Just before Christmas, we were joined on the stream by Michel from progressive alt. rockers, Fields of Naecluda. Originating from France, Fields of Naecluda are the kind of band that make you want to turn off the lights; shut the curtains; light the candles (as far away from the curtains as possible!); crank up the stereo (do we still call it that?) and wallow in a pile of bean bags, staring at candlelight flickering on the ceiling until the epic choruses kick in, compelling you to lift your head and start nodding along determinedly…
Vivid, often melancholic lyrics occupy the space carved out by delay-soaked picking that sparkles over a thick, warm fuzz of guitars; driven forward and pulled together in moments of heavy riffage by robust bass lines and solid, to-the-point drums. Fields of Naecluda straddle a fine line occupied on one side by ambient prog-metallers in the vein of Tool and Camden Live favourites, Esoterica and the kind of sculpted wall-of-sound that powers savvy, larger-than-life alt-rockers like Amplifier and Oceansize (remember them?)
I caught up with composer/bassist and singer, Michel Teyssier after the stream to talk about his influences, writing process and what lies in the future for Fields of Naecluda…
How’s it going today?
Perfectly. I was just working on brand new songs, so it’s cool.
You were on the Camden Live Stream just before Christmas – How did that go?
It was very cool. I was a little bit stressed, you know, because it was the first time I was doing something completely in English, and live. It was also my first time doing something like that on video. Generally, it’s radio, or it’s a phone call so people don’t see you. But it was cool!
You’re working on new material at the moment. Is that for a new release you have planned?
Between the two lockdowns, I’ve had time to work on some new songs and now I’m just writing down lyrics and I’m going to record a demo for vocals. It’s almost done but we need some time to work on it. I hope we can release it next year, but we prefer to take our time and release it when it’s almost perfect.
What is sure is that the first half of the next year, we’ll begin to work on the new album and new songs and we’ll see where it goes from there.
Have there been any particular themes you’ve been writing about?
The new album is more about the relationships between people. It’s maybe more universal than the first one, I guess. Of course, there is personal reflections in it but, I think it’s more free, you know?
Have current world circumstances found their way into your writing?
I’ve been avoiding it because everything around was a mess and it was absolutely not what I wanted to express in this new album. It was too dark, you know? I was feeling that I was not free enough to express exactly what I wanted to. So I avoided it. Totally.
How did you come together as a band?
The band started in 2018. It started out as kind of a solo project, just after my last band split. I started composing alone and after I had written the tracks, I gave a call to Matthew to work on the drums. So it was just the two of us.
Matthew recorded the drums and then I recorded all the rest; keyboards, bass, guitars and vocals. After the album was done, just after the mastering, we needed a guitar player for live. I asked a friend of mine. We did two gigs together but when we started working on new material it was clear we did not have the same direction in mind. So we decided to change our guitar player. The new guitar player, the one who was playing on ‘Half Live’ has been with us since June.
When you were putting the tracks together as a solo act initially, did you feel limited by that at all?
I didn’t feel limited in terms of the ideas. I have a particular way to compose. I follow what I hear in my mind. I’m just writing and then try to record what I hear. Or sometimes I find if you just pick up your guitar, something cool arrives then it’s just a matter of mastering the parts. Sometimes it’s complicated because I can’t play the parts, you know? *laughs* I think “Okay. This guitar part is quite cool, but I need to work on it because I can’t play it!”
Now with hindsight, as it’s been about two years since the competition of the first album, I think I was more limited by the feeling I had at this time, you know? I was quite distressed. I think the new songs will be more open. There will be maybe more light in it, you know?
On the other hand, there are some things in there [the new album] that are darker than the first one. So I’ve just extended the dynamics, you know? Two extremes!
I know sometimes when a project starts as solo endeavour, there can be challenges moving that into a band situation. What’s your band dynamic now? Do you write together or do you find yourself allocating parts to work on and develop?
For now, we operate more as ‘a band’. Of course, I’m giving us the path and setting the direction but I really take the time to listen to their ideas, to hear what they think about the songs and what we can improve.
I guess in this style of music, far outside the realms of a pop song that has the potential to develop in a lot of ways, having someone to guide the direction can be quite important…
Yeah. In fact, in all of my previous bands were really ‘teenage bands’, all friends of mine, you know? We were all involved in composition arrangement and everything together but with time (and I’m getting older of course, like everyone) I’ve found it works much better in my opinion, to have someone to give some direction. Something clear.
