- April 2014 -
HAVE A BEER WITH BEAR'S DEN
Andrew Davie (vocals, guitar), Joey Haynes (vocals, banjo) and Kevin Jones (vocals, drums) are the lads of London-based Bear’s Den. The trio played music in various incarnations before officially forming the band in 2012. They developed a cult following in their short existence as a result of their writing, harmonies, D.I.Y. approach with custom hand-stamped CDs and extensive touring. It was only after finding their identity on the road that the band focused their attention on studio recordings. Bear's Den have shared the stage with Mumford & Sons, Daughter and Matt Corby, and they recently wrapped up their first U.S. headlining tour, including a stop at SXSW in Austin, Texas, as well as a gig at Schubas Tavern in Chicago, where we sat down with the guys over some beers in the green room.
We discussed the recent release of their sophomore EP Without/Within on Communion Records, their close call at border patrol while on tour (hint: potatoes) and how they really feel about Australian singer-songwriter Matt Corby.
The Show: Bear’s Den with The Districts at Schubas // March 30, 2014
Drinks of Choice: Bloody Mary (Kevin Jones); Rusty Nail (Joey Haynes) and Old Fashioned (Andrew Davie)
Kristen from A Beer with the Band: So, not much of beer drinkers then?
Kevin from Bear's Den: I think beer has sort of just become a bit…
Joey from Bear's Den: Like water.
Kristen: I'm sure it feels that way after being on the road for so long. Why music in the first place? And why music with this group of people?
Andrew from Bear's Den: Why music in the first place...I think personally—and I'm sure it's the same for the guys—when you start getting into it, it's really hard to see yourself doing anything else. It's pretty amazing. And why these people...because look at these lads.
Kristen: Well, they have beards like you, so that's probably why.
Andrew: And they have beards, too. That's another huge part of it.
Joey: That's part of being a lad though.
Kristen: Have you ever not had a beard? Did you come out of the womb with beards?
Kevin: It was a hairy affair.
Kristen: Funny how the British accent just makes that sound beautiful. This is the last night of your first U.S headlining tour. How has it been?
Andrew: Amazing. Like really surprisingly amazing, just that people have shown up to most of the shows. Being our first headlining tour, we were really stoked that anyone was there. And we keep saying it on stage, but every time we go anywhere and see anyone in the audience, it's a surprise.
Kevin: We have very low self-esteem.
Kristen: What has been your favorite city you've played on this stretch?
Andrew: Different for different people, right?
Joey: Yeah, it's a long time ago now for some of these now. I always like playing New York because it's New York... Not trying to be proper by saying Chicago, but there it is. I really love playing L.A. just because it's really warm, and it's the only time we've been warm on this entire tour. And I thought last night in Madison was a lot of fun as well.
Kristen: I love Madison. It's a great city.
Kevin: San Francisco. I love it. I think it’s the coolest city ever. It’s in my top three list of places I'd move. Berlin or London are the other two. Well, I live in London.
Andrew: Dream big.
Kristen: Let's talk music. You've got two EPs out, one of which came out on March 4. I noticed some differences in terms of sound from your first EP to your second EP. Can you talk about the creative process for each and how it might have varied from EP to EP?
Kevin: The first one was just trying to get across what we can do live. The second one was more about exploring stuff in the studio. With the first EP we had no more than a week to do it. We tracked everything in five days. The second one we tracked everything in three weeks, so it allowed us time to not just but down the basics but explore stuff, and I guess because it was an EP and not our first record, it felt like this was a chance to explore. Don't just make something comfortable. Make something that pushes you a bit and become better because of it.
Kristen: Did that make it hard having more time?
Kevin: I don't think it did actually.
Joey: I don't think it was so much time that we had time to really dwell on anything. It was just not stressful, which was really nice.
Kristen: And where did you record that?
Joey: Chapel Studios in Lincolnshire.
Kevin: Half there and half in London. A massive legend called Ian Gimble produced it for us and he has helped us out in various ways. In the past He's a pretty amazing producer, a wizard, and he made it sound good. Which is very difficult to do.
Kristen: I'm slowly learning how self-deprecating you guys are.
Kevin: Nah, he's just amazing. Everything he touches is pretty golden.
Kristen: And you're working on a record now? Or thinking about working on a record? I'm sure it's hard being on the road.
Andrew: We're thinking about a record a lot. We're going through ideas on how to make it work and waiting to do some stuff.
Kristen: Do you think it will build on this EP or depart from it?
Andrew: It's really hard to say. It will probably be an amalgamation of both EPs. I think there are things we did on the first one that are truer to perhaps our live performance, and that's part of the reason we're able to make music: because people come and see us play live. We don't want to ignore what we're doing live as something in itself. We want to be true to that while exploring things at the same time. But maybe the first EP was one thing and the second was another and we'll find a way to bring them together.
Kristen: You toured with Daughter, and you played Park West with her in September of last year. And also I saw you toured with Matt Corby, who I am a huge fan of. What's it like being in the company of such talented musicians?
Andrew They're all...dicks. We don't like them.
Kevin: Matt smells funny.
Andrew: It's off-putting. It's hard to have a conversation with him. You get overpowered by the odor.
Joey: And Elena [Daughter] throws tantrums pretty much every night.
