.

Field Report Set a Course for Breakout Debut

Justin Vernon collaborator Christopher Porterfield makes his own impression with new band

May 4, 2012 11:00 AM ET
field report
Jeff Mitchell, Chris Porterfield and Travis Whitty of Field Report.
Erin Fuller

For the most part, Christopher Porterfield is very proud of his friend Justin Vernon, whose band Bon Iver now ranks among the biggest names in indie rock. But Porterfield is only human, and he admits there were moments when he’s also felt "gross jealousy" toward Vernon as he worked to establish his own music career. Porterfield – who from 2003 to 2005 played in DeYarmond Edison, the seminal Wisconsin band that not only included Vernon but also future members of the shape-shifting psych-folk group Megafaun – spent several years woodshedding his enchanting, evocative story songs in his current home of Milwaukee. In that time he played sparsely attended open-mic nights and opened for touring bands under the name Conrad Plymouth, including Bon Iver in its earliest days. Now heading up a new band, Field Report, the 31-year-old Porterfield is finally on the verge of making his own impression.

Thanks to a series of well-received appearances in March at South By Southwest in Austin, which were among the band’s first shows, Field Report has been gaining traction on hip music blogs, which have posted excellent, newly recorded versions of songs that date back to Porterfield’s Conrad Plymouth days, including the anthemic "Fergus Falls" and the beautiful "I Am Not Waiting Anymore." With their folkie acoustic strums, ethereal keyboards, and intimately conversational vocals, these songs recall the work of Porterfield’s heroes Paul Simon and Bruce Springsteen, particularly 1987’s intensely autobiographical and synth-spooked Tunnel Of Love.

Field Report doesn’t have a record deal yet – Porterfield says he’s weighing his options – but the band has already attracted famous fans like Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz, who invited Field Report to play his SXSW showcase and watched the band from the front row, "with a camera phone out, singing along," Porterfield recalled. "It is undeniable when you listen to Field Report," Duritz enthused to Rolling Stone. "This is just great music."

Porterfield says he typically writes about himself or people he has observed. (He counted 100 proper nouns in the lyrics to 15 songs Field Report recorded in December 2011 at Vernon’s April Base studio in Fall Creek, Wisconsin.) As for "Fergus Falls," he once dated a girl from the Minnesota town, but the song is actually about a woman he spotted two years ago at a downtown Milwaukee music festival. "I saw a girl who was pregnant, and she was with a guy who looked like an asshole," he said. "She looked like she wanted to get out of there. The song was written from her perspective."

The sense of place and character that exists in Field Report’s music is also apparent in Porterfield, a Minnesota native and long-time Wisconsinite who calls himself "Midwestern to the core" – so much so that he occasionally felt out of place during a recent tour with Megafaun. "I don’t know if it went down as well with the San Francisco crowd," he said of his songs. "It’s just something I’ve come to terms with. This is who I am, and to be anything else is kind of false." 

Duritz believes the specificity of Porterfield’s songs is among their greatest strengths. "Even if you don’t live in Fergus Falls, it doesn’t matter," he said. "Knowing it’s so personal, it means something to all of us."

As Porterfield pares down the recently recorded tracks into a finalized Field Report album, and figures out who’s going to put the album out, he says he’s been emboldened by the success of his pal Vernon, who’s become a Grammy winner and festival headliner while staying true to his Wisconsin roots. "He made me think that someone not living in a major city, who writes stuff that he believes in about stuff he went through, that people want to hear that."

Preview tracks from Field Report's upcoming release here.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

prev
Music Main Next

blog comments powered by Disqus
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.

X

We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“Wake Up Everybody”

John Legend and the Roots | 2010

A Number One record by Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes in 1976 (a McFadden- and Whitehead-penned classic sung by Teddy Pendergrass) inspired the title and lead single from Wake Up!, John Legend's tribute album to message music. The more familiar strains of "Wake Up Everybody" also fit his agenda. "It basically sums up, in a very concise way, all the things we were thinking about when we were putting this record together in that it's about justice, doing the right thing and coming together to make the world a better place," he said. Vocalists Common and Melanie Fiona assist Legend on this mission to connect.

More Song Stories entries »
 
www.expandtheroom.com