“Our yardstick for every song was ‘Can you drive to it at night?’” - hmv.com talks to Bear’s Den
As they release their second album Red Earth & Pouring Rain we spoke to supercharged folk rockers Bear’s Den drummer Kevin Jones about how it all came together....
Your new album is out today, less than two years after your debut, did you take much of a break before you started work on it?
“We didn’t leave it long. We played the last gig of our tour at the Roundhouse and then we were in the studio two days later. It didn’t feel like a quick record to make, but we got back to work straight away.”
How did making this album compare to making your debut album Islands?
“It was quite a different process, the first one was a mixture of songs that were quite old and some that were very new, this was all written and recorded in one month, it’s one body of work, everything comes from the same place and point in time.”
Did you have a goal for how you wanted it to sound?
“We didn’t have a straightforward goal, but we did want to create an album that you’d put on when you were driving at night, so an album that was very expansive, big production, our yardstick for every song was ‘Can you drive to it at night?’. It’s a good way of working because it’s more about how you feel when you hear the songs.”
Did you test it out? Would you get in the car at three in the morning and listen back?
“We did on occasion actually, we’d get in the car and do these half an hour drives around the Welsh countryside. We were in Rockfield studios, which is pretty remote and isolated, but that’s what you need when you’re working 15 hour days, you’re there to work, you can’t be going for beers with your mates.”
How was working at Rockfield Studios? Some big records have been made there, Oasis’s Definitely Maybe, Queen’s A Night At The Opera, do you feel the presence of all that history?
“I don’t know if you feel it, but quite often you find yourself referencing other sounds and you discover that it was recorded in the room you’re in, that’s weird. It’s quite an old, analogue studio and that really suited the record.”
You worked with Ian Grimble again, was that always going to be the case? Or did you look at other producers?
“I think it was always going to be him. We really trust Ian and it’s quite difficult to really build a relationship with someone in that way so quickly. He’s quite a hard taskmaster, but his duty of care is so good and he’s one of the best engineers in the world, he can give you things that no other producer can.”
Does the album have a lyrical theme? Or are all the songs very much their own entities?
“It definitely has a theme. Our lyrical style has changed because the album was written in such an immediate way, this album is much more present and there are a lot more words. We’re inspired by people who find themselves in difficult moments and how they get out of them.”
Was the album always going to be called Red Earth & Pouring Rain?
“We had the title before we’d written most of the songs, which was useful, Andrew (Davie, guitars) was out in India and he found this old Tamil poem that was called Red Earth & Pouring Rain. It inspired the first song for the album and it really summed up what we were going for. It gave us creative direction and if you’ve got a phrase that’s always in your head, it’s a good fixture.”
You recorded the album after guitarist Joey Haynes left, how did that affect things?
“He left halfway through the process, not for creative reasons, it was more the relentless touring and schedule got to him, especially only having two days before we went to Rockfield. But we were in a good place, this has always been a band of multi-instrumentalists and the creative process was pretty much the same.”
Was it difficult on a personal level? He’d been with you for a while...
“It was unsettling and it’s always sad when that happens. He’d been with us for four years and we’d experienced a lot together. But we’ve got a good dynamic now, we’ll be a six-piece live and it works really well.”
Finally, you’ve got a big tour coming up in November, including a headline show at Brixton Academy, you must be very excited?
“We’re so excited. When we first started the band it was one of our dream venues, I can’t believe we’ll be headlining. We’ve been taking out the new songs and they sit pretty well alongside our older material so our live set will be a real mixture. It’s a good story for the fans when they see us live, but there’s still so much we want to do with our live set.”