Field Sleeper’s Alex Paquet seeks connection

The singer and songwriter’s lovely new album, which they will celebrate with a release show at Rambling House on Friday, March 8, emerged out of solitude but is rooted in a desire for human bonding.
Field Sleeper
Field SleeperNadia Mulhall

A handful of events helped to shape the new self-titled album from Field Sleeper, the ongoing solo project from Columbus singer/songwriter Alex Paquet. Some of these events were more personal in nature, including a 2019 breakup that led Paquet to explore questions of gender identity, while others, such as the 2020 onset of the coronavirus pandemic, were more universally experienced. 

Collectively, though, this series of fractures led the musician to interrogate their history with relationships both romantic and platonic, and to begin to sort out precisely how they fit within the larger human tapestry. It’s an idea Paquet returns to throughout the introspective, deeply felt Field Sleeper, singing: “I am crying out for help/Retreat into myself”; “The kindness you offer me/The distance you keep”; “In five years of our friendship/I’ve felt out of place.”

Paquet recorded Field Sleeper alongside Zac Little of Saintseneca, crediting the producer with helping draw out the best in the songs by amping up the vocal melodies, pushing the musician to explore different types of instrumentation, and at times “coaching” Paquet in the sessions, the majority of which unfolded in weekly Monday gatherings following a couple days of more-intensive initial tracking. “I call it coaching, but I don’t know if he would call it that,” Paquet said, and laughed. “But it would be like, ‘Okay, let’s track this same part eight times and figure out which one you like most,’ and, ‘Do you think you can hit that note a little differently?’ … It’s always so apparent how much joy he gets working with sound.”

Befitting this intimate recording arrangement, a number of the songs serve as snapshots pulled from one-on-one scenes of friendship, with Paquet whiling away the hours in backyard conversation (“Mosquitoes”), traversing train tracks by foot in the early morning hours (“Coarse Reflections”) and conversing over tacos (“Crybabies”).

“A lot of the songs, and especially the ones that were written after the pandemic had started, were all sort of based on a specific friend hangout,” said Paquet, who will celebrate the new record with a release show at Rambling House on Friday, March 8. “And when I get to perform the songs, and when I’m singing, in that moment I’m back on Ben’s lawn, or I’m back on the railroad bridge with Jess, or I’m thinking about meeting my friend’s dog for the first time. And with that comes some sweetness, because there are all of these great people in life. It’s humbling, because I don’t always know how to relate to people best, but we’re all still bound together in some way.”

This sweetness, at times, is tempered by the reality that not all relationships last, and that even those people who played a role in helping to shape us can grow distant with time. “Someone From Home,” for instance, centers one of the first friends Paquet made in Columbus after moving here at age 19 or 20, exploring how these formative early experiences gradually gave way to questions of loyalty, which the musician traced to the painful fact that the two are no longer as close as they once were.

Paquet said they began to delve into their history with relationships in earnest following a pair of 2019 breakups, including one romantic split and another creative, with the musician opting to part ways with the band Kneeling in Piss (now Healing & Peace). The pandemic further intensified this lyrical direction, with Paquet considering what it meant to keep other people safe and how to best show up for others at a time when a deadly virus and a reignited social justice movement combined to make everything feel particularly fraught. “At the time, we were asking these kinds of questions in a lot of unfamiliar ways,” they said. “And I realize that it sounds really basic, but we’re all here to answer that question of what we can be for other people.”

Much of the initial songwriting for Field Sleeper took place out loud, with Paquet holed up alone in a backyard shed during the early months of the pandemic, playing classical guitar and singing to themself, allowing the words to take shape organically in the air. Paquet, who considers themself foremost a guitarist, also experimented with songwriting challenges pulled from the Jeff Tweedy book How to Write One Song, including a word exercise in which they picked 10 nouns from within their field of site and 10 verbs associated with a single career, and then combined these selections in unexpected ways. “And in that, you start to make nouns do things that we don’t typically think of nouns doing,” they said.

The experiments paid off, too, with Paquet surfacing impressionistic lines that resonate with poetic beauty, such as the friend who holds their gaze with “clothespin eyes” on “Mosquito.”

While a number of the tracks center on Paquet's experiences moving alongside others, the musician doesn’t hesitate to turn the lens inward, delving into everything from their gender identity (“Son Cries”) to a desire for solitude that can, at times, be read as selfishness. At multiple points, the musician also addresses their inner child, perhaps most movingly on the album-closing “Whatever Flows Down There,” on which Paquet lets go of their accumulated anger and shame, promising to embrace the world’s beauty and to try and step more gently moving forward.

“I feel like that song ends with a promise of how I’m going to treat myself differently. ... If anything, it’s like, well, I’ve got time, I’ve got space. It’s a new day,” they said. “And I guess I did learn things [in making the album], though I don’t know if I learned them through writing the songs or if I kind of already knew them and it became clearer. But I definitely learned that I can be selfish, and that I can idolize people, and that I care what people think of me. But I also learned I can be caring, and I can make space for other people. And through writing all of these [songs], I definitely learned that I like who I am.”

Related Stories

No stories found.
Matter News