An Artist I Love: the everybodyfields

They sound exactly how you'd expect them to

They sound exactly how you’d expect them to

Yes, their name is all lowercase. Yes, it pained the copy editor in me to leave the headline like that. But I’m willing to overlook it because I love this band so much. How much? On Friday night, I got home from a jam at about 2 a.m., and I found in my inbox an e-mail from my buddy Andrey, who had found a video of the everybodyfields performing that was dated 2013. “Did they get back together?” he asked me.

His message sent me into a paroxysm of googling. You see, Andrey and I discovered the everybodyfields back in 2010–the year after the band split. Sadly, my research quickly revealed that they had gotten back together to play at a festival in Knoxville in April (they’d also played a couple of shows in 2011), but there was no plan to do a full reunion of the band.

The everybodyfields were comprised of Jill Andrews and Sam Quinn, plus a rotating cast of supporting musicians. Andrews and Quinn met when they were nineteen, while working as camp counselors in Tennesse (I’m not kidding). They released their first album, Halfway There: Electricity and the South, in 2004, and it sounded exactly the way you’d think an album with that title would: dusty, acoustic songs that feel like they could have been written during the Great Depression. My favorite tune is The Red Rose, a song with the incomparably awesome chorus “I think God is a moonshiner/His skin is gold from the whiskey in his blood/I think in heaven there is a barroom/A place where the men go to forget about their wives.” Here’s the band performing the tune at the Independent in San Francisco. (I used to live across the street from this place, but I didn’t know about the band at the time. Goddammit.)

Other highlights on the album include Pairlee, a song about a young girl found dead under an apple tree, His Pontiac, about a girl running away from home, and T.V.A., a blast from the Depression-era past that won Sam Quinn a major songwriting award in 2005. The combination of this songwriting and Jill Andrews’ phenomenal voice (and serious hotness) promised great things for the band.

They released their sophomore album, Plague of Dreams, and it was a worthy follow-up to the debut. Among the best tracks are The Only King, a song that offers a sad, sympathetic look at Elvis’ lonely last days; By Your Side, a lovely song about heading down to the seaside with a lover; Baby Please, an upbeat dancing song with the chorus “If the world does end, I want to be in your arms/Scooting cross the floor, with a buzz on”; and Good to be Home, an extended bluesy Quinn tune about coming in off the road.

Their third album, Nothing Is Okay, came out in 2007, and the title was right on the money. The music is still beautiful, but the songs are emotionally taxing; they’re pretty clearly about Quinn and Andrews breaking up, almost an Americana version of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. To be honest, this is the everybodyfields album I’ve listened to the least–it’s just too painful. It’s the best/worst right in the middle of the album, when Wasted Time (a song about a 3 a.m. phone call with lyrics like “If you hold me now/I promise to let go when you leave” and “If that’s all you’ve got to give/I guess nothing will make this right/I’ll call it wasted time”) transitions seamlessly into Everything Is Okay (which features a call and response verse between Quinn and Andrews with the lyrics “And you told me that everything was okay/I bit my lip a little tighter/And walked away/(It’s not your problem)/I walked away/(It’s not your problem)”). It’s heartbreaking.

It’s actually amazing, given what you hear on Nothing Is Okay, that the band stayed together for two more years. But it’s a total bummer that the inevitable breakup happened, because Goddammit I’m sure they would have found something resembling mainstream success if they could have worked things out. They were too good not to.

I’ve often complained that too many of the artists I like, even the contemporary ones, are dead by the time I discover them. Andrews and Quinn are both alive, of course, but I’m probably never going to get to see them play together live, and there most likely won’t be any more everybodyfields albums. I’ll just have to be thankful for the existence of YouTube, where I found all these great videos, and of course for those three great albums, which have gotten me through a lot of lonely nights. Thanks, Sam and Jill.

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