Interview with Eric Gaffney from the Field Of Gaffney. An ex-member of Sebadoh. By Marcel Thee, via email.
Can you tell us a little about the FIELDS OF GAFNEY for those who only knew you through Sebadoh? How did you meet the other members (Jessica Cowley and Richard Marshall) of the band?
Yeh. I’d been working on the ‘Fields’ for 3 years before meeting Richard, who used to play guitar in Alice Donut in New York, and Jessica, who played bass in one band and drums in another when we met. They’re both quite versatile like myself. I met them both here in San Francisco.
Why did you decide to form a band rather than continue as a solo artist?
Well, I like being in a band ya know. I’ve been in bands on and off for 20+ years and it had been awhile. I did go solo for 2 or 3 years back in the mid-90’s. Had no idea when and where a band was gonna happen. I performed a buncha shows as solo guitar…standing up which although being sort of surreal and fun in that it’s just you an amp and your car, isn’t the same as the full sound with a group of any sort.
Is it mostly YOUR band playing your material, or is it more of a democracy where everyone collaborates in a band setting?
So far I’ve written all the songs for the group and sing them. We’re adding more background vocals since it started and eventually we’ll be presenting material we’ve written together.
Did you consciously approach your songwriting differently than when you were in Sebadoh? And did affect the songwriting knowing some of your older fans may have certain expectations as far as your ?songstyle? goes?
No, my songwriting stays about the same more or less. It has nothing to do with what band I’m working with. I’ve always approached songwriting as a variety pack grab bag, pulling from all sorts of influences, styles, and angles to keep it interesting as what I write isn’t all too complex really. For example I’ve always mixed acoustic-based recordings along with noisier more rocking material with little to no forethought.
As a solo artist, you nearly signed to the bigger indies; Sub Pop, Domino, and a major; Atlantic. Why did you choose not to go through with it?
All three of those deals fell through for one reason or another. Either because I asked for one-off deals with a slightly higher percentage or for whatever other reasons you might imagine. Aside from which I like having my own pretend label. Nothing left to the imagination as far as getting screwed over.
Some people may think that with you and the Sebadoh name it would be easier to get a deal, is this the case?
I don’t know. We’ve been doing home recording and dabbling in touring for a few months but the labels who contact us most often are offering a track on a comp or with a zine.
Are you planning to go on tour soon? You really should stop by Indonesia, the punkrock / indie scene is growing rapidly.
We just toured the southwest and a short northwest weekend thing and are busy working on distributing the new cd. (Nature Walk) We don’t have reviews, radio play or enough interest in it yet but working on it. Yeah someday we’ll consider Indonesia. Especially if we can sell a few thousand records there first of course.
Why did you decide to specifically cover ?I did acid with Caroline? by Daniel Johnston?
Oh, I had performed it once with Sebadoh, in Denver, CO. on a Firehose tour after sleeping 10 hours straight through the Rockies. Also, we were asked to be on a D. Johnston tribute which didn’t work out, plus I opened for him last year so was reminded that I liked that freaky LP it was from, at that time.
What have you been listening to recently? Is there any bands that has influenced your songwriting for Fields of Gafney?
Not much really. I don’t buy much of anything, so I listen to radio and the reduced collection I haven’t parted with. There is relatively little that has particularly influenced my songwriting. Rather everything I like or am intrigued by. Lately I’ve been listening to Charlie Patton. A record I’d had that’d been sitting around collecting dust.
How was Noisepop 2003? Is the festival-type setting more relaxing for the band than doing club shows?
It wasn’t a festival at all. The shows were all indoors. We have played outside once, in El Paso, Texas for a handful of students at the University. Outside shows sound not as good usually.
In your opinion why, in the end, did Sebadoh disintegrate? Did living so far away from each other influence this?
I figured after I quit they would’ve disintegrated sooner but they kept at it. I hesitate to guess why they disintegrated. Maybe it was because their fans outgrew them or because of the last record?
Do you ever see Sebadoh working together again as a unit?
No. I doubt it. Maybe, you just never know.
What do you think of the loobiecore website? There?s a lot of great vintage Sebadoh stuff up there. Would you ever consider putting some of your rare Sebadoh material on your site?
I would distinguish between my new band and what I was doing 10 to 15 years ago as far as putting Mp3’s or whatever on our site. It would be too cluttered. At some point I’ll probably release some really old 4-track recordings but in no hurry to.
How important is the internal band relationship to you now? Did your experience w/ Sebadoh affect how your aproach your relationship w/ the other members of Fields of Gaffney?
We try to make sure to give eachother anough time apart and not overdo it. We’re not about to live together anyway. I use whatever past experiences in music, touring, or with how to deal with business to our advantage.
What was the ultimate Sebadoh album for you?
The first one because it was done before it was brought to a studio. (cassette tapes) III was good because the studio (Fort Apache) sounded good and was cheaper to rent back then. I played all those songs using electric and acoustic guitars and sort of went all out. We’d practiced those for two years before that record. Smash Your Head I never liked much, even though I wrote three songs, put together the front cover and cd booklet stuff.
Which Sebadoh album did you enjoy working on the most?
Bubble & Scrape maybe. It was a weird album on my end in that I wrote most everything on the spot using a whammy pedal effect, with no idea what it would be, or a few songs were recorded in Berlin when I had a sore throat. One of those songs got sped up which ruins it for me. I came up with the title, added my childhood photos, and wrote a 1/3 of it. I should be happy with it but one never is. It may not have been properly mastered. As I remember it was a few d.a.t. tapes I brought in to Fort Apche and then they were sequenced. Nothing much else.
Sebadoh was, in a way, a part of the (or lumped into) the ?lo-fi? movement. Did it bother you? And are you using the same recording techniques in Fields of Gafney?
No dammit. I like the Lo-Fi tag. I’d been doing cassette taping as far back as 1979. If I’d had a proper home studio all along that’s mostly what I would’ve used. You make do with what you have. We used 4-track recordings for the ‘Nature Walk cd.’
What inspires you lyrically? Do you take care of the lyrics in the songs as much as the song itself? A lot of people would to love to know the meaning behind songs like ?Cecilia chime in melee?, and ?Telecosmic alchemy?, or at least how you got those titles!
It can take me years of re-doing lyrics until I can stand it. There is little to no meaning behind those songs…”You too can have Telecosmic Alchemy” is an ad from a 1970′ comic book. “Cecilia” was a joke. Jason and I recorded that in ten minutes during a recording break. I could’ve had a song there instead but used that. Some of my worst keyboard playing there.
Lastly, what are you planning in the future for the band? New songs in the can yet?
Yeah. Another record being planned. Still working the new one or just starting to. Be sure to check out our website for anything new. www.angelfire.com/indie/ericgaffney. Thanks Indonesian listeners. Remember! “Don’t let nobody control ya.”
Thanks a lot Eric, good luck with the band!