- August 2013 -
HAVE A BEER WITH BEAR MOUNTAIN
After making a splash at New York’s Governor’s Ball and wrapping up a tour with Bloc Party, Vancouver, B.C.’s own electro-dance band Bear Mountain took the stage at Lollapalooza on August 2. Bear Mountain released their fresh and captivating electro/dance gem XO last month via Last Gang Records. With lush synth sounds, tropical drum beats and house-drenched kicks, XO manages to capture the feeling of the infinite and the impossible, all rolled into one.
We caught up with the band in the press lounge before their Lollapalooza gig to talk about their aftershow with Hot Chip, the recording process of their debut album and why they’re pursuing music as a passion.
The Show: Lollapalooza 2013
Drinks of Choice: Fat Tuck IPA or Boulevardier (Ian Bevis), Whiskey Neat or a Bloody Caesar (Kyle Statham), Mezcal (Kenji Rodriguez), IPAs (Greg Bevis)
Kristen from A Beer with the Band: Welcome to Chicago and Lollapalooza, guys! With the exception of Kenji, you're all from Canada—more specifically Vancouver. What's your favorite thing about it?
Ian from Bear Mountain: Vancouver has the perfect mix of beaches and mountains. The scenery is just so beautiful. If you want to go snowboarding or go to the beach or mountain biking, you can do it all. It's a really active, chill city.
Kristen: Is this your first time here in Chicago?
Ian: This is our second time. We played at Schubas a couple of months ago. It was amazing. The staff there was great and the crowd was awesome. We had such a blast.
Greg from Bear Mountain: There's something special about Chicago for us. The first time we were here playing Schubas, the crowd was amazing with so much energy, and there was this crazy feedback going between the audience and us that was powerful. Everyone felt it.
Kristen: Who did you play with?
Ian: There were actually two shows; an early show and a late show. We were the later and Jeff Tweedy's son [Wilco] played in the first band. It was so rad because Wilco is one of my favorite bands and they're such a quintessentially Chicago band. For our first experience here to be following Jeff Tweedy's son on-stage was so cool.
Kristen: He's a super talented young musician. It's your first time here at Lollapalooza. What are you looking forward to most? You have a set today.
Ian: We all have a list of bands that we want to see. We saw Ellie Goulding and we all love pop music so that was amazing. The Nine Inch nails show was crazy with the visuals in the background, and Phoenix tonight will be pretty awesome. We also went to Haim last night.
Kristen: They're so awesome. I saw them at Lincoln Hall's aftershow last night and they brought their parents up on-stage for the last song.
Kyle from Bear Mountain: No way.
Kristen: The mom killed it. The dad was on the drums. Do you get to go to the aftershows at all?
Ian: Well, we played one on Thursday with Hot Chip at The Vic.
Kristen: How did that show go?
Ian: It was amazing.
Greg: So fucking cool. They were so nice to us. Good guys. Al, the guitar player, was so warm. They were all so kind and they're such great musicians. They're doing it for the love of being in a band and it's so clear.
Kristen: Why do you guys do it?
Greg: No choice.
Ian: We have other options…but you just have to. It's always about the music.
Kristen: What do you think you'd be doing if you weren't playing music?
Greg: I was going to be a high school music teacher, but I dodged a bullet with that one by being in a band. No, I'm kidding. I would have loved it, but this is better.
Kyle: I would have been studying insects in South America. I was pretty close to getting into research biology, but I always felt like I needed to stick with music. I completely 180'd in my life and changed directions.
Ian: I'd probably be working for an internet start-up company somewhere. I used to work for a company called Hootsuite, but I quit in February. I really loved my job but we needed to be touring.
Kenji from Bear Mountain: I would just be having tons of children. Tons of kids.
Kenji: That would be my job, making babies. My wife is the financial supporter of the family, so I would be taking care of the kids.
Kristen: Best response ever. It must be super-stressful and overwhelming to work and tour.
Ian: We work a lot. We all have to figure out how to make it work at least for the next year or so.
Greg: I think we're still a few years away from doing this full-time and being able to actually pay for our lives. But right now, we've gotta pay the bills; gotta make money somehow.
Kristen: I think it's like that with any creative pursuit. If you wanna do it full-time you have to put in those extra hours in the beginning. Let's talk about your debut album XO. How did it come to fruition?
Ian: It was really a slow process. I worked on the first batch of songs solo and then played a couple of shows by myself. The songs were really demos at that time, until I eventually brought in these guys to play live. It was really a collaborative process. We sent the stems to Greg in Toronto and he recorded the drums remotely. Then we tracked all the guitar, bass and vocals in Kyle's studio in Vancouver. Then I did all the electronics. We kind of just put it all together in the final stages.
