to do the typical up the ladder thing like most bands do. They're not worried about having a good history of music behind them and we are," declares McCoy, concluding, "We're really proud of what we do."