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Field study 

City Field is slowly and loudly gaining buzz for its ever-evolving sound. Johnston Farrow picks up a pack of bubblegum goth.

A radio cooking show host. A multimedia auteur. A Rickenbacker-wielding session musician. A video artist. A Super Friend and movie star.

These are the personalities that make up City Field, one of the most original bands to come out of the Halifax scene in some time. Although the project appears occasionally as a part-time venture, the five-piece—consisting of Halifax musicians Mitchell Wiebe (vocals), Dave Ewenson (drums), and Brent Randall (bass) as well as Toronto-based Matt Murphy (vocals/guitar) and Sarah Gregg Millman (guitar/vocals)—treats City Field as anything but.

“I think it’s too good and we’re too deep into the project,” Wiebe says over a beer, with Ewenson in tow. “It really does feel magical, as hokey as that sounds. But there really are sparks and it’s fun.”

The atypical alt-rock group converges upon Halifax on December 3 for a show at the Pavilion. There, they will showcase a sound that has been compared to Murphy’s previous work in the Super Friendz and Flashing Lights, mixed with the multi-voiced, new wave eccentricity of The B-52’s and the fun-loving psychedelia of Ewenson and Randall’s other band, the Sweet Tenders. Wiebe refers to the style as “bubblegum goth.”

“This new sound that we have—it’s kind of exciting,” he says. “There’s a distinct flavour that we’re getting that wouldn’t have happened any other way than what we’re doing together. It feels really good that it’s coming to fruition.”

It’s been quite a trip for the band of music veterans. Wiebe, Murphy and Millman started City Field over beer one cold evening, as a way of fighting the winter blues.

“We were at the Khyber or Tribeca and Matt and Sarah were like, ‘Hey, do you want to play?’” Wiebe says. “And I was like, ‘Hmm, how would this work?’ I didn’t know what would happen, but I thought, Matt has the sweet vocals and Sarah’s vocals—she’s really coming into the sound.”

The trio began working on demos together, using each other’s answering machines to record ideas as they arose. Eventually, Murphy suggested incorporating Randall into the mix and the quartet met at the bassist’s home to practice. Ewenson, Randall’s roommate, sat in on drums and the quintet immediately clicked.

Since then, the group has released the terrific six-song Authentic City EP, played the Pop Montreal festival, and opened for Sloan and the Stills at Dal in September—a show they almost stole. Live performances have been sporadic, but that has helped build a buzz around the band.

“There’s no preconceived rule of how it should go, you know?” Wiebe says. “But I know how people can go, ‘Well, how serious is it if you’re not doing it full-time?’ But that could add extra pressure if we had this project with a certain chunk of time and money. I think we’re still growing.”

Besides the Halifax-Toronto divide, outside projects keep creativity fresh. Wiebe is a well-respected artist and sings in Mitch and the Motorhomes. Ewenson and Randall play with the Sweet Tenders among other back-up roles—Laura Peek for Ewenson and Mark Bragg for Randall. Murphy has been working on solo material and has a burgeoning acting career as seen in this fall’s The Life and Hard Times of Guy Terrifico.

Plans are in the works for a full-length follow-up to the EP sometime in 2006. But with five people having such a good time, Ewenson and Wiebe shrug their shoulders and ask, why rush it?

“I don’t like the idea that we’d have that pressure, to push it like crazy and push it down people’s throats,” Ewenson says. “Now it’s a project we keep on doing because we really enjoy doing it and that’s the motivation instead of this is our career project. I think it comes out in the music and the shows.”

City Field w/Buck 65, The Porcelain Gods and The Stance, December 3 at The Pavilion, 7pm, $10.

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