A CONVERSATION WITH: BEAR MOUNTAIN
Ian Bevis, Kyle Statham, Kenji Rodriguez, Greg Bevis are the four gents that make up Bear Mountain, an electronic, dance rock band from Vancouver. While they were down for NXNE they took the time to chat with me about their summer plans and how Toronto audiences compare to any other city.
How’s NXNE treating you guys so far?
Ian: Pretty good, we actually played a show last night.
That was with Sandman Viper Command, right? How did it go?
Ian: It went well, I think. It came together last minute, but it was fun. There wasn’t much to the set-up, so it was a bit out of our comfort zone, but still a lot of fun.
What do you mean, ‘out of your comfort zone’?
Ian: We just came off of this pretty big tour playing bigger shows and this was a tiny venue with nothing more than a PA so it just wasn’t what we’re used to.
Ah I see. You guys are no strangers to Toronto, am I right?
Ian: We were here for NXNE last year, and Greg actually used to live here.
Do you ever miss it here, Greg?
Greg: So much. More so when I come back though. Toronto has so many more ethnic food options for under $10 than Vancouver does.
How do you guys feel Toronto crowds compare to Vancouver crowds?
Ian: Well, my experience last year during NXNE it seemed like it took a bit more to get people moving a bit, it took a lot of energy. Even other shows I went to as an observer, I don’t know.
It’s a tough question, and one I like to ask bands particularly bands that aren’t from here.
Ian: It took a lot more energy to get something out of people. To get people moving.
We are a bit of a tougher crowd.
Greg: It’s almost like we have to prove ourselves first or something. Which I guess could be good. But if you go somewhere like Ottawa, or Winnipeg, it’s so fucking crazy. It’s like they’re happy you’re in their city.
I feel like Toronto audiences are almost shy, and too afraid to show what they like due to fear of being judged.
Ian: Yeah, but if you win them over then you’ve done a good job. That’s the challenge.
Exactly. Is there anything you guys want to see during NXNE if you have the time?
Greg: There’s a bunch of talks and stuff that we wanted to go to, but we couldn’t make it work. As for shows; Boys Noize at The Hoxton, Fucked Up at The Horseshoe could be rad, I’ve never seen them.
In a festival like this, where there are hundreds of bands playing do you guys do anything specific to either get the word out about your shows, or do anything different during your shows to set yourself apart?
Ian: I think, that no matter what kind of show it is, no matter what the venue, we have the mindset of always giving it everything we’ve got. Whether it’s a festival like this, or The Governor’s Ball, or when we played in a corner of a tiny bar last night at The Ossington, we just go all out.
Kyle: Yeah, it never changes. It’s kind of our way of doing it – play the best show we can possibly play and get everyone into it, that’s how we spread it.
Ian: We really try to win crowds over, try to get them into it right off the bat. It’s fun, even if sometimes it’s a challenge. But when you get ‘em it’s such a good feeling.
You guys are playing a couple of shows during NXNE2013 right?
Ian: Yep; we have 1am at Wrongbar on Friday.
Kyle: And a daytime one at Urban Outfitters.
Have you guys played a show like that before?
Kyle: Not in a store, no. I’m curious to know what it will be like.
Ian: I’ve never played a record store, I’d like that.
Do guys have a favourite Toronto venue?
What’s the writing process like for you guys?
Ian: For us, it’s always ongoing. We’re always writing. And then we usually bring everything together in the beginning stages with laptops for the electronic stuff, then we’ll try to jam it out live, tweak it, then we put everything in Pro Tools and hammer out vocals and drums. It’s an ongoing process.
Greg: We all work on the tracks together. We would never like, just go somewhere and only focus on writing. Maybe once it’s ready to record, we’ll focus on it that way then, but with writing, it’s just a continuous process.
There are a few bands out there that just shut down and go somewhere for a week to just write. You guys wouldn’t do that?
Greg: That’s too much pressure. I mean, I’ve written some crap. When I wrote because I have to, and just pumped out 5 terrible songs for the sake of having something, but I feel like if you just try to do it for a couple of hours every day it alleviates that pressure.
Kyle: That’s the thing. Sometimes you’re on. Sometimes you’re creating what you want to create and it’s feeling right. Sometimes it’s not. So for us to just say, okay, here we go, let’s write, it doesn’t work that way for us. Maybe for other bands though.
Ian: For us too, there’s a lot of technique involved. We’ll go to shows and just pick something up. We went to see Disclosure a while back and their kick sounds and stuff just made me go, ‘Holy shit’ so now I’ve spent some time trying to learn that technique or trying to get that bass sound with synth in production. So there’s so many techniques to learn before you can actually make the songs.
For anybody that hasn’t heard you guys at all, how would you describe yourselves?
Kyle: It’s definitely dance-influenced.
Ian: If you come to a show, the goal is to get you dancing-
Greg: Only because that’s what we want to be doing.
Ian: It’s hard to describe your own music.
Kyle: The feeling is like happy, nostalgia. Kind of hopeful.
Ian: It’s a lot easier to have other people come to a show and describe your music.
Kyle: We all bring in so many different styles to it, that it’s hard to place us in one genre.
Ian: I can tell you what kind of instruments we use and that will give you an idea. There’s drums, bass, guitar and a laptop where we’re running Ableton Live for a bunch of tracks, loops and samples and stuff. Kyle and Greg have synths. And there’s a drum pad. Kenji is doing live projections on stage too. He’s manipulating the images to the sound of the music.
Kyle: His projections are different every night.
Are there any bands out there that you would love to share a show with?
Kyle and Ian: Haim! (all laugh)
Ian: We’ve shouted out at Haim at every interview, they’re going to think we’re such weirdos. I met Este in New York at the Governor’s Ball and I had to go up to her and tell her how much we love their music. I would love to play a show with them. I would love to tour with them. I think it’d be fun. Disclosure would be cool too; bands that have one foot in the dance world and one foot in the live music world. We’re actually opening up for Hot Chip in Chicago in about a month, and we’re excited about that.
Kyle: Caribou would be amazing too.
Ian: I’d love that!
Do you have any advice for any bands out there that are trying to do what you’re doing?
Ian: Two things – be nice, and work hard. That’s all I’ve got. There’s no secret, just work your ass of and don’t be a dick.
Kyle: And three, write music honestly. Just go at her.
Niceness goes a long way.
Ian: It does. But bottom line is you have to work hard. You have to put the hours in. We’re still putting the hours in, and we’ll probably always be doing that, but you have to work your ass off if you’re going to go anywhere.
What’s next on the agenda for you guys? You mentioned opening for Hot Chip, what else is ahead?
Ian: We’re going to Lollapolooza, and then Hot Chip also in Chicago. Austin City Limits in the fall. Then we’re touring Mexico in August. We’re hitting Kenji’s hometown! Which we’re really excited for. That’s all we’ve announced so far. But in the fall there’s going to be some exciting times.
Kyle: Keep in mysterious. Yeah, keep in ominous.
Ian: Hopefully we’ll be in Berlin soon….did I just give it away? After that we’ll just keep writing music and hopefully release another album in the next yeear.
Sounds like a busy time! That’s all my questions, thanks so much for sitting down with me today!
Ian: No problem. Enjoy NXNE!