- Sense Field, reborn.
It took five years, but singer Jon Bunch of Sense Field is both ecstatic and relieved. He's finally holding a copy of his band's new disc, Tonight and Forever.
"It feels so good," Bunch laughs, nearly giddy. "I just got the CD, the actual CD itself, yesterday, and I'm holding it in my hands right now." He pauses and sighs. "Man, it's taken so long to get to this point."
Time is rarely on your side in rock and roll, and the windows of opportunity tend to slam shut quickly. If Bunch and his band didn't know that when they signed with Warner Bros., they know it now.
"Yeah, wow," Bunch says. "Of course we were excited when we first signed with a big label. It was cool. It seemed so perfect." The Sense Field members focused their energies on writing and recording songs for the follow-up to Building, their acclaimed 1996 album for the indie imprint Revelation. Before long, they had a record that they and, supposedly, the label were excited about.
Advances were sent out, and a buzz began building about the band and its new record. Then things inexplicably unraveled. The record got shelved just as the initial release date approached. And that was just the beginning of Sense Field's problems. The album was set for release seven more times, only to wind up shelved at the last minute each time. Bunch doesn't know exactly what happened; nor does he really care at this point. He's simply ready to move forward. The new record, as he sees it, is the rebirth of the band.
"When we were faced with the idea of having to start over after five years, we realized we had a couple ways of looking at things," he says. "It became an opportunity to re-create the record that didn't come out, or to just start over. So we decided, 'Fuck it. We're just going to start over, change the songs however we want -- change the titles if we want, change the lyrics if we want, or even re-record the song exactly if we want.' We didn't place any constraints on ourselves. We just figured, why try and re-create a record that apparently no one gave a shit about?"
But people did give a shit about it. Versions of it had been sent out for at least half of the planned Warner Bros. releases, so copies inevitably began to circulate among fans. Eventually, the demand became so great that the band found itself in the awkward position of seeing an album that was never officially released get auctioned off on e-Bay. That was "a very weird deal," says Bunch.
Tonight and Forever (released on Nettwerk) is clearly not the same record. "It has actually changed in a real big way," Bunch says excitedly. "A couple of the songs -- 'Emergency Exit,' 'Are You Okay,' and 'Am I a Fool' -- are old songs, but we've altered them musically and lyrically, and most of the rest are pretty new. And everything, all of these songs, were re-recorded with a whole new approach. There was just a sense of freedom, a feeling of effortlessness to doing this record after all the shit that went on, that we really were able to evolve with it."
That evolution, from a more melodic, emocore band to a fairly straightforward rock and roll act, is apparent on the album. The sharp new Sense Field sound may not be as much of a stretch as fans of the band's earlier work on Revelation might think.
"Certainly, Revelation was known for their hardcore music," Bunch explains. "So being on Revelation, people automatically sort of labeled us as a hardcore band, but one that didn't scream the lyrics or whatever. So they'd say, 'Okay, these guys are emo.' We definitely come from a hardcore scene, playing most of our gigs with hardcore bands. But we weren't exactly like those bands. We all grew up as kids with Led Zeppelin, Elton John, David Bowie, and that stuff, and then, when we became teenagers, it was all new wave and punk. So, I guess, ultimately that's where we really come from. We have that kind of high-energy '70s rock and '80s new-wave and punk influence."
Musically, Tonight and Forever substantiates Bunch's claims. The record has a distinctly classic rock feel that gets bent through the prism of hardcore. The collision of the band's varied influences twists its unbridled guitar energy around new wave and punk, and ultimately Sense Field comes off as something like a hardcore-fueled version of new-wave originators like the Cars. With such an inspired balancing act, it's no wonder the L.A. band has been able to establish a solid following in a traditional rock town like Cleveland. (Helping matters is the fact that the group shares its drummer, Rob Pfeiffer, with locals Uptown Sinclair.)
"I used to date a girl in Columbus," Bunch laughs, when asked about the group's ardent local following. "So we used to play a lot of shows in Cleveland and Columbus -- and I know this is kind of selfish, but it's true -- just so I could see her. And it just worked for us; Cleveland has always been good to us."
The record business hasn't always been so kind to Sense Field, but in spite of their past struggles, Bunch and his band have made it through all right.
"When we finally got down to making this record, I can't tell you how good I felt," he says. After a short pause, Bunch, in a near whisper, adds, "I've really never been happier."