An Interview With: Bear's Den

Posted: Wednesday 27 March 2019

Bear’s Den are on the cusp of releasing their third full-length album, So that you might hear me and we had the pleasure of speaking to lead vocalist, Andrew Davie recently to get the details on the record and how he hopes to communicate the new songs live.

The new album comes out on April 26th, how excited are you to share it with the world?

We’re so excited. The last year or so has just been spent working away on it and we’re just so, so excited that it’s finally coming out. It’s been a journey, but couldn’t be more excited.

We noticed in the album title there’s a lack of uppercase letters, as if you’re almost speaking to someone, as opposed to it being a title. Is this an intentional thing?

Yeah definitely. The title is the last line of the album, it’s the second half of a sentence at the end of the album. I think we wanted to come up with a title that felt like it was conversational and lyrically for the album to feel a bit more conversational than it has done in the past. We didn’t want it to feel to written and still feel quite human, if that makes any sense haha.

We think it works! What are the influences behind this record, musically or otherwise? Do you think they’re different to when you first started out?

I’d definitely say that our influences change from album to album, song to song. I think on this record there are a couple of reoccurring themes. Kev spent a lot of time playing piano on this record and I think we were very influenced by Steve Reich-esque piano parts and building up multiple, small ideas, small rhythmic piano melodies and seeing if that brought in any interesting textures to the songs. He’s just an amazing musician and was able to translate ideas across so many different instruments.

We were massively influenced by The Smiths and Johnny Marr’s use of tremolo too, Kev was exploring a lot of stuff with that, tremolo is a big thing throughout the record. There’s some more abstract influences throughout the record as well, I think the whole thing lyrically was kinda going for this need for connection and trying to reach someone who couldn’t be reached. We ended up taking that quite far and using things like morse code and sampling sonar from submarines as parts of rhythm tracks. Just having these weird, slightly alien, “Is anybody out there” kind of style communication rhythms in the tracks was really interesting. It was fun.

The musical scope has definitely grown over the years, but despite that, your records have always seemed very intimate, how do you get yourself into the headspace to write like that?

I think I’m always drawn to writing songs when I feel like I’ve got something that I need to figure out. On this record, I think the main thing we were trying to do was write something that was a bit more human. Given that the album is about longing to connect with people, or someone, I think it felt very natural for it to almost break away from feeling too like a song, so I think that’s one of the things on this album that is perhaps a bit new. We worried slightly less about it being very written and a perfectly told story, allowing it to have these moments where it sort of breaks or bursts out of something and it feels a bit more human. That was the challenge.

Some songs almost feel like an argument, halfway through the song it feels like it’s a different side of the same conversation. ‘Hiding Bottles’ almost feels like a bipolar song, the beginning is this dreamy, hazy thing and then it cracks into this intense full band sound and I think that’s trying to reflect how we actually are when we communicate with each other.

Is there any ever fear of putting your music out into the world, especially when you are talking on intimate issues?

Definitely. I think naturally it’s something we’ve always done and it’s just how I’ve learnt to write songs, to be pretty honest and open with that stuff. You can definitely feel vulnerable doing it, even when you write it and present it, there’s quite a few levels of being fairly vulnerable with all these random thoughts and stuff, but it’s important and I think it’s something that hopefully can connect with people. It’s coming from quite an honest place and that’s what we enjoy doing and what inspires us is when we hear records, where musically or lyrically you feel compelled by it, you feel like there’s a sense of depth to it and someone’s trying to reach out from the music. That’s a very powerful thing and we’re trying to do that.

It’s clear that the words and lyrics are very important to you and to some degree this is reflected in the video for ‘Blankets Of Sorrow’. It’s very moving and interesting, despite it being just a lyric video, so how do you go about the lyric writing process? What tends to come first, the music or the words?

It tends to be that I’ll get some chords going that are interesting to me, which just might be a verse or a chorus, then I’ll try and record just those chords in some sort of order. If it’s an idea that needs a few other elements to become fully alive, if it needs a synth part or a drum beat, I might add a few small sparse elements and then normally I just live with it and play it on a loop in my headphones as I do every day stuff and I just mumble to myself. Whenever I get an actual chunk of time I have a deeper look at it and try to make sense of some of those mumbles. Sometimes I just blurt lyrics out, which at times are terrible but sometimes it sounds really interesting and it feels like something really true but I don’t understand it, so I try and work back from there. Other times songs just sort of come on quite quickly and it can feel quite natural. It’s a different process for each one, but that seems to be the way I’m working more now, writing a vague music part and then working on melodies and lyrics at the same time.

So it’s just letting the songs come out naturally, to some degree?

Trying to, yeah. Often there’s some really interesting stuff that’s just locked away, so it’s just spending the time with something and letting it reveal itself to you a little bit, rather than chasing it all the time. I think that goes back to trying to not be too much of a songwriter about it and trying to just let something be a more true reflection of where you’re actually at.

