A 20th anniversary of an endeavor is a milestone.
For a rock band, it’s even more impressive given many musicians’ fragile egos and territorial inclinations.
Bill Deasy, the lead singer, songwriter and guitarist for the Gathering Field — founded in 1994 — isn’t quite sure what to make of the Pittsburgh-based band’s longevity.
“It’s hard to comprehend,” says Deasy, who will perform with the band Nov. 8 at Stage AE, North Shore. “I still feel I’m about 22. I’m not surprised, but I’m relieved (the band) is still here and feels alive, because, at this point in life, you can be barely playing and phoning it in some way. But I’ve never felt more connected to what I’m doing, or excited about it, in terms of just the music.”
The Gathering Field is marking two decades together with a new album. “Wild Journey” is the band’s fifth studio release, the first in more than 12 years. It finds the group sounding more diverse and accomplished than ever. Deasy, guitarist Dave Brown (who produced the album), guitarist Clark Slater, keyboardist John Burgh, drummer Ray DeFade and bassist Eric Riebling now draw from a broader musical palette. Notably, the songs “When Hearts Go Cold,” “Never Gonna Let You Go” and “Love No Longer” are roots-based, almost Americana-like in tenor.
“I think we have a depth to our sound and playing that we didn’t have when we were younger,” Deasy says. “Age brings, theoretically, some depth, some soul. I think that really shines through in everybody’s playing, and even my singing I like a little better than I have on records before. It’s just everything is more comfortable. You don’t force things as much; you let them happen, and that’s just the wisdom of maturity.”
Not everything has gone smoothly, of course. When the band decided to release a new record earlier this year, Deasy was worried he wouldn’t be able to write enough songs to fill an entire album. And when the band finished recording the tracks, Brown and Deasy disagreed on which song should be first. Deasy lobbied for “Something Holy,” a rousing quasi-autobiographical song. Brown contended the mid-tempo title track was the better choice.
“In retrospect, I think ‘Wild Journey’ is a little more evocative of a quintessential Gathering Field song,” Deasy says. “It’s a good invitation to people who used to like us a lot. I think that’s where Dave was coming from. He felt it was more open and welcoming.”
In other bands, a disagreement of this sort might have resulted in name-calling, threats or worse. But it was a minor distraction for a band that’s amicably thrived for 20 years.
“We’ve always worked very well together,” Deasy says, “and just being a little older, we even work better together. We’ve always been a somewhat ego-less band, maybe to our detriment, in some ways. Maybe that’s why we didn’t go farther, because we weren’t into trashing hotel rooms or anything like that. We’ve always been natural collaborators in terms of the music.”
Rege Behe is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.