Interviews

This Is… Bear & The Woods

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If you go down to the woods today you’re in for a big surprise… It probably isn’t where you’ll be finding Bear & The Woods though, they’ll probably in Reading putting together some folk tunes with a lead vocal that you’ve not heard the like of before. Here’s your chance to find out a bit more about them in their own words. No, I didn’t ask them where they do their business…;

For those who haven’t had time to check you out for themselves, who are you and what do you do?

We’re Bear & The Woods, a Folk & Roll foursome based in Reading. I started out playing solo and then we all bundled together to make Bear & The Woods. It’s weird folk that’s a bit confusing and a lot of fun.

When did you first take an interest in music? Who was your first great inspiration?

I’ve loved music ever since I can remember. When I was a kid, we used to make a bit of a ritual out of getting out my Dad’s vinyl records and I’d just sit there going through everything from Camel to Black Sabbath. I’d make up terrible blues songs in the back of the car. There are so many people who have inspired me. It’s hard to put it down to just one person. Anyone who writes fantastic choruses, and has a way of making songs that just speak to people, I have a huge respect for. As a band, our influences are all over the place. We all love Led Zeppelin, but then there’s Hardcore Punk, Grime, Rock, Soul, Funk, all-sorts in there.

How would you describe your sound? Who would you liken yourself too? (Go on, you don’t have to be modest!)

Folk & Roll! It’s a mish-mash of folk, punk, pop and whatever else we feel like throwing in. We approach each song differently, but try and keep little musical ideas that make the Bear & The Woods sound. I’d say we’re somewhere in between Frightened Rabbit and Biffy Clyro. We get a lot of people mentioning Mumford & Sons, too, but I don’t see it myself.

What do you make of the Reading scene at the moment? Are there any particular artists that are getting you excited?

I love the Reading Music scene. There are so many great bands I could mention. Anyone on Ubiquity Project Records (the non-profit label which we release through) it’s got a really diverse roster of fantastic acts and artists. I saw The Pink Diamond Revue at The Rising Sun Arts Centre the other day and they blew me away. Fish Hook, Burnt Tomorrow, Cast of Light and Damien A Passmore & The Loveable Fraudsters are all doing cool things in the Folk/Punk side of things. I could keep going all day, really! Listen to Linda Serck’s BBC Introducing Berkshire show, you’ll hear a ton of great acts.

Do you think that bands should be focusing on London or is it better to try and avoid the capital when you’re starting out?

I think it’s useful to play in London, but if you’re not from there try and keep it to the occasional show. A band’s local scene is the most valuable asset they have and building up a loyal base in your home town and making friends with local artists is the perfect way to develop a network of interesting and talented people on your own doorstep. London is obviously great for being spotted, but the scene is a very busy one. Make those shows count if you’re not from the capital and make them something that people will remember.

Tell us a bit about Ecce Homo – what’s it all about?

Ecce Homo is all about that moment of looking at yourself and the way you’re behaving and realising it’s flawed. It’s the moment you realise that something needs to change.

There’s an interesting contrast between the vocals and the rest of the band, do you feel that you need to have something unique about you to succeed as a band? Is there anything else that you have but you think nobody else does?

It’s interesting that you say that. It’s never seemed like a contrast to us. I guess that’s the punk influence coming through more. I think being unique is always something that musicians should strive for. With the ability that people have today to find music from anywhere in the world at the click of a button, it’s important to have something special about you that makes you stand out. I like to think we’re quite a diverse band. Each song sounds a little bit different and we like to throw in little stops and starts and mess around with time signatures occasionally. If we can make someone feel a little uncomfortable for a brief moment in a song, I feel like that’s a win.

Why the name Bear?

I’m a hairy man, Ciaran. I got the nickname when I was about 16 and it’s stuck ever since.

What’s the best advice you can give to a new band?

Play local, go to local shows, meet local musicians, try hard and practice A LOT. Don’t give up just because it seems difficult.

Where should we be looking to find new artists?

Look locally. I can’t stress this enough. Obviously getting on the internet and checking out blogs like WCT are a great way to find bands you might not have had a chance to find, but going to see what local musicians are getting up to and the scene in your home town is a great way to find music that’s unique to where you are. Listen to your local BBC Introducing shows, too. It’s an invaluable platform for regional music scenes. Just get out of the house and down to a show!

What are you hoping to achieve with your music?

I’d love to play with Bear & The Woods full-time. I’ve been busking my way to a living recently and it’s so satisfying and rewarding. If I could take B&TW as far as possible, it would be a dream come true.

Why do you think we care so much about music?

As human beings? Music is the great communicator. It’s social, but personal at the same time. It can make you feel anything from pain and sadness to elation. You can enjoy it anywhere, anytime and there’s nothing that defines music. It just is. It’s perfect.

What can we expect to hear from you in 2015? Where can we see you live?

We’ve been writing an album for a while now, so as soon as we can fund that, we’ll be getting into the studio to work on it. I can’t wait. I’m playing a load of solo shows, including a Beans on Toast support in Reading in May. Full band shows are kicking off in June and we’ll be at Boom Town in August. You can see all our live dates on Facebook or our website.

Anything you’d like to add?

I recently discovered that I can fit more than 30 straws in my beard.

Find out more about Bear & The Woods (and get all their social links) through their Soundcloud.

Ciaran Steward

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