Q&A: Bear’s Den Talks Influences, Packing Lessons, & Artists To Watch In The Midst Of Their International Tour

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Photo: Andrew Whitton

As seen in the video below, British folk-rock band Bear’s Den takes listeners through a mystical portal of countless jangling instrumentals and sweeping vocals in their live shows. The band’s captivating performance of sweet harmonies touch on solemn subject matter, instigating an arresting and euphoric engagement with too many instruments to count. 

Bear’s Den is notorious for touring nonstop, and 2017 is no different for the group that has previously traveled with Nathaniel Rateliff and Ben Howard, just to name a few. We caught up with the two frontmen of the wandering band, vocalist/guitarist Andrew Davie and vocalist/bassist/drummer Kevin Jones, before they hit the stage at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles. The pair gave us the scoop on their influences, their newest album Red Earth & Pouring Rain, and their endless love for touring.  

While the US leg of Bear’s Den’s tour is coming to a close, the European portion is just getting started–see all dates here.    

OTW: Let’s start at the beginning – how was Bear’s Den born?

Bear’s Den: It was born about five years ago. Davie and I used to play bands and wanted new projects, so we had lots of cups of tea and lots of pints of beer to chat about rough concepts and took it from there.

OTW: Do you feel like the name encompasses the music?

Bear’s Den: I think the name just weirdly fit the music, for some reason. We were trying to go for the sound of a hiding place, like when you’re running away and find a cave to hide in.

OTW: What inspired the name for your latest album, Red Earth & Pouring Rain?

Bear’s Den: Yes, that name came from an Indian poem we stumbled upon. It’s just a really beautiful poem, and I remember seeing it written down and thought it sounded amazing. First we demoed the first song, and it was called “Red Earth & Pouring Rain,” which set the blueprint for everything. Then we went and made the album a few months later.

OTW: Would you say there’s a certain theme that encompasses the album? Or is each song its own story? Seems to be a lot of heartbreak.

Bear’s Den: I don’t think there’s one theme, but that’s fair to say. There’s definitely a bit of that. But we’re really interested in talking about things that aren’t just the typical boy-meets-girl dramas. For example, “New Jerusalem” is a familial song  about Davie’s relationship with his sister. And then there’s “Napoleon,” which is about Davie’s relationship with his mom.

OTW: Is there a certain lyric or song that resonates with you the most?

Bear’s Den: It changes often. It depends where we’re at in our lives. That’s the beauty in playing the songs every day–our relationship changes with them. It’s never the same. 

OTW: This is Bear’s Den’s second album after Islands in 2014. How has your sound evolved?

Bear’s Den: The sound is quite different. It’s more electric in places and has more synths. We got a bit obsessed with an ‘80s FM radio sound, with Bruce Springsteen as an influence. There are common threads between albums one and two, but Red Earth & Pouring Rain is just a bit more “spangly.”

 OTW: Define “spangly.” I like that word.

Bear’s Den: Like the “Star Spangled Banner.” It’s dotted with different things. [Sarcastically] That’s album three’s title, Spangly.

 OTW: So there’s an album three on the way?

 Bear’s Den: Not yet…we need a minute.

 OTW: Yeah, you guys tour a lot! Speaking of touring, a unique aspect of your tour is that you’ve asked fans to vote on a song for you to cover at each show. What have the submissions been like?

Bear’s Den: There have been hundreds of funny submissions, which is crazy and overwhelming. Some are songs we haven’t heard and others are classics. It’s kind of terrifying because we don’t have much time to practice.  

OTW: Do you count the votes before each show?

 Bear’s Den: Sometimes, it’s overwhelmingly obvious which one fans want us to perform. Some are really random, and some are in genres that we aren’t totally comfortable playing–like 90s R&B. I don’t want to give any away though; we’ll reveal the votes slowly.

 OTW: What would be your ultimate dream song to cover? Who are your musical heroes?

 Bear’s Den: We covered some Leonard Cohen songs on our last tour and that was really fun. There are so many you can’t ignore, like Bob Dylan and The Beatles. We like channeling our heroes when we’re performing too; sometimes we’re like, “What would Prince do right now?” It changes from album to album; suddenly we’ll hear a song and have a connection to it that will make us pick up a guitar and play in a different way. There are too many influences to count.

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Photo: Andrew Whitton

OTW: You’ve been on tons of tours, from traveling with Ben Howard and Nathaniel Radcliffe, to Daughter and Mumford & Sons. What are some key takeaways that you’ve learned from being on the road so much?

 Bear’s Den: One thing I thought was quite funny on this tour was that when we first started, we were super disorganized with luggage and packing. As you tour more and more, you realize your life is always on the road. When you realize this, you’ve got to start packing in cubes. So you can have little compartments within your suitcase. Super exciting stuff, I know.

 OTW: Riveting stuff. [Laughs] To switch gears, here at Ones To Watch we’re focused on up and coming artists of all genres. Who are some of your favorite up and comers?

Bear’s Den: We really like Valley Maker, he’s from Seattle. We also are into Gill Landry, he’s supporting tonight. We’re listening to Seramic, he’s a mate of ours, and this British band called Banoffee. They’re really cool. Additionally, have you heard of Pinegrove? They’re very intriguing. And this American band from New York, called Big Thief.

 OTW: Anything you’d like to say to the fans?

Bear’s Den: We’re really excited to be back in Los Angeles, specifically to play the El Rey Theatre. This might be the longest we’ve gone without touring in the five years we’ve been a band, so we’re pumped to get going again. We had about six weeks off and it’s so nice to be back.

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