BEAR’S DEN – Interview

Bear's Den © Sequoia Ziff

Foto-Credit © Sequoia Ziff

Passend zum einjährigen Jubiläum ihres Auftrittes in der Elbphilharmonie Hamburg zum Reeperbahn Festival 2019 haben wir uns mit den Folkbrudis von Bear’s Den zum Gespräch getroffen. Im Mittelpunkt der Unterhaltung stand natürlich das am Freitag erscheinende Bear’s Den Album Fragments. Hierbei handelt es sich um eine Kollaboration mit Paul Frith, der den Jungs bei er Neuinterpretation ihrer Songs unter die Arme griff – bei Fragments handelt es sich nämlich um ein Orchesteralbum. Wir haben Andrew und Paul mit Fragen zum Entstehungsprozess gelöchert.

So first of all, hi, how are you doing and how do you experience the current situation in the UK?
Paul: I think it has been sort of a madness over the last few month, I mean this is a normalized thing now, the whole zoom conversation. And specifically for me it’s been a bit of a nightmare actually, you’re not able go out and do shows. For me all of the things that I love doing are meet my mates or doing shows or working in the studio and none of that’s really been happening, so it’s a bit sad, but then we also got this album out, which is really cool as well.

Andrew: I feel exactly the same as Paul!

Coming to the album, how did you come up with the idea to make this orchestrated album and specially to rewrite some of the songs that are already existing?
Andrew: Uhm right, where did it start… I actually have a foggy memory of how it started and that’s probably because the idea was born in a pub. So, I remember us chatting and I think Paul, you had the idea originally right? Or am I going mad? (laughs)

Paul: (laughs) No just slightly mad, but that’s fine, cause so am I. But it was the Elbphilharmonie Concert, wasn’t it? So basically, there was a show in Hamburg, where you guys approached about doing something slightly differently and then I got called and they asked if I was potentially interested in this. But I can’t remember what the festival was called…

Andrew: Reeperbahn Festival!

Paul: Ah yes Reeperbahn Festival! That’s what was called!

Andrew: Yeah that’s exactly right, that came through. And then, for us, the idea of working with Paul was just a no-brainer, because we worked together for a while on different albums and Paul has kind of always been the last piece of the puzzle coming in and arranging horn parts and stuff. So, this was just a chance to kind of go there and do it for the whole thing, so Paul made something really unique out of all this old songs, which is really fun for us to listen to.

Paul: There was lots of conversations, in terms of how it ended up, it’s kind of evolved into what it became. Initially there were all sorts of conversations like „Let’s do a whole percussion thing “. Maybe there also were some whiskey fueled drinks in there (laughs) and a lot of chats and stuff. I think at some point, there was this idea, to come back to your question, like „Wouldn’t it be fun to do it with strings, because actually, there has never been strings, so there was a whole new pallet of sounds in order to play with.


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Do you plan on orchestrate more of your old songs or even write new ones with orchestra in them?
Paul: Yeah, if I’m allowed (laughs)

Andrew: We’d love to! I think for us, it’s been a really cool moment to collaborate and it’s been fun to allow Paul to, like, you know the thing is, when you’re in a band, you get really protective over your material and sometimes it’s important that you are like that and sometimes it’s not. I think for this it’s been a real chance for us to kind of reengage with the songs in a totally different way and it’s been really enjoyable. So from my perspective I would absolutely bloody love to work out new songs and I can‘t imagine making albums without the phone calls of Paul. (laughs) It’s been so much fun and such a joy to play live like that, it was amazing, right Paul?

Paul: Yeah it was! We were planning to do a bunch of these shows and now I kind of think, that actually by the time all of this is over, there will probably be new music and new stuff out. For Bear’s Den, I think it will be fun at some point to come back to this and yes that might involve kind of doing new tracks. So, I think this is something that can have a quite organic existence and then can continue along because there is always songs to reimagine.

So, as I can hear so far, you guys had fun working together right?
Paul: Oh massively!

Was it easy for you to work together and was it helpful that you’ve been knowing each other for so long or did that maybe made things more difficult sometimes?
Paul: I think it’s really useful knowing each other! But I think also, there also almost happened a bit of luck because the guys where off, recording their album elsewhere, when I first started working on this. For example, Kevin and Davies concentration was somewhere slightly else when I started working on this, which, maybe, pushed it in a slightly different direction to where it might have gone. So I think the good thing about this relationship is, that, if it gone too far, if I had pushed it beyond anything everyone is comfortable with, we’ve got a perfectly working relationship, so that would’ve been a quite easy thing to direct it by.

