Macclesfield-based band Field Manual made their name as The Christophers, who played electronic funk to thousands of fans during their tours.
Understandably, after eight years, they fancied a bit of a change, and started playing eighties-style rock under a new name, with Chris Insley on guitar and vocals, Steve Taylor on bass, and Phil Styles on drums. Independently, they have all been professional musicians for years and have never been out of band all their lives.
Charles had seen Field Manual performing a few weeks previously. "I thought they were great! They have their own definitive sound, they really play around with the rhythms. I was so pleased when they asked me to join them. It was completely unexpected".
The rhythm is an important marker of Field Manual's style. Almost everyone in the galaxy, it seems, writes in 4/4. It's the one thing that even the more creative musicians tend not to deviate from because it sounds so natural. Sometimes, this isn't what you need, as Charles explains: "Field Manual switches between 4 and 6, and they're freer with the rhythm, so you end up with the main beat coming earlier than you'd expect. It keeps your attention when you're listening. And completely throws you the first time you hear it!"
This occasionally surprises even the band themselves, as Chris recalls. "We spent ages on the percussion for Like '73. After hours of working it out we said,'You know this is in 6, don't you?'. It was much easier after that".
So what did they need Charles to do? "We wanted that Springsteen, rock piano. It sounds amazing; it really fills the sound out". "There are some parts where [Charles] starts improvising and we just let him go for it", Phil adds. Since rehearsals began, they've made the sound even better, introducing organs, synths, and a Fender-Rhodes electric piano sound, all from Charles's Roland stage piano.
Phil also works on synths controlled from a MIDI system that communicates with his iPad, which adds an extra layer during live performances.
Field Manual are currently recording an album at the Edge Studios, just outside of Macclesfield, where Lily Allen, Plan B and Danny O'Donoghue from The Script have also recently recorded.
Pre-production recordings are sounding great so far. We can't wait to hear the full album!
"Their playing is so tight — it's a tremendous sound. They're the most professional band I've worked with."
Music to listen to:
I really did my research for this band. My influences for the piano style come from all sorts of places. Springsteen, obviously; The Black Keys, Muse, The Housemartins (oddly)… there's a great folky, Travelling Wilburys-y vibe, too. Field Manual uses space really well, which puts me in mind of The XX, who I absolutely adore.
The first full-band gig with Charles will be at the Swan with Two Necks, Macclesfield,
Friday 3rd June
Find upcoming performances from Field Manual here.