"We got obsessed with the idea of trying to communicate..." - Bears Den talk new album So That You Might Hear Me
Indie folk duo Bear’s Den return this week with their third studio album.
The pair, who consist of Andrew Davie and Kevin Jones, have built a sizeable fanbase and earned plenty of critical respect off the back of two fine studio albums. Now, after a solid two years of touring their last effort Red Earth & Pouring Rain, they’re back with a follow-up.
To record the album, which is titled So That You Might Hear Me, the pair jetted off to Seattle to work with The Shins/Build To Spill producer Phil Ek.
With the album now on shelves, we spoke to the band’s Davie about recording in Seattle and why this is an LP inspired by communication.
When did you start putting the songs for this album together?
“When we were touring we started writing, but only a couple of things. Two or three months after we finished, we started taking it more seriously. I went away on my own to really get started. I went to Devon and Cornwall and cut myself off for a little while to really work on songs. It wasn’t until about six months in that Kev and I started building a picture of what we wanted the album to be and what it could be.”
Did you have a goal in mind for what you wanted from this album?
“We were less prescriptive with this one than we have been in the past. We’ve started renting this recording studio in Crouch End and we had our own space to write and create. That gave us a huge sense of freedom, the chance to be creative when we wanted. We wrote Red Earth and Pouring Rain in two or three weeks and recorded it in six weeks. It was very fast and there wasn’t much time between finishing touring the first record and recording. We had more time and we used it to allow ourselves to stumble into ideas and not be too focused.”
When did the idea that you’d go to Seattle come into the mix?
“We were putting together a dream list of people to work with, people we thought would do something with the songs. Kev and I are both massive Phil Ek fans. We love what he does. The Shins were a massive influence growing up for me. They taught me to write songs. So the chance to work with him was a massive opportunity. We spoke to a couple of different people, but Phil was the right fit. He came over to London to meet us and we worked together on the songs. He was so enthusiastic and he believed in what we were trying to do. That’s invaluable in a producer and it was there from the very start.”
How did you find living and working in Seattle?
“It’s an amazing city. We loved it and I wished we’d seen more of it. We were in the studio from 11 until 11 six days a week and didn’t get out much. But when we did, we spent a lot of time hanging out in the Tractor Tavern. We made a lot of friends and we were there long enough to make good connections. We loved it.”
Did being away in Seattle help the record? Were you able to focus?
“I think so. It definitely helped keep things fresh. We worked in three different studios in Seattle, one of them was actually Stone Gossard from Pearl Jam’s studio. Lots of different experiences, which can only be a good thing.”
What kind of album is this lyrically? Is there a theme?
“The only theme that cuts across all of the songs is the idea of trying to connect with somebody and failing. Being unable to reach somebody. That’s the unifying theme. We were messing around a lot with sounds that related to communication. There are morse code and sonar samples which we tuned and incorporated into songs. We got obsessed with the idea of trying to communicate and the challenges that presents. The lyrics are entirely what you don’t say to people, which is an interesting concept.”
Does the title tie into that?
“It does and it came pretty early in the process. I’d gone away to write songs and I wrote three, only one of which made the album. On one of the songs that didn’t make it there was a line that read ‘I only speak so that you might hear me’. Sadly the rest of the song didn’t live up to expectation. We tried to incorporate it into loads of songs and it ended up being the last line of ‘Blankets Of Sorrow’, which is the last track on the record.”
How are your live plans coming together? Are you booked for the rest of the year?
“It’s being pieced together, but it’s definitely the start of a full year. We’re off to America and Canada in May and then we’re doing lots of festivals over the summer. The autumn and winter are being sorted now.”
You toured intensively last time, are you planning to do the same again with this album?
“For us, albums don’t feel like they’re done until you’re touring them. We make records to play them live. We miss it so much if we don’t do it.”
How are you going to plan your live set? You’ve got three records now...
“We’re really keen to play as many of the new songs as we can. It’s very difficult to write a setlist now. You need to balance older songs with new ones, keeping people happy while also finding songs that are relatable with what we’re doing now. It’ll evolve as the tour goes on, I’m sure…”
Bear’s Den’s new album So That You Might Hear Me is out now in hmv stores.