Check This Out: Sense Field’s Building

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The word “Emo” has been overused for many years now, and , in fact, in many circles, has become a pejorative term for a goth-lite teenager with eyeliner, or some equally unattractive image.  Long ago, in the mid 1990s, it emerged as shorthand for “emotional hardcore.” When the term “emo” was first coined, this type music was much less mainstream, the bands were not universally accepted or treated as commercially viable yet, and the listeners were a small, more tight-knit group. The bands were generally referred to as “pop punk” or “punk hardcore,” delivering a slight edge over standard punk, and in most cases, a dose of melody through the distortion.

Sense Field: BuildingFrom this scene, many bands grew, most notably in my mind: Gorilla Biscuits, Fugazi, Quicksand, Sunny Day Real Estate, and many others.  Also a defining moment in emo history was the release of the commercial flop “Pinkerton,” Weezer’s 1995 masterpiece, which is now often considered the band’s best release.  Although once very popular in this scene, one band that is largely forgotten is “Sense Field.”  From California, former members of Reason to Believe got together and created several demos before releasing the eponymous Sense Field. 1994 welcomed the beautiful Killed for Less, which is a great album: fantastic music, but in contrast, still maturing lyrically.  Then, shortly thereafter, Sense Field delivered BuildingBuilding is an amazing album, full of energy, fun, kicking beat, and melody.  The unique voice of lead singer Jon Bunch (who later fronted Further Seems Forever) is especially well suited for this type of music, which captures the 90s Gen-X angst that had yet to become whiny and obnoxious Gen-Y posing.

The first track of Building, called Overstand, is a short but sweet song that will hook you.  If you like this style of music, you’ll be ready to delve in further right away.  Side 1 will just keep kicking your butt.  This generally continues through Different Times, Will, and Leia, and lasts all the way through the final track, Sight Unseen, which is also in the run for my favorite.  In fact, there’s only one song on this CD that I’m not crazy about, but lest I spoil you, I’ll keep it a mystery.  The fact remains that Sense Field delivered and then some with Building.

Sense Field went on to record three more albums including an EP, however, the final two albums never really had the magic spark, which singer Jon Bunch attributed to several factors, including the label pressures and bad financial decisions, but moreso to the fact that the scene had changed and the guys had just lost their passion for that band at that time.   I was able to see Sense Field on the east coast twice on two different tours, and the final time, I was able not only to meet them all, but also chat with them.  It was sad that so few people appeared to know their songs and their history.  Unfortunately, Sense Field is likely to be most remembered for their one radio hit, “Save Yourself,” about abstinence, which may have ironically led to their downfall.  Not only did the song get them labeled a “Christian band” (“not that there’s anything wrong with that, but we’re not a Christian band,” says Bunch) , but it also gave people a taste of Sense Field that really wasn’t who they were, leading people to check them out and then potentially be disappointed.

Nothing will change the fact that Building was and remains and incredible album, strangely as strong today as it was then.  Check out Sense Field’s Building on Amazon.com.

9 comments

  1. Is there a specific reason why you are mentioning Gorilla Biscuits here? They had nothing to do with emo in any shape or form. Granted, they weren’t the hardest New York hardcore band of the time, but they were hardcore nonetheless. Not to mention they broke up before the mid ’90s. Sure, Walter went on to Quicksand, but that says nothing about GB as a band.

    Anyways… Nice to see you write about Sense Field and all. They are far from unknown in the punk/hardcore scene, but yer probably right that that doesn’t hold up to the more mainstream audience, which is a shame.

  2. @Edwin: Whether they are or aren’t, I think of them in the same category, maybe just because at least one of them was involved in Quicksand.

  3. If you liked Sensefield and some of the other bands you mention, then you would have liked Reason To Believe, which featured most of the members of Sensefield. My old band played a bunch of shows with Reason and later Sensefield when they first started out.

  4. Sorry, probably later than that. My band was called One Step Ahead, we were from the SoCal area. I put our music up on Last.fm and a friend of ours has a myspace page set up.

  5. I have to say they were a Christian band when they stated and everyone in the scene in 1992 knew it. I remember liking their music as a very guilty pleasure for that reason.

  6. Um, no they weren't. That's a misconception that stemmed form their “Save Yourself” song. I even mentioned it, and actually quoted the lead singer about it in the post.

  7. They were never a Christian band. Jon, the singer, was Christian but the band itself wasn’t. Save Yourself wasn’t about abstinence, Jon wrote it about all of the shame he felt after sleeping with so many people while on tour.

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