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the importance of kids hearing guitars - sensefield

[taken from actionman magazine issue 1, COMING SOON]

To be in a band is to be in intimacy with several people at once, requiring diplomacy, empathy, and communication by each acting member. The "highest functioning" of such intimate relationships are those in which the players are willing to change as needed for the sake of progress. Sensefield has always been such a band, unafraid of confronting who they are and making the necessary adjustments for the sake of heightening the their art. Yet there is more to creating a great sound than constant maintenance. Writing and arranging a song is like giving a good kiss. That is, if you do it with reckless abandonment and consciousness at once, not fixing your attention on the past or the future, wrapped completely in passion, you just gave a good kiss (unless of course you have bad breath or a hair-lip or something like that). For those few moments you just enjoyed an experience in it's present tense and (if you've got a beating heart) felt something pretty damn amazing. Whether you're making an album or just making out, a really "hot" or "on it" session takes much more than just skill and sincerity. Remember that there are plenty of "skilled" kissers whose smooches haven't materialized beyond the sets of daytime soap operas. As for sincerity, there were plenty of "sincere" bands back in the early ‘90's whose musical careers are now left for dead, not long after what seemed a relentless writhing betwixt, between, and upon basement floors across America. True "lovemaking", whether translated via Mackie or mouth, takes intuition in addition to skill and sincerity. When musicians make music with these three ingredients intact, we get songs that not unlike the relationship from which they stem, are "living"; able to move people in the same way that faith can move mountains.

The History of the Sensefield goes back to the late 80's when vocalist Jon Bunch formed the hardcore punk quintet, Reason to Believe, with Chris Evenson, John Stockberger, and Rodney Sellars, a band that since metastasized into what is now Sensefield. With arguably the tightest rhythm section that's come out of punk, sexy guitar hooks, lyrics that dealt with metaphysical reality, and a vocalist whose pipes crescendo and decrescendo somewhere between Belinda Carlisle and Kevin Seconds, the group has for nearly a decade provided kids with a soundtrack for youth, filled with hope, energy, and passion.

Jon Bunch finishes laying down the final vocal tracks for the new album and trades his mic for his copy of Steinbeck's, Grapes of Wrath, a book symbolic of the sphere of influences Jon had been under during his time writing material for the new album, simply titled, Sensefield. "The [record] took a little longer than what we were hoping, but this is the first time we've achieved what we wanted in terms of writing, recording, and producing." Artistically, there seems to be no looking back, but the American past provided their singer with much inspiration this time around. Bunch writes as he sees things, like Steinbeck did in his travels with Charlie. The album's first cut, "War of the Worlds" conjures images we've all seen in black and white of sailors and soldiers coming home after WWII to unite with their sweethearts in the N.Y. streets. "It's partly about people coming together after war and learning to forgive each other and learn to love." On paper this sounds trite and rather Bette Midler esc, but this piece is truly a tasty slice of Americana, lyrically reminiscent of Van Dyke Parks work in the late 60's.

In "The Horse is Alive", a song whose title was inspired by an article Bunch read on the death of American wild horses, drummer Scott McPherson establishes a _ time signature in order to dice out something subtly resembling sleigh bells, evoking a feeling of movement, of living. Working alongside producer David Holman (No Doubt, Tragic Kingdom) was just as much a factor in Sensefield's redirection as Bunch's literary imagination. "David's been recording records since the early 1970's and he's really open about sounds even though a very punk and garage rock n' roll background that he's not into. His concern with us as musicians was to get inside of us and enable the stuff of each song to manifest on a recording. Performance of the song is placed above everything else. That is, we perform a song and then he manipulates it as he needs to. David believes in performance over all else."

The Punchy hooks that made classics like "Far From My Hands", "Overstand" or "Every Reason" are present yet on this LP, only more sophisticated and closer to the rock side of punk rock. Don't expect tunes with overt spiritual messages as was the case with their past efforts. In an age when even Madonna can make a record laced with religious jargon and profit from it, Sensefield have opted to take the high road. The songs have gone from "spiritually direct" to becoming cryptic songs of faith, hope, and love.

Though Sensefield are breaking new ground for Y2K, the things that are truly important regarding punk rock values haven't changed. "The sing-alongs still get me going. Even on the last tour that aspect of the shows was just as contagious as ever and it makes you realize…can't wait to tour more…until everyone has the record. It's important to us that a lot of people hear the record because we think we made a record that can bring rock back. It's important to us that kids hear guitars."


by posi jeff