Jon Bunch - Vocals
Chris Evenson - Guitar, Keyboards
Rob Pfeiffer - Drums
John Stockberger - Bass
Sense Field finally tasted success and flirted with normalcy after the 2001 release of Tonight and Forever on Nettwerk, the bands first stable home in years. The song Save Yourself made it to the soundtrack of the TV show Roswell, brought the band into the late night TV circuit and onto the radio, while worldwide touring helped reach Sense Fields ever-loyal fan base.
The band had endured. Theyd pioneered heart-on-their-sleeves rock in the mid-90s only to get mired in label unpleasantness that even their fans followed like a soap opera. Now came the fun part: Making the next record.
Living Outside, Sense Fields fourth studio album, reflects this newfound hope but retains lead singer Jon Bunchs soul-searching heart. Even the title, which Bunch came across in an old magazine, was chosen with the care that Sense Field loyalists have come to expect. "When youre a teenager," Bunch says, "you think youre so much different than anyone else, that no one understands you. Theres that feeling that youre outside whats normal."
The songs on Living Outside, co-written by Bunch and guitarist Chris Evenson, further explore this theme, but theres a strong hint of redemption. On the propulsive Burn, a pretty piano figure gives way to a staccato rhythm banged out by drummer Rob Pfeiffer and bassist John Stockberger. Then Bunch sings, "I know I would like to try/just to win you back/so youll cry/when I hurt you back."
On Memory and I Refuse, two of Living Outsides most aggressively melodic tracks, Bunch confronts parental expectations, setting the tone for the entire album. "Theyre all songs about sticking up for yourself," he says.
Musically, Living Outside is Sense Fields most forceful effort since the band emerged from Southern Californias punk scene more than a decade ago. Perhaps not coincidentally, it also represents the first time that Bunch and Evenson co-wrote so extensively since two teenaged boys played together in a group called Reason to Believe. "Ive been in bands with Chris since I was about 15," notes Bunch. "It was like going back to how we started."
This wasnt so much by choice as it was due to unfortunate circumstance. Guitarist and backing vocalist Rodney Sellars went on hiatus from Sense Field during the tour for Tonight and Forever after his young daughter was in an accident, and hes yet to return to the band. That left Evenson to start cranking out music for Bunch to add lyrics to, as theyd done as kids.
Evenson looked to influences from the Beatles to James Bond film scores to the Pixies and even the Strokes, yet he centered himself on the punk and new wave music that inspired him in his youth. "Ive been listening to a lot of Gary Numan and things like that lately," Evenson admits. "Just rediscovering what I liked when I was younger. Theres a lot of stuff like that on the record, those kinds of comfort things."
This manifests itself in the synth-driven stunner No Medicine, the adrenaline-charged Running Behind, the swirling, hook-heavy You Own Me and the electro-charged album closer Haunted.
"New wave and punk - Its what first got me excited about music. I would never want to make a record that sounded like it was meant to sound like one of those records, but its fun to work those influences into your own sound and retain the personality of the band without being retro," says Evenson, who produced most of Living Outside.
They also had help from Brad Wood (Pete Yorn, Smashing Pumpkins, Sunny Day Real Estate, Liz Phair), who produced four tracks and mixed the album. "Brads awesome," Bunch insists. "It was really a pleasant surprise how much fun he was to work with." Evenson adds that Wood respected Sense Fields vision but wasnt afraid to inject his own opinions. "We had a good experience with him," Evenson says. "The best producer experience weve had to date."
Together, they arrived at a sound that still highlights Sense Fields melodic prowess while reasserting the bands harder-edged roots. Its a strong move by a band that didnt want one song, the 2001 breakout Save Yourself, to obscure their diversity.
"It was nice to have a taste of what a hit could be and feel what it was like to have a song on the radio," Bunch notes. "But then people expect you to sound like that on every song."
Living Outside was reactionary on a certain level, he continues. "Not to try and prove anything, but to remind people that this is what we come from and this is who we are."