Red Earth & Pouring Rain is the latest album from Bear’s Den and being celebrated by critics and fans alike. Andrew Davie and Kev Jones consist the London duo and have just returned from a tour of the U.S. In addition to performing on national television and bringing their music to new faces: the boys are currently in Germany. They prepare to head to the U.K. in November and will be performing around the country – including Brighton’s The Dome and Albert Hall in Manchester.
I was afforded the chance to chat with Bear’s Den and reflect on the year so far: how touring has been and how important artwork is to their music – whether they prefer life in the studio or the thrill of the road.
The Metropolist: Hey guys. I believe you are currently on the road in North America. How is the country treating you and what dates do you have in the pipeline?
Bear’s Den: We are! ‘The Den’ is currently in Canada before heading back to the United States – through the Midwest to the West Coast. After that, we head out on tour in the U.K. and Europe – the road is treating us very well thanks. The band was kind of born on the road so we are very comfortable here.
T.M.: Islands was your debut album and gained huge critical acclaim. Was it quite daunting hearing such positive reviews and did it put pressure on your shoulders?
B.D.: It was very flattering, to be honest. We are very proud of both Islands and Red Earth & Pouring Rain. I think we do feel pressure sometimes but it’s more the pressure we put on ourselves and that can be more severe than any expectation from the outside. We’re always trying to push ourselves creatively and make sure we are learning all the time. At the end of the day, as long as we are doing that, then we’re in a good place.
T.M.: In terms of the artists that inspired that album and your sound: which would you single as being most influential?
B.D.: That’s an incredibly tough question! There are so many things that inspire us: the people around us, other musicians; writers, painters and film-makers. If we had to name one (maybe) it would be Boys of Summer by Don Henley – just because (maybe) four years ago we bonded over that song and (perhaps) it sparked something that has evolved into Red Earth & Pouring Rain.
T.M.: Red Earth & Pouring Rain is out – going to number six in the U.K. – and boasts gorgeous cover art. The songs are all graceful, eye-catching and vivid. Are visuals and imagery vital when crafting your songs?
B.D.: I think they are and are becoming increasingly more so. We definitely aspired to make a cinematic second record – something that painted pictures in your head and something that made you feel like you were in a certain landscape. You don’t necessarily think about that when you start playing music but more and more we think from a visual perspective.
T.M.: Can you tell us about the themes and subjects that enforced the lyrics for Red Earth & Pouring Rain?
B.D.: There are many themes lyrically. We try and make sure fans can project their own meanings into the songs so getting too detailed kind of detracts from that. But it’s fair to say we are very interested in characters in difficult situations: how they react, how they do or don’t extract themselves from those situations.
T.M.: The album has gained great feedback so far. How important is positive reaction and support when it comes to music and pushing forward?
B.D.: It’s definitely nice when your work is well-received and our fans mean a lot to us; so it’s fair to say I think we’d feel like we had let people down if they weren’t into the new material – but at the same time, it’s a very dangerous path to be making music based on what you think other people might want. We have to make it for ourselves first: ensure that we are learning and pushing ourselves and then the hope is that if we are into it then other people might be too.
T.M.: Emeralds is the latest single from the album and talks about having “come so far”. Was there a relationship in mind when writing the single – what was the motivation for penning Emeralds?
B.D.: Emeralds was inspired partly by a trip Davie took to India in between tours last year – but as we said, it’s important to us that people are able to project their own lives onto the songs. To explain them would be to deny people that chance!
T.M.: In terms of your development and evolution: what have been the biggest changes between albums and how does the new L.P. differ from Islands?
B.D.: I guess the single-biggest difference is that Islands is effectively a collection of songs written over a period of maybe five years and songs which we toured a lot before recording. Red Earth & Pouring Rain was written in about a month and the majority of it recorded in six weeks – so those songs are only being toured in now, post-release. Conceptually, I think Red Earth’ is very complete because of this process. It very much feels like a snapshot of a certain space and time and that process for us was challenging but also incredibly rewarding. It’ll be interesting to see how we making more music having approached it in such different ways on album one and album two.
T.M.: How does London inspire you as musicians and what does the city mean to you personally?
B.D.: I think it inspired us a lot, especially early on. We were very lucky in that we found ourselves in a community of musicians who were all like-minded and wanted to learn and support each other (so we owe a lot to that). Nowadays it’s a little harder: venues are closing all the time in London and it’s significantly harder to create those melting pots of ideas and people.
T.M.: You are touring through November and taking in Brighton’s The Dome and Manchester’s Albert Hall. So many shows are sold out. How does that make you feel and any places you’re especially excited to play?
B.D.: It’s pretty overwhelming, to be honest. We are so lucky to be able to have reached so many people with our music. We are so (so) excited to play those shows. As to which we are especially excited to play: honestly, it’s all of them – although Brixton will be special just because it’s home turf and our friends and family will be there.
T.M.: Are you a group that prefers life on the road; or are you more settled when in the studio?
B.D.: They are the polar opposite environments for us. We love studio time because you get to focus on one thing and stay in one place – but it’s never long before we start getting itchy feet and want to get back out on the road again. One wouldn’t exist without the other and so I guess neither would we.
T.M.: How do the two of you unwind between gigs and is it possible to truly relax and unwind as a musician in the modern climate?
B.D.: It can be hard to unwind especially if you only have a few days at home between tours. Suddenly, doing mundane things – like going to the shop to buy a pint of milk – can be a bit bewildering. If we are at home for longer it can be easier; although we both invariably end up back in the studio playing or producing other people’s music. It’s fair to say we like to keep busy!
T.M.: Is there a particular song that is special to both of you – that one that you always love playing and means the most?
B.D.: Recently, we have re-introduced the song Stubborn Beast into our live set after a long while not playing it and it’s feeling brilliant. As a song, it was kind of a gateway for us into writing Islands and for that reason is pretty special to both of us.
T.M.: What advice could you offer any upcoming artists that want to follow in your footsteps?
We took a long time figuring things out before starting Bear’s Den – spent a lot of time listening to music, talking about what we wanted to do and what we wanted the band to be like (before we picked up any instruments). I think that stood us in good stead: in other bands we’ve been in; you just go headlong into it without thinking about what you are doing and that massively increases the chances of it not being fruitful. So, in short, have a good old think about what you are trying to do and why you are doing it before you start!
Red Earth & Pouring Rain is out now through Communion Group Ltd.