Kyle: That pretty much sums it up. When I came to Vancouver and reconnected with Ian, he had been working on his demos and was singing on the side—more acoustic type stuff—and he wanted to put something together. He brought these ideas to me, I fell in love and was so stoked when he said, "Hey, let's make this live. Let's do it." And yeah, I guess it was a process where we were just passing things around and working on it slowly to the point where we were happy.
Kristen: How long was the process from start to finish?
Ian: I think once we started working on it, it was pretty quick. The beginning stages of getting the whole band together and making it happen were slower...It was probably under a year, but we did pretty much everything by ourselves. We got it mixed by a guy and got it mastered out in Berlin. They put everything to tape and it's really nice and warm.
Kristen: Do you have a favorite song to play live from the album?
Ian: It's funny because every time I talk to someone who knows the record and sees us live, they all have a different favorite. We all individually have favorites, too. Mine is a new one because it's fresh; I don't know that it even has a name yet. "Back to Life" I think is what we've been calling it. Kenji's is "Two Step." I also have to say I love playing "See You Through."
Greg: Mine is the new one, too, and we've probably only played at two shows. It's got two names—either "Tonight" or "Back to Life." It's my favorite.
Kristen: One of our staple questions: what's the most un-rock-'n'-roll thing you've done in the past year?
Ian: Probably organizing receipts from the road. It's pretty lame but it has to be done.
Kenji: I'm usually the one cleaning up the studio. I really like keeping it clean.
Ian: You're making babies in the studio, too.
Kenji: Nah, I'm just taking care of the guys.
Greg: I think going clothes shopping with my mom is pretty un-rock-'n'-roll. She'll be like, "I wanna buy you a new pair of pants" and we go to the store and she buys me pants. I love going shopping with my mom.
Kristen: Having your mom buy your clothes is pretty kickass. Ian and Greg, you guys are twins. Growing up did you have that thing where your parents dressed you the same?
Greg: So glad you asked. Indeed we did. He was blue and I was red. It was just easier for our mom to buy clothes that way.
Kristen: Do you think you'll ever start performing that way?
Greg: I do. Today, actually...
Greg: Matching Lederhosen. That's what we're going to do.
Kristen: What's the best advice you've ever received?
Greg: I can't remember where I heard it, but someone once said, "You don't have to do it yourself, but you gotta know how to get it done." Meaning, you don't have to be able to do everything, but if you can't do a task with your own skills, find somebody who can. I think that translates to a lot of aspects of my life because you always come up against walls like, "Fuck, I can't do this." It’s okay if you can find somebody else who can handle it for you.
Kristen: I think that especially rings true in the music business. You can't do everything.
Greg: Totally. I want to do everything in music but my skills aren't there yet, so if I can't mix my record so it's super pro or the way I want it, then I need to find someone who’s skilled in that area.
Kristen: That can be hard, too. I'm not a musician, but I imagine I would want full control over what's going out there. Sometimes letting go of that control is hard.
Greg: Totally. You gotta trust people's judgment. You hire people for a reason because you trust their skills and their judgment and just leave them to it. If it's the right person, it’ll be better than you ever thought it could be. I can't remember who gave me that advice; I think it was in a book or something.
Kenji: My dad always told me, "Whatever you do, be the best." It doesn't matter what you are or what you do, just be the best at whatever you're pursuing. If you want to be cleaning bathrooms all your life, be the best doing that. If you want to sell tacos, be the best at selling tacos.
Ian: I have this sign every day in front of me on my computer and it says, "To get what you want, you have to dedicate yourself for some time." I think it's important to understand that to develop your skills, you really have to keep working on them all the time—constantly—and keep fine-tuning everything you're doing. If you continue to do that, you believe in yourself and you're honest with yourself, you’ll get where you want to be. It doesn't happen overnight; you've gotta put in that time and the work.
Kristen: I think it's a common misconception with music that you either have it or you don't and that people who have it are automatically going to be successful. It takes work and it's like any other creative pursuit; you can build and grow your talent over a period of time.
Greg: It's like that saying, “1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.”
Kristen: What's next for you guys?
Ian: We’ve got some tours coming up. We're going to Mexico at the end of August, which we're really excited about. We're going to Kenji's hometown of Guadalajara and we’ll play Monterey and Mexico City. And then we're doing some shows with MSMR in Texas at the end of the summer. We're really, really excited about that. And then we're making another record. It's time. We're always kind of working on it, but it will come when it comes.