Andrew: I feel exactly the same, I remember the first week, we were in Seattle, recording the third album, when you sent through the first drafts and the first few versions of things. And I remember listening to the first draft that came through like 10 times and each time I got all out of it and I think that was a sign for me, that whatever is happening now, is the way we should do this, it needs to be like this, because I‘m getting a lot from it, so I didn’t want to get in the way. I think with these kinds of things, you don’t want to dilute someone’s process, especially when you recognize someone’s obvious talent. You got to step out the way sometimes, it’s like this train is going through and you’re just like „Yeah, this sounds great, I don’t want to mess this up “. Honestly, it was so good that we both decided that we just totally should see where this goes and I’m really glad we did basically.

Paul: And I think it kind of goes both ways, Andrew talks about „not diluting“ and that is something that I’m really conscious about. The fact that you’re changing things should never take away, and I hope that it hasn’t, from the original songs.. I love the songs and there is a huge mass of fans out there, who also love the songs, so it’s kind of a really interesting thing, you want to get someone to get a different perspective on it, but you don’t want to lose the song within that. So when you’re working on it, you should be like, ok if we change something, how does that change the feels and sentiments of the words and maybe bring out different aspects, that for me is really fun to play with.

BD_Fragments_AlbumYou said originally this all started when you played live with an orchestra, do you plan on doing this again someday when you can go back on stage and perform again?
Paul: I really hope so!

Andrew: Yes, me too! We will gonna do some more shows! Are we allowed to say that Paul?

Paul: Yeah!

Andrew: We will be going to do a little run of shows and we are all really excited about that. It’s such a shame, how corona has affected everything. But yes, it would be an absolutely joy to share the stage with Paul again. One thing that’s really good, is that we got to film one of the shows, we hopefully going to be releasing more of those videos and things like that as time goes on, there is already a couple of recordings out I think. They’re nice reminders of how powerful live music can be and also how much fun that was for us all.

Paul: And I think also all the guys from the ensemble would love to do it again at some point. It was really fun to do this shows, because there’s a whole bunch of new people, that are kind of involved, that just brought so much joy and fun.

Andrew: Yes, that was so cool!

I imagine it to be really touching when you hear your own songs being performed by an orchestra, were there some moments in the recording process that where really memorable?
Andrew: I mean, all of them (laughs) But my favourite thing was actually just watching Paul conduct the orchestra. It was kind of very different to what we normally do with an album, we don’t really conduct each other while doing acoustic guitar takes or whatever. But being in the control room and getting to see this moment from being on a computer to being in the flash, that was just so cool (laughs), it was just mad.

Maybe you could give us an example on how you worked on the songs together, especially the ones that already existed. And especially for you, Paul, how it was to not start from scratch.
Paul: For me it’s kind of interesting, because it’s a way of showing that you can take things that people, love, know and recognize and you can still, within that contemporary classical piece of music, that I think people often can’t find, or get almost intimidated by those terms. They think it’s not for them or it’s not accessible. For me, one of the things I love about this, is showing people, no this is completely accessible, this is just another side of music. I wanted everything to be recognizable, within each of those tracks, it should be rhythms that you know. You learn to get to know the audience, when I had the pleasure to play with Bear’s Den, when we were doing „Think of England“ and the whole audience is joining with the clapping, for me that was really much fun, so I thought let’s take that element and put that rhythm on piano and then let’s turn it into a whole different piece of music. That’s one of the things that is really unique to this project, I’ve not really seen anyone else do that and that again shows a massive amount of generosity on Bear’s Den’s part for allowing me to do that.


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And how did you decide which of the old songs should make it to the album?
Paul: I think this kinda leads back to the question you asked earlier, which is, is it useful to kind of knowing each other. I think that’s what it is, because there are just tracks that always meant something to me, so basically, I was like a kid in a candy shop, if that’s not too much of Americanism (laughs), in a sweets shop, sorry, I’m not cautious on what I’m saying (laughs).

So, sadly our time is already over, but for the last question; do you already work on new stuff or do you just enjoy the release right now?
Paul: Definitely thinking about new Bear’s Den things but I also try to use this time to try and do some writing with other people as well, where possible, obviously it’s been a strange year for everyone, but there have been flashes and sort of moments, of being able to be creative with other people, even if that happened to be in strange ways sometimes. But it’s been nice aswell to just step outside of Bear’s Den things sometimes and looking to other projects too.

That sounds really good! I’m looking forward to hear what you’ve wrote over the last few month! Alright, then thank you guys so much for your time, goodbye and have a great release!
Both: Thank you! Goodbye!

Emely Triebwasser

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