Joey: Throws a lot of… plates. Crockery.
Andrew: Yeah, crockery. And Remi’s just trying to catch everything.
Joey: It’s just how they are.
Kevin: We're just trying to be as honest as possible about who they are.
Joey: Making them sound bad makes us sound good.
Andrew: We're kidding. We love them so much.
Kevin: They're the best people in the world. So nice—all of them. Faultless characters and personalities. Just awesome.
Joey: Although what we said still holds true.
Kristen: Matt Corby—on the record—smells. Feet or just overall body odor?
Kevin: Just...vibe. His aura.
Joey: And we say this being the three most fragrant lads.
Andrew: There are definitely some pungent things going on.
Andrew: Ok, but can we just go back on the record...we're really very good, close friends with the guys in Daughter and Matt and his band. We're just teasing...
Kevin: …But we meant what we said.
Kristen: So, you travel in a van. How does that go over with you guys? Do you ever get sick of each other?
Andrew: Never. It's as harmonious as it could be, considering we're traveling with the same four people constantly. It's always going to be difficult, but I think we're getting good at it. Over time you sort of learn bits and pieces...you learn when someone needs space...
Joey: You learn to be relatively considerate.
Kristen: Any bad habits you want to call each other out on?
Andrew: Well, Kevin and I both smoke cigarettes in the van sometimes. I'll sometimes have a cheeky one out the window.
Kevin: Joey has a terrible non-smoking habit.
Kristen: What is the least rock-'n'-roll thing you've done in the past year?
Andrew: The story at the border is a pretty good one. We potato stamp our EPs with a potato and we left one of them in a box and it started smelling really bad. It was fermenting, or whatever potatoes do.
Kevin: It was one of the merch boxes.
Andrew: And it stank really badly, and we were crossing the border from Canada to the U.S. and they checked our merch boxes to see how much we were bringing in and how much we would be selling. They basically were convinced that we had loads of weed in this box. It was just a potato. We were looking a bit like a rock band there, but actually it was just a potato.
Joey: But that meant we had to spend two hours there while they searched the whole van and they were like, "Just be honest, guys. Just be honest about the drugs."
Andrew: And we were like, "No, we swear it's just the potato."
Kevin: It's not something that a patrol officer is likely to believe: "Sir, the weed you think you're smelling is actually a potato." That sounds like a really far-fetched excuse.
Andrew: "Because we like carving them out and stamping things with them."
Kristen: They probably see a van full of smelly guys with beards and they just assume...
Joey: We know the harsh reality of discrimination. We experience it on a regular basis.
Kristen: What's the best advice you've ever received?
Joey: I think if you make others sound bad, you sound good.
Andrew: That's our philosophy...
Kevin: Don't help people when you could just focus on yourself.
Kristen: Should we just make this whole thing a fake interview?
Andrew: That would be great.
Kristen: But in reality, any good advice?
Kevin: Rising tides raise all ships. I like that as a concept, the idea that if people are supportive of each other and somebody's doing well, then they help somebody else out and they help somebody else out, then everyone rises together. I quite like that.
Joey: My favorite is pass and move. Sports-related, but I think it applies to life.
Kristen: You've been to Chicago before. Is there anything you particularly love about our city?
Andrew: I had an amazing time in Chicago. I went to a baseball game.
Kristen: White Sox or Cubs?
Andrew: Sox. Everyone was like, "I love you Paulie!” [Paul Konerko].
Kristen: That was a really good Southside Chicago accent.
Andrew: Well, thank you. I was surprised by how many times people asked if I wanted a hot dog. I also did the architecture tour, which was amazing. And the fact that Lake Michigan is just there is incredible.
Joey: I prefer Chicago to Skokie, which is where I stayed for two days when I got left here on the Communion Tour. Literally couldn't get a hotel room in Chicago because of a conference.
Kevin: Yeah, we played SPACE and Joey got left behind.
Joey: Yeah, they left me there.
Kevin: Intentionally, everyone left him. No, really what happened was Joey went to the toilet and everyone thought he was with one of the other bands and we left him.
Kristen: Oh man, that’s terrible.
Kevin: At least they've got a Barnes & Noble in Skokie...
Joey: And as I learned, a Panda Express.
Kristen: What's the biggest difference you see between here and London?
Joey: Portion sizes. I finished my meal tonight, [Schubas’ mac and cheese], but it took some work.
Kevin: People are more up for shows in the States. Audiences seem to love music in a more enthusiastic, involved way I think.
Andrew: British audiences are harder to please. Or maybe it's that they're more reserved. It's not that they don't appreciate it; they're just very English—a bit more reserved...
Kristen: In other words, the audiences aren't as drunk...
Andrew: Oh no, they're really drunk.
Andrew: But the other day, someone told me there was a gig going on in East London and I thought, "Well, that's a bit far," whereas people here have traveled six, seven, nine hours to see us play on this tour. It's amazing. That level of belief...We've been outside of shows and someone tells us they've driven that far without tickets and....
Joey: We say, ”Well, too bad. You should have looked at the website before you came.”
Andrew: We don't make the rules.
Kevin: No but we put them on the guest list. Really, that's amazing. In the UK there isn't as much of a culture of people traveling to shows. America is so big and it's so great that people make the effort to see us. It's incredible, actually.