Bear’s Den have quietly become the kind of band which can sell out the 5,000 capacity Brixton Academy through that good old fashioned notion of hard touring – building an army of fans en route.
For several years the band criss-crossed the globe, releasing two albums – the second, Red Earth & Pouring Rain, going into the top 10 on its release in 2016 – and enjoying critical acclaim every step of the way.
After finishing the touring cycle for Red Earth, Andrew Davie and Kevin Jones finally took a break, but now they’re back and about to release album three, So That You Might Hear Me.
When The Guide caught up with Kev he was perhaps predictably on his way to a gig in Berlin as part of a sold-out European tour.
‘It’s really nice after a couple of years to have people excited to come and see us again, it’s been a good few days.
‘We did some shows last year with an orchestra, which was amazing, but quite a different experience. Apart from that we’ve just been recording, so last week was our first headline show in quite a while – it felt good to be back. It all feels like we’re back in the saddle.’
While Andrew and Kev form the core of the band, live they expand to a six-piece.
‘It’s quite a busy stage – there’s a lot of people. When we’re writing we tend to just go with what we’re excited about, and then we work out later how to play them live!
‘With writing and demoing it’s just me and Davie – we probably get everything to about 80 per cent of where we want to be and we know where we’re going, but then we leave a bit of room so the band can make it their own as well, and obviously they’re brilliant instrumentalists so it’s important to allow them space to flourish, so they all came out to Seattle at various points and they’re all on the record.’
The new album was recorded over in the Pacific Northwest with respected producer Phil Ek.
‘We were just talking about producers we admired, if you listen to a band and how they sound, you think, who produced this? So we did a bit of research and Phil was top of our list. He’s worked with bands like Fleet Foxes, The Shins and Modest Mouse – bands we’re really into.
‘We sent him some of the demos, and luckily he said: “I get this and what you’re trying to achieve and I think I can help you make this album”, so we jumped on a plane.
‘He’s got quite an easy personality to get on with, but when you start tracking he’s very meticulous and I think he really challenged us to get performances out of us we didn’t think we were capable of. It was quite a journey in terms of personal musicianship.
‘We did six-day weeks, so we got Sundays off and we did make the most of those Sundays. We were there for seven weeks and all the people in the local bars and cafes knew us in the end, when we go back there it will be home from home.’
Co-founder Joey Haynes left the band amicably during the lead up to Red Earth.
‘I think we’d been touring four three-four years by that point, and to go straight into quite intense recording, he hadn’t been home in like forever, so it was during that process he decided he didn’t want to be in a band anymore – which I understand!
‘With the second album, generally Davie would start the demos, then I’d get involved and Joey would get involved add his parts, so it didn’t feel that different for this one. And because we changed the live show as well – I was playing drums on the first album and now I’m playing guitars and bass – we all figured out a new configuration and moved into that space.
‘By the time album three was being written, we knew roughly what everyone would be playing and how it would work. It kind of evolved through the live show – a lot of things do.’
For the first time, they were also able to start work on the album in their own studio.
‘We’re lucky enough to have our own little studio in an old church in north London, and we both live quite close to it, so it was a real luxury to a) have more time to write and b) take more time over demoing to the point where the production template was in place and then recording it properly afterwards.
‘The clock’s not ticking in the same way, so it’s more relaxed creatively.’
The new album’s title is slightly adapted from the poem So That You Will Hear Me by the late Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. And it fitted nicely with the themes of many of the album’s songs.
‘The album explores themes of communicating, perhaps not outwardly to an audience, but perhaps into a personal space or familial space, or trying to communicate to people who aren’t around anymore, or wanting to be able to and not quite being able to.
‘What we were interested in exploring lyrically and musically is that kind of attempt to communicate clearly with people who somehow have that blocked.’
From here on in though, the band will be found in their natural environment – on the road.
‘We’ll be touring here and then in the US, we’re playing a whole bunch of festivals later this year – and I suspect we’ll be continuing to tour for the rest of the year which is something that we love.
‘It’s how the band was born and it feels quite natural to us.’
O2 Guildhall, Southampton
Wednesday, April 17