But of course, Matthew and Etienne are very good musicians. It’s very important to me to hear what they have to say and what they feel. Sometimes I just give them new songs and ask, “Ok, I did this. What do you think about it? Cool? Not? Keep it, or leave it?” We take a lot of time, all three of us, talking about what we have to do or how something could be done, et cetera.
Can you tell me a little bit about the songs and the first album? Was there an overarching theme there at the time?
Not really. I think there was a story if you listened to the album through from the first song to the last one, but there’s no real global theme. Each song has its own theme. I was quite depressed at the time of writing so the songs reflect that. In fact, when I hear or play the songs now I can feel how I was at this time, you know?
I tried some different things on the first album, in songs like ‘Elysium’; this one is more ethereal than the others. I could say, if there is one theme, it’s more about my inner fears I guess.
In fact, the lyrics are quite cryptic on the first album, because I just wanted people to catch just one or two phrases maybe and make their own story from the song.
So it’s important for you that people draw their own personal interpretation from the lyrics then?
Yeah. In fact the lyrics are more like a poem for me. So, of course for me, there is a meaning to the song and I know what I’m talking about. I know why I want to write this, but I don’t think it’s so important that people have the ‘right’ interpretation.
When I’m listening to music myself, sometimes I catch just one phrase and this phrase is the heart of the song for me. Maybe that’s not the case for the person who wrote it, but it’s very interesting to let your imagination run with it and superimpose your own history onto it.
Your record, ‘Half-Live’ record was released very recently. How did that album come about?
So our new guitarist joined in June and due to lockdown, we couldn’t perform too many gigs. We had the chance to play in the middle of October and it was a good opportunity to show how the band sounds live and how the songs come across because there is little differences between the live versions and the album versions, for example, differing solos and some improvisations. And of course, it was a good way to show, the band with our new guitarist and how we sound now with the new line-up.
So why ‘Half-Live’?
*Laughs* Because, it’s the live set but it’s cut in half, simply. We have 10 songs on the first album and we just played five songs for Half-Live. It’s is about 30 minutes. When we play the entire set it’s about one hour / one hour and a quarter if we get an encore. So yeah… that, and it sounded cool!
What are your musical influences?
This is going to be fun! I’ll start with a fun fact; before the album was released, I sent it to a friend of mine just to get their feelings about it. For the most part they were talking about Steven Wilson and Porcupine Tree, Katatonia, that kind of thing; so prog rock. But my influences are generally much wider. I like Queen, Radiohead, Deftones (I’m a big, big fan of Deftones), Jeff Buckley, some hardcore bands like Snapcase and Refused. In fact, I’m listening to a lot of music; from classical to electronic, movie soundtracks or whatever. I think there is, in every song or in every genre of music, something to keep in mind. A good idea to hold on to and maybe do something with in the future.
That’s interesting to hear. I’ve always thought that whenever you can bring that sort of prog and post-rock influence into a format where you’ve got more structured ‘songs’ it can be a really nice combination.
It’s very tempting because in post-rock you add these kind of chords that are very rare in ‘rock’. It’s those kind of jazz chords, with extensions and it’s not just a matter of “We need to make a melodic chorus so let’s play a power chord on A. Okay, next bar let’s put a C power chord…” you know?
I think it’s more interesting to take the simplest chords and make them sound different. I spend a lot of time working on that kind of thing, just taking my chords and saying, “Okay, what can I do to make that sound cool and unlike anything I’ve heard? It’s good to take some of the things I learned in harmony lessons, in jazz when I was younger and apply them to rock music.
Are you going to wait to release the new album until you can take it out live?
I don’t think we could release it before the next gig, which we hope to be in June if all goes well. There was a lot of work went into it. The songs are more complex than the first album and the vocals are more difficult. So I think we need three and six months of work to get everything into perfect condition to record it. So, I think hopefully we can look at releasing it towards the end of the year.
What can we look forward to from Fields of Naecluda In the meantime?
We’re talking about making another video for song off the first album, and we are trying to organize it the best we can, but with lockdown it’s not so easy. We were supposed to shoot in December, but it couldn’t happen unfortunately. But we hope to do that soon.
Don’t forget to check out Michel from Fields of Naecluda on the Camden Live Stream and you can hear the entire of Half Live and their self-titled debut album over at Bandcamp.