“We’ve never been interested in being prolific,” a chat with Crayon Fields

Formed in 2001 with their unique blend of melodious throwback sounds, Australian four piece Crayon Fields were synonymous with buzzwords like “dream pop” well before they were in the everyday lexicon. Meandering into the mainstream eye rather slowly with 2006’s debut release Animal Bells, followed up by 2009’s All The Pleasures in The World, they have never been too concerned with the passing of time vs. musical output ratio. Instead, they appear sporadically when the formula is just right, and woo fans with their lilting charm.

After an extended silence of six years, the band have just released album No One Deserves You, and we caught up with front man Geoffrey O’Connor to chat about the record, the frequent references to the past in relation to their sound, and finding the time to catch up on TV.

After 2009’s All the Pleasures of The World and your 2010 tours, you hung up your hat with Crayon Fields for a while. What bought you guys back together all these years later?

We never really took a break or stopped being a band as such, though I can see how it would seem like we did. We’d been working on this album while I released the solo albums and toured on my own. I guess it didn’t make sense to be playing shows without a new release. We’ve never been interested in being prolific as such, we don’t need to be bothering people with every single musical idea that pops in to our heads.

You have just released No-One Deserves You which still has that signature lo-fi pop sensibility, but is a little more restrained, and almost ventures from that dreamy 60’s sound to a moodier 80’s new wave space. Was that a conscious choice or just something that happened as an evolution of the band?

We’ve never really aimed to be lo-fi as such. Our first record was, but that was more that we had zero budget/production skills to work with. I think the comparisons with 60’s and 80’s music that we seem to draw are largely a result of us writing songs that are quite tightly structured, deliberate and song-based. We’ve never made a conscious choice to evoke an era, but I guess this song-based approach is similar to that of the music that many associate with those eras.

There is definitely a hint of your solo releases on the record. Did you find that you preferred working with a band as opposed to working alone?

I have no preference either way, however I do enjoy having the luxury of working in both contexts. Some songs will benefit from the collaborative aspect of writing with a band, whereas others won’t so much. It’s been quite helpful for me as a songwriter being able to allocate them to each project.

What do you like to do when you aren’t making music? Any hobbies?

I’ve been making a lot of music videos recently. This involves a lot of downtime, which freed me up to finally watch The Sopranos. I need to get on top of current HBO shows. It’s hard to make conversation when all you want to do is discuss an episode of a show that everyone saw 10 years ago.

So you toured to the USA in 2010 to SXSW and CMJ. Both pretty incredible events in great cities! What are some favorite memories?

They were both a lot of fun. We have a very wonderful and supportive fan who came to our show in San Diego. Her husband, a police officer, lined us up single-file to sign her T-Shirt and LPs. We needed no encouragement to do so of course, but it was good to have someone make sure the operation went ahead without incident. Our bassist Brett is an architect, which meant we never missed an opportunity to see all the great buildings within range of each show. I think one of my favourite experiences was wandering around Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute.

 You obviously have some pretty big influences across your sound, being frequently likened to bands like The Beach Boys and The Zombies. What are some bands that influenced you personally that don’t shine through in your sound?

We all love The Zombies, in fact we were lucky enough to see them play Odyssey And Oracle on a night off in Glasgow in 2009. I listen to a lot of Barbara Streisand, Grace Jones and Michael Jackson. I like to think that some of that filters through as an influence, though I’m yet to see their names turn up in a review.

Did you derive a lot of your aesthetic and style from listening to your parent’s music growing up? What are some of your earliest memories of music in your house?

 I didn’t grow up in a musical household at all. My dad was in the Wangaratta brass band, but that’s about it. I remember my mum listening to a lot of Slade, Deep Purple and Blood Sweat and Tears. I think my parents were too cool for music, they preferred motorcycles and incense. I remember listening to a lot of Beach Boys, especially the song I Can Hear Music. 

This record is notably a little more lovelorn with tracks lyrics like “I never wanted to let it slide, let you take every cheque as our passion died” on Love Won’t Save You. Where do all those emotions come from?

True, though I think it’s also a little more hopeful than the last record. Perhaps the last one had a euphoric temperament, while this one has a certain carefree vibe. Some of the new songs are based on other people’s lives as opposed to being reflections on my own, so I guess I was able to lace them with a little more melodrama.

I remember seeing you guys play at the Northcote Social Club in 2006 and it was an exuberant and joyous affair complete with glockenspiels and a Buddy Holly vibe. As you head out on tour again soon, what does the live show encapsulate now?

Buddy Holly? Wow, that’s cool. I’ve never heard that comparison before and I love Buddy Holly. In fact, listening to Everyday on repeat is probably one of my earliest memories. We are launching the album in Sydney and Melbourne which will be fun, we’ll have a nice entertaining mix of old and new material. I’m quite surprised at how easily our set has come together, I don’t remember us ever being this tight as a band.

So, we have seen your albums transition through the decades from the 60’s/70’s/80’s. What is next for you? A grunge record?

I think we’ll make a big band jazz record and set off a Harry Connick Jr revival.

If, like me, you’re an early 2000’s indie kid at heart, you will be pretty excited about catching these guys again in their upcoming shows. All the details are below and you can grab your copy of Noone Deserves You on vinyl, CD or digital, over here.

Saturday 7 November
Sydney – Newtown Social Club
with Angie + Abigail & Daisy
tickets here

Saturday 14 November
Melbourne – Howler
with Totally Mild + The Goon Sax
tickets here