We’ve been following the podcast that you guys have been doing, which is almost like a companion to the album, how did that come about?

Danny who hosts the podcast is our old tour manager and we met him about seven years ago. He travelled with us across Europe and drove us around, organised everything on tour and was just an amazing guy and really good friend of both of ours. He’s recently stopped doing tour managing and has got into doing podcasts, he’s always been one of the funniest guys we know, but also one of the smartest and it’s been really fun talking to him about it. He called us and said, “I think this could be cool, what do you guys think?” and we were both really excited and knew that he would do a great job, so we flew him over to London and did it in our little writing room. It was really fun, he’s just a great guy and he knows how to get stuff out of us, we both feel so comfortable and confident around him that I think it was just really natural and easy.

You’ve mentioned it already and you talk on the podcast about the album being ready to record when you can take the listener on a journey – have you got a particular journey in mind with this album?

Oh gosh. Umm. Kev is usually the man who goes, “I think we’ve got an album here”. When you’re writing the amount of songs you need to write and put out an album, normally a record is 10-12 songs, but you want to have 20+ songs in the mix to be able to pick your favourites. In the process of doing that, you can feel like you don’t know if you’ve got enough, or if it’s good enough. When it comes to the journey side of it, it’s really just making sure that the songs are of the same headspace enough that it sounds like a coherent piece of work, but also, go on massive individual journeys themselves and allow to bring different colours and instruments to each track. The specific journey is hard to know, but hopefully listening to the album, it feels like it is an interesting and unique journey.

In addition to the album, tour time is nearly upon you, what can we expect from the shows? Will they differ from previous tours?

Good question. We actually start rehearsing very shortly, so we’re really excited to get back on the road and it’s going to be a lot of fun. I think with this record, it’s some of our most intimate songs and some of our biggest songs I suppose, so I’m really interested in how we can play with the dynamic of that. As the venues grow, we’re always trying to find ways of keeping things as intimate as possible and that involves being really creative with lots of different elements.

I don’t want to give too much away, but we’re all really excited to be out on tour again. Fundamentally we do still see ourselves as a live band, so the idea of getting out there and playing these songs, that’s when they all come to life for us really. The record is a snapshot of the songs, but when you’re touring and you’re playing them every night and experiencing that every night, that’s when the songs feel really done and really real to me.

Speaking of being a live band, you’ve gone from two live members to six of you in total now, so what has having the extra people allowed you to do?

We’re so spoilt by working with those four guys, they’re all just exceptional musicians and incredibly versatile. Christof plays acoustic guitar, banjo, sings and I think he’ll also be playing a few synths on the next tour. Marcus plays horns, synths, drum machines… he’s just a genius, and then Jules plays horns, drums and is also a great singer and guitarist and Harry’s an incredible guitarist and singer too.

When we started the band we didn’t want it to be a traditional, “You play bass, you play guitar, you sing, you play drums” thing, we wanted it to be very much what the song needs we’ll just figure it out. Having these guys who are so versatile on top of Kev and I, who are able to cover a few different bases, it means that we can really do whatever the songs wants to do, which is a really big luxury for us to have.

We’ve noticed that you have a penchant for throwing in a cover or two on previous tours, can we expect any this time around?

Oooo, good question (again!) I think at some point there will be cover kicking around, but not totally sure as of yet what it will be. I’m a big fan of any cover, two years ago we somehow ended up singing ‘Heaven’ by Bryan Adams quite a lot, which is always fun. We’re just so excited to try new things and we’re going on tour with some great bands this year, we’re on tour with Tusks in April and she’s amazing, so sometimes who we tour with can lead to cool collaborations and covers like that. We did a Tom Petty cover in Belgium last year when we had Dan Croll and Sam Fender supporting and it as an incredible moment, just everyone taking a verse in ‘Free Fallin’’ and it was just the best thing ever. Those kind of things are just awesome, so hopefully there will be plenty of that over the next year or so.

Could you pick out a favourite cover you’ve done?

That’s hard. We played TLC’s ‘No Scrubs’ in Atlanta which was really fun. Touring America, that was really interesting because we asked the audience to suggest a song specific to each state or city we were playing and we got so many submissions for covers it was crazy. That whole tour was just a blast, there were so many good ones and it actually introduced us to so many bands that we didn’t know. I can’t think off the top of my head of my favourite one, but I think doing ‘Free Fallin’’ with Sam and Dan was such an incredible moment that I think it’d be hard to beat that one.

If you want to see Bear's Den bring their new album to life and maybe even hear a cover, then grab your tickets to their headline tour now:

O2 Academy Bristol: Tuesday 16 April Buy Tickets

O2 Guildhall Southampton: Wednesday 17 April Buy Tickets

O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire: Tuesday 23 April - SOLD OUT

O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire: Wednesday 24 April Buy Tickets

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