If you listen to Field Sleeper’s music and are transported to your wandering youth, eyes closed in a field somewhere, imagining a world as-yet-unknown to you, that’s purposeful.
Sure, it’s also a tailor-made stage name for a young man creating that same soundtrack for his peers, but in the case of Alexander Paquet, it’s also accurate.
“The name came from being a Boy Scout and literally sleeping in fields,” he said. “Some of my favorite childhood memories were camping/outdoors related; perhaps I was trying to evoke those memories in my songs. I think the name suits the tone of music well.”
The ambiance of the music can sometimes resemble the incidental score of a nostalgic outdoorsy indie camp film—with a healthy dose of psychedelics thrown in. Paquet got started with music in the fifth grade, playing viola in the school orchestra.
“I think that initial exposure to string music, music that functions on harmony and layering of voices, played a large role in shaping my perception of music,” and this is evident even after a casual listen to his songs.
Paquet started Field Sleeper his freshman year at Ohio Wesleyan in 2012, as less of a band and more of a concept; imagine Six Organs of Admittance blended with a little bit of Sebadoh and The National, and a healthy dose of high fidelity recording. Moody and ambient, claustrophobic while expansive and airy, Paquet surpasses the confines of ‘singer-songwriter’ and reaches toward an almost ambient electronic universe with his newest release Better Grid. While Field Sleeper is Paquet at the foundation, on Better Grid he gracefully collaborates with a roster of Columbus mood-music royalty. To name a few: Val Glenn of Time & Temperature, local ambient/noise guru and member of Burning Star Core, Mike Shiflet, Marie Corbo of Corbezollo, and Sharon Udoh, aka Counterfeit Madison.
He’s influenced by way too many artists to mention, but songwriters like Grouper, Julie Byrne, and Mount Eerie are near the top of the list. Past that, his inspirations run a wide gamut.
“A major challenge in doing Field Sleeper is balancing murky electronics with a dry and direct voice. Rappers like Isaiah Rashad and Drake helped provide direction on that front. The dryness and hard-panning of jazz recordings were also an inspiration when actually tracking my songs,” he said. “More directly, I’m inspired by many artists on the Chicago label Orindal Records, and local artists Counterfeit Madison, Queer Kevin, Mike Shiflet, Hello Emerson, Corbezzolo, Time and Temperature, Future Nuns, and lately, The Sidekicks.”
The recordings themselves are the product of many collaborations that come about organically. Paquet doesn’t exactly choose musicians in order to compete a vision. If anything, he says, he asks them to incorporate their sounds to change his vision.
“To me, that’s what collaboration is. I usually ask people to play based on their attitude, technique, or stylistic approach to performing. At the end of the day, I expect to come out of these ‘collaborations’ with a different idea of what my music is and what it can be.”
One of dream collaborators is Shiflet. Better Grid was recorded during two-week-long periods—one in February 2017 and another five months later. He’d record 4-5 songs during that time in his attic and send “stems” to Shiflet, who’d treat them, mix them, and send them back to him for comments. Paquet would respond with his own notes and send them back.
“Shiflet’s engineering changed the way I thought about my songs. He made many of the ambient synthesizers come to life, changing them from textural backdrops to dynamic, integral parts of each song,” Paquet said. “I think the serene yet abrasive tone that is evoked in many of his own recordings can be found on the album.”
The songs on Better Grid start with a guitar riff or chord change—a quirk that became the building block of the album.
“A lot of the lyrics were written away from the guitar, in small bits, usually one line at a time. The two would only come together towards the end of the songwriting process. The ambient tones were usually the last thing to be added, but often required rearranging of guitar parts, vocal melodies, words, etc. For me, that last step of arranging is where the bulk work of songwriting happens.”
The layered and textured structure of the pieces on Better Grid exhibit the growth Paquet has experienced since the inception of the band. The songs are optimized for zoned-out headphone listening—so plug in and tune out! •
Field Sleeper will play June 28, at Kafe Kerouac. Visit fieldsleeper.bandcamp.com for more.