Adapt or Die: How Bear's Den Survived The Ultimate Sophomore Slump
    • WEDNESDAY, JULY 27, 2016

    • Posted by: Robert Steiner

    London-based indie folk-rockers Bear's Den have long been favorites of ours here at Baeble. Just a quick scan through our extensive archives shows we've done interviews, articles, and live shows with Bear's Den for the last couple of years. You can't blame us, either, because Bear's Den showed they deserve all the hype in the world with the release of their 2015 debut album, Islands. A record packed with raw emotion, beautifully crafted instrumentation, and soul-bearing lyricism, Islands was an incredibly mature-sounding and impressive first showing that earned the band critical praise and a massive fan base across Europe. Since then, the band saw the cordial departure of guitarist/banjoist Joey Haynes, which left singer/guitarist Andrew Davie and multi-instrumentalist Kev Jones to continue on as the core duo of the band. Knowing that adaptation is key to not only surviving, but also thriving, Bear's Den saw this slight roadblock as an opportunity to grow and evolve their sound, which resulted in their much-anticipated follow-up, Red Earth & Pouring Rain.

    "I think that the DNA of the band is still the same, the songwriting is generally speaking the same," says Jones, "But we were keen to trying different stuff out, and we wanted to make a different type of album than the one album we had made." The profound lyricism and folk-rock influences from Islands are still intact on Red Earth, but the new record puts a greater emphasis on electric instrumentation, and also takes queues from 70s and 80s classic rock. When looking for new artistic directions to pursue, the band turned to the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley, and even the short stories of Raymond Carter. The result is a record that's still full of introspection and passion, but has a classic and grandiose sound that recalls a time of Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles dominating FM Radio. Jones described the album as, "A little bit more nostalgic, a little bit more cinematic, and like experimenting with a broader landscape," which is all evident as soon as you hear the bright, reverb-drenched electric guitars and lush keyboards. Lyrically, the album still hits the emotional highs Bear's Den has become known for, but this time around, the lyrics came together quite differently. "The second record was written in a month, whereas the first record was written, really, over a period of ten years," Jones explains, which results in the album feeling incredibly potent and representative of specific moments in one's life. "Lyrically, the album is very present because it happened to be reflective of where we were at the time," says Jones, "And I like the idea of, or the word 'record;' like by making a record, you're recording a certain point in time. It's like taking a photograph, or it can be, and I think certainly this record is like that. It's like, 'this is where we were at, at that point.' Creatively, it was really enjoyable to be so present."

    With Red Earth & Pouring Rain fresh off the presses and hitting record store shelves, Jones says it's an absolute relief to finally show what he and Davie have been painstakingly up to. "It's hard when you make something and then you have to sit on it for months and it's all in your head. So when it finally gets out there in the world, it feels quite liberating," says Jones. The band is also particularly excited to embark on their upcoming tour this September and see what their fans think of their new sound for themselves. "We're really excited to come back to the states, because it's been a while," Jones says, as the tour will hit major cities across the country, from NYC to SF, "But also it'll be the first time where we'll actually play the entire record, because over the summer we played festivals, but no one knew the [new] songs. So it'll be amazing for us to actually play the album in full live."

    Bear's Den actually had a pretty unique introduction to touring, let alone touring the US, as they travelled in a bunch a Volkswagens with the Staves, Nathaniel Rateliff, and Ben Howard for the touring documentary, cAustin to Boston. "We were with such good company," Jones says reflecting upon the experience, "The Staves were so amazing, Nathaniel Rateliff was so brilliant, and Ben Howard was so brilliant, so just to be around music like that was incredible. And yeah, to have done that as a first tour, I really don't know how we got so lucky, you know?" The band has embarked on plenty of tours since Austin to Boston, and has learned to rely on each other and their crew to keep spirits high in the midst of hectic and tiring travelling. "I think we've got a great family around us on the road, like the members in the band, but also our crew...we're like a little family," Jones says, "To not be in that environment, I can't imagine how touring would be possible, but luckily we're surrounded by good people, and that keeps us going."

    With four years under their belt, Bear's Den has come along way since their beginnings, and like their evolving sound on Red Earth, their perspective on band life, from touring to songwriting to recording, has changed as well. While far from a typical occupation, Jones feels that his life with Bear's Den has begun to feel a little more habitual, which certainly isn't a bad thing. "In the beginning, it felt exciting, and it was more about the experience itself, but now it's about, and obviously experience is still really important, but it's more about the art of it," he explains, "What we do for a living isn't quite normal, but it becomes more normal, and that allows you to focus on the art or the craft of what you're doing."

    Red Earth & Pouring Rain is available to buy or stream right now, and be sure to catch Bear's Den on their upcoming tour this September. If you want to know more about the band's past work, check out the exclusive live performances we've done with them right here.

    Bear's Den In A Bands + Brews Session - 2014

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