One half of the folk-rock duo Bear’s Den discusses the group’s new album and more experimental approach to writing music
Folk-rock group Bear’s Den has emerged from hibernation ready to share new sounds with the world. The duo of Andrew Davie and Kevin Jones have churned out their fourth studio album, Blue Hours, and for these recordings they’re bravely venturing into new creative territory. The album, out 13 May, was named after a hotel the band members previously stayed at. Although this title was taken directly from their temporary place of residence, Blue Hours came to mean something different for the duo, “An imaginary headspace where self-reflection takes place.”
Out of this mindset, the two crafted an album of electronic sounds with touchingly personal motifs. Songs like Shadows, Spiders, and Gratitude express topics related to mental health and trace how the band addressed their own mindsets throughout 2020. Spiders, for example, is a catchy track stemming from Davie’s reflections on his move to London. He anticipated this relocation would aid in navigating the stressors of life, but it only provided a new space for them to reside in. Following the realization that you can’t run from your problems, the band’s music is more daring and experimental than ever, and is being introduced to audiences with no traces of timidity.
In our recent chat, Davie discussed his and Jones’ process, what it’s like collaborating with producer Ian Grimble, and the band’s excitement about upcoming live shows in the U.K., Europe and North America through October of this year.
How did it feel to experiment and take risks with your music process for this album?
“It felt incredibly liberating! We’re always trying to explore different ways of creating music, and after everything over the last few years, I think we as a band felt empowered to take risks and not settle into any old formula from previous songs or records. In almost every way, we were exploring new musical and sonic textures: rubber-bridge guitars, Wurlitzers, Prophet-6 arpeggiator, TR-8 drum machine, glitchy OP-1 sounds. For us, it’s always been about creating a mood and trying to make music that is moving using whatever instruments feel exciting to us in that moment.”
How did the unique circumstances of 2020 impact the sound and lyrics of the album?
“I think to some extent, lyrically at least, our songs have always been introspective. Writing songs for Blue Hours began a fair bit before the pandemic hit. Blue Hours was the name of a hotel both Kev and I have stayed at in Morocco, and I liked the idea of Blue Hours being this imaginary hotel I was checking into every night to write songs.
“Weirdly, during the pandemic, everyone seemed to find themselves in their own solitary little world. I think the songs perhaps feel more lyrically isolated and longing for connection because of that. To contrast that isolation, as a band we wanted to boldly present the songs and not be shy in how we present them, hopefully finding some catharsis in what everyone has endured.”
How did the realization that leaving London didn’t resolve certain issues you were going through come out in the song Spiders?
“That there is bravery in saying when you’re not okay. In my mind, while working on the song, I always worried it would feel too heavy or too sad. But the idea of belting this song at shows and other people singing along to the chorus lyrics, to me, will help take all the loneliness out of those words and hopefully be a cathartic experience.”
What was the inspiration behind the electronic sounds and instrumentation used on the track Blue Hours?
“Pre-pandemic there were no synths in Ian’s control room, and when we went in to record there were, like, 20 permanently set up to Pro Tools and talking to each other. It was awesome! Ian christened the setup “The Wall,” and to be honest, I think “The Wall ” was a huge part of the album’s sound. I think both Kev and my musical ideas within Bear’s Den are super complimentary, but we both love having that added element of unpredictability and interest. I think we both bounce off it really well and find those textures super inspiring.”
How does collaborating with Ian Grimble bring out the best of your musicianship?
“I feel extremely fortunate to work with Ian Grimble, and I also feel very lucky to work with Kev, who is an extraordinary musician. Between us, I think there’s never a shortage of ideas, but often Ian’s role really is to encourage us and pull each of us back if we stray a bit too far from what we’ve all kinda agreed we’re trying to do musically on the record. He’s a really good guardian of our communal vision for the record, and I think that role gives us both freedom creatively and boundaries too.”
Why was it important for you both to address mental health in the album?
“I can’t speak beyond my own experience, but it feels like mental health is becoming increasingly important in my own life. I’ve struggled at different times over the last few years and have close friends and family who have suffered too. I’m only interested in writing songs when things feel difficult and I want to make sense of the world – naturally, that’s led me to talk about my own mental health and my relationships that have been affected by it. It feels beyond important to me to try and talk about it.”
Now that the album is out, what are you most looking forward to for the rest of 2022?
“TOURING!! We’re so fortunate to have the best fans anyone could possibly dream of, and we just can’t wait to get back on the road in April and May to see them all in Europe and the U.K., and also in September in North America. We’re a live band first and foremost, and to be honest it’s felt like we’ve been missing a band member by not being able to play these songs to audiences yet. All of our old songs have grown so much from performing them night after night and singing them with audiences over the years. Seeing how these songs evolve and grow together with an audience is something neither of us can wait to be a part of.