Singer and drummer Noah Davies, of the indie-pop outfit Field Trip, recorded his entire debut album while studying at New York University — and it shows.
The band’s first LP, 2016’s “Horror Vacui,” is a culmination of tracks that exude the anxiety and stress of adjusting to the sensory overload of city life. Davies, a 23-year-old NYC transplant from suburban California, spent four years finding his confidence between NYU’s Washington Square Park dorms and small Brooklyn venues.
“It was hard for me at first,” says the Thousand Oaks native of his 2014 relocation from suburban California. Music "was the only way I could document what I was feeling.”
Davies describes his tracks, recorded alongside four other band members, as a mix of "haunted pop" and ambient sounds. There’s a dreamlike quality — provided by his instrumentation (drums and synthesizers) — that’s mixed with abrasive lyrics, representing the overstimulation he says he experienced while settling into NYC. He used music as a way to cope with the culture shock.
Studying music production at NYU “allowed me to find my brand — I call it ‘medium-fi’,” says Davies. “I would start [recording] in my bedroom and then take it to a nice legit recording studio, colliding the super hi-fi with the super low-fi.”
Davies recorded the majority of his discography between 2015 and 2018 as a student at NYU, along with “40-50 other kids who wanted to make popular music.” Yet, instead of delving into the world of radio pop, the frontman carved out his own niche mash-up inspired by new wave, bedroom pop and psychedelia. The result was a string of vibrant singles such as the ode to his home state “4 CA” and the equally meditative “2 NY."
“’2 NY’ was me trying to manifest how New York made me feel like a crazy person sometimes,” Davies says. “It made me feel like I was in a terrarium or something. Like I was a pet in like a maze.”
Growing up, Davies felt inspired by the early New York music scene, citing influences from A Tribe Called Quest and Sonic Youth to LCD Soundsystem and the Velvet Underground. In part, he attributes his New York City move to movies and music.
“I felt like being in that world was really cool and it allowed me to tap into my influences more and find ways to make them one thing,” says Davies.
The singer cites many of the band’s live shows as pivotal in establishing territory in the New York music scene. Between playing shows with established indie rockers, such as Sunflower Bean and Homeshake, as well as covering the likes of The Killers and The Clash at Halloween parties, Davies states that there are “so many” important dates from the band’s formative years.
“I’m not going to knock the energy in L.A., it’s just very different [in New York]," he says. "People are just a lot more low-key out here, which is cool too in its own right . . . there’s definitely a good community of ‘I’ll support your band, you support my band’ at a show. Everyone is really looking out for each other.”
Since graduating from NYU last spring, Davies has moved back to his home state of California. While he enjoyed living in New York, he says elements of city life were exhausting. “I feel like home was beckoning,” he explains. “I just felt like a change of scenery would be good for me. I just finished school and don’t have a bunch of money.”
Davies is wrapping up demos written during his college years and drafting songs now inspired by the West Coast. Calmer melodies and subdued beats drive the heart of these new tracks, a sign that the sensory overload he once experienced has dissipated.
The band’s newest single “Stuck” is set for release later this month.
“The music I’m making now breathes more and is less wall-of-sound,” he says. “It’s interesting to see how where you’re living manifests."
Davies hopes for the release of Field Trip’s second record by the end of 2019, a culmination of songs started on the East Coast and perfected in the West.
“I’ve recently transitioned from the anxiety/nervousness period to the excitement period because I’ve gotten a lot of stuff sorted out in terms of getting merch ready, getting some new gear, getting some new songs ready," he says. "So, that’s kind of quelled my worries. At this point, we’re just getting amped and practicing and we’re looking forward to it.”
If you go: Field Trip will be playing Elsewhere in Bushwick on March 7 in support of Hot Flash Heat Wave at 8 p.m. $13-15 via Eventbrite.