Foreign Fields is a band teetering on the edge of success. The group, founded by state natives Brian Holl and Eric Hillman, started as two guys making music in West Bend and has evolved into an endeavor that touts a full-length album, tours with bands such as Counting Crows and singles aired on NBC’s primetime show “Parenthood” - not bad for a couple of musicians who self-released their debut album on the internet. The Badger Herald caught up with co-founder Holl by telephone in anticipation of the band’s upcoming show at the High Noon Saloon.
The group’s music has drawn critical comparisons to Bon Iver and Grizzly Bear, drifting between genres of ambient folk and electronica. Such a style raises the question of why the band, now located in Nashville, Tenn., chose the heart of country music to develop its sound.
“We were looking for a change. We were looking to lower our rent and just kind of take our careers a little more seriously than we were,” Holl said. “Nashville is just full of every kind of musician and it’s a really, really great place to be right now, and there is definitely more acceptance outside of country music for any kind of band here.”
With so many musicians from so many genres coming to one place, it would seem that such a population of players could hinder a band’s attempts to build a following. Holl, however, insists a competitive scene like Nashville has actually benefited the group greatly.
“It’s a really good place to be around. The people you meet and the collaborations that happen are pretty awesome. The amount of amazing musicians who have allowed us to open up for them to start getting a following here, it’s been awesome,” he said.
Within the musical scene in Nashville, Foreign Fields released its debut album Anywhere But Where I Am. The record, an exercise in atmospheric balladry, showcases the heartland landscape of the Midwest and the South. Lyrics depicting the natural scene of lakes, rivers and mountains, mixed with tales of loss and love roll out as calm as the Tennessee Smoky Mountains the band is no doubt familiar with. However, such calm sounds do not always mirror the life of a touring group. As any musician will say, the life of an artist has its troubles. For Foreign Fields, it came in the form of equipment theft in Atlanta. Upon leaving a venue post-show, Holl came across a man breaking into the band’s van and making off with some gear.
“I come to see this guy stealing, just running away from the van with bags. He got into a car where his buddy was… he gets away. It’s saddening. We call the police and they’re calm and collected and everything and everyone just leaves and you realize you’re just on your own.”
Heading back home that night so the members could make their day jobs in the morning, Foreign Fields had to head down the highway in November with members donning “sleeping bags over their heads trying to stay warm” as they travelled with two smashed windows. Holl takes the bad with a grain of salt and looks to the positive side.
The band’s debut album will be released on 180 gram vinyl likely within four weeks, according to Holl. In addition to this release, Holl looks forward to making his way back to his home state.
“We’re just so excited to come back up to Wisconsin. Those are some of our best markets as far as fans go and people being excited about us. It just feels really good to play again.”
For those looking to share the excitement Holl feels, the band’s music can be found at Foreignfields.net and Bandcamp.com. The group will be playing alongside PHOX this Saturday at the High Noon Saloon.