Interview/ Bears Den: 'on this record we didn’t feel like we wanted to be so prescriptive'

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Nick Kramers,Third Year History

‘Lyrically we are trying to be more open and speak a little less cryptically than perhaps we have done before', Nick Kramers talk to Bears Den ahead of their Bristol tour date.

Well into their two-month international tour of Europe and North America, Kev Jones finds time to chat with me ahead of Bear’s Den’s 16th April gig at Bristol's O2 Academy. He’s on a bus between Amsterdam and Berlin and has been playing a show a day in a number of countries for the last week. This is the industrious underbelly of Bear’s Den’s relaxed and liberating sound.

For those unfamiliar with Bear’s Den look no further than ‘Agape’ and ‘Magdelene’ from Islands and ‘Auld Wives’ and ‘Emeralds’ from Red Earth and Pouring Rain. In Jones’ own words: ‘If you were to be reductive about it, the first album is quite folky, our second more electronic, and I think on this record we didn’t feel like we wanted to be so prescriptive, we followed our noses a bit more. It’s quite a broad range of sounds and influences on this record’. The band have already released three singles ahead of their upcoming album: a listen to ‘Fuel on the Fire’ and ‘Blankets of Sorrow’ shows this contrast between their electronic and folky traits. The new LP, So That You Might Hear Me, comes out April 26th.

When prompted, Jones continues: ‘The name of the album comes from a poem by Naruder, 'So That You Will Hear Me'. In that poem he is able to express a lot of what we’re trying to express on this album: there’s a theme of communication on the album, attempting to communicate with people, people in our lives it’s not so easy to communicate with, people who might not be around anymore, but expressing that need to want and communicate. Those things can often be blocked either by yourself or by the other person.’ ‘'So That You Will Hear Me' seemed too final and decisive, but 'So That You Might Hear Me' seemed to capture what we’re trying to do more: a little more hopeful but also uncertain.

I ask him about the differences between this album and previous ventures. ‘Lyrically we are trying to be more open and speak a little less cryptically than perhaps we have done before. We also had more time, the second album was written in two and a half weeks, we took more time for this, which we needed to partly because we’ve been touring a lot. Also, we’ve got our own studio in a church in North London now so we’re able to demo and experiment with less time pressure and be able to build a production template for each song. It’s definitely a more chilled process which is nice.’

On their song-writing process, Jones continues: ‘There are layers being built up, [Andrew] Davie (The other half of Bears Den) will mostly provide the first layer, apart from the initial conception we’re always in the room together and figuring stuff out. There’s no formula, it’s sometimes that most of the instrumental will be written before the lyrics, and sometimes it’s lead by the lyrics. Davie writes all the lyrics and spends a lot of time thinking about stuff and at a certain point he’ll bring it to me and we’ll work together to build something that carries the lyrics or the essence of the song musically. When we started the band we said we’d always service the song and make sure the song is at the heart of everything, rather than trying to fit songs into a formula.’I ask Jones for any advice he would give to his younger self starting out trying to produce music: ‘Good question haha. I would say working really really hard is the key to it all, it might not be the thing to say, but working really hard and being able to adapt, being self-reflective, self-critical. Being able to find a situation where what I’m best at is being utilised, that takes time, but is the essence of it all.’

On inspiration and his own musical interests, Jones goes on: ‘Bob Dylan was hugely inspirational for both of us purely in terms of songwriting. We really love the national, love Bon Iver, The Shins made a huge impression. Damien Jurado, we’re both big fans of, anything he does we absolutely love.’ For their upcoming album Bears Den worked with former The Shins and Fleet Foxes producer Phil Ek. ‘One of the reasons was looking at his discography, so many great alternative songwriters and bands. It felt really great to work with someone who’s made a lot of records we’ve been inspired by for years.’

Bears Den will be supported at the O2 by singer-songwriter Tusks. ‘Expect really interesting song-writing. That is the reason we wanted her to come and support. We’re still getting to know her, we’ve only had two dates with her, but we’re really curious about her music and curious about her, and it seemed fitting to get her on tour with us.’

Anyone planning on attending should expect a very emotional evening with the band, as Kev Jones and Andrew Davie take you on a rollercoaster of emotion with their evocative folk and expansive electronic riffs the perfect accompaniment to their thought-provoking lyrics. Not one to miss.

Featured Image: Bear's Den/ Bear's Den


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