In March, Brooklyn-based synth rockers Bear in Heaven teased fans with a preview of their new album, I Love You, It’s Cool, slowed down to an ambient drone. That long awaited follow-up to 2009’s hit LP, Beast Rest Forth Mouth, was properly released in April followed by extensive touring in the U.S. and Europe. The tour is finally winding down, but not before an August 2 show at Midtown-venue Bardot organized by Nightdrive Miami (see ticket giveaway details at the end of the post). Ahead of the gig, I chatted by phone with Bear In Heaven guitarist Adam Wills about singles, festivals, and some sad news out of Athens, Ga.
Have you guys ever been to or played Miami before?
AW: We’ve never played. I’ve been to Miami a bunch, so we’re looking forward to playing down there for sure. It’s pretty hard for a tour band to make it to South Florida.
My mom’s side of the family’s all from South Florida. Fort Lauderdale kind of area, so I’ve spent some time down there visiting Miami and our record label was based in Miami for a couple of years. So yeah, been to Miami plenty of times and looking forward to coming down to play music.
You guys are playing Lollapalooza in a few days. Tomorrow you’re playing in a bar down here. Could you talk about playing a small, intimate show versus a big festival? Do you prefer one or the other?
AW: They’re both cool in their own right. Playing small rooms like Bardot can be really fun, especially a low stage where you can kind of dance and move with the audience. Sometimes it’s intimidating to look people right in the eye, for me. I get more nervous than anything just staring the first row right in the eye. But you know, it’s always fun. If the atmosphere’s right, it can elicit a really fun evening for everybody. So hopefully everybody’s in a mood to have some fun.
And then, Lollapalooza of course is a whole different animal, which we’re all looking forward to as well. That’s kind of how it goes. You transition from playing in front of thousands of people to a couple hundred people and we try to give it all up no matter what the venue is. And also the difference is at Lollapalooza we’re playing during the day and Bardot we’re playing at night, so that’s a whole different vibe. People are going to be just waking up at Lollapalooza hung over from the day before.
And Bardot is basically laid out like a living room. There are couches right by the stage area.
AW: Alright good, well hopefully no one is lying around on couches. That’s always the trouble with those kinds of places. We’ll show up and there are little café tables in front of the stage. Before we even start setting up our gear, we’ll go ahead and move those chairs so no one sits down while we play.
Jon [Philpot, Bear In Heaven frontman] said in a recent interview that your songs evolve over the tour, and you might play them differently from show to show. How do you feel about where the songs are now?
AW: We still keep them pretty much intact from the record, especially this last one. Sometimes it’s hard the way we have to perform the record live. We kind of write the record as if there are like eight people in the band, but there are only three of us. So you can really screw yourself or lock yourself into only being able to robotically move to the songs, which can be great from an audience perspective in some ways because it sounds great and sounds just like the record. But from a performance aspect, that can get really stale. We worked really hard to make sure that we weren’t going to trap ourselves into that. We left room in the songs where we can kind of jam, left holes where we can kind of drift off and leave the song for two minutes and come back. It’s not total improv, but it’s definitely different in some parts of the song every night. It can sometimes be a flop, but most of the time it’s exciting for us and hopefully exciting to anybody who’s familiar with the music as well.
I saw that short mockumentary you guys did about the slowed-down ambient promotion of the last album. Did you guys film that yourselves or did a friend shoot that?
AW: Yeah, our friend Jason Miller shot that. He’s a good friend of Jon’s from Georgia. That’s what he does for a living, shoots music videos or documentaries, and he was in New York for a few days and he wanted to do something, so we said, “Why don’t we do some tongue-in-cheek thing about how we did this slowed down stream.” It was 100 percent off-the-cuff. I think it would have been super hilarious if we had put some real thought in to it, but there are moments of it that crack me up.
“Sinful Nature” [embedded above] has been playing on XM a lot this year. Are crowds responding to that song the way they responded to “Lovesick Teenagers” before?
AW: Yeah, I still very much like “Lovesick Teenagers”. Obviously that was like the biggest song off the last record and you’re kind of scared that you’re just going to have to play that song for the rest of your career. But I would definitely say that the reactions to “Sinful Nature” this last tour cycle have been much better than when we play “Lovesick”. We’ll start the keyboard intro to “Sinful Nature” and it gets a really big response, which is cool because I really love that song and it’s a really fun one to play. Yeah, it seems like people like it, which is good.
You guys played the Team Clermont Showcase in Athens last week, and I think The Olivia Tremor Control and Bill Doss [who passed away this week] did also–
AW: Yeah, man. It’s crazy. I was in Atlanta for a couple of days prior to it hanging out with my parents, so I didn’t make it to Athens until Friday when we played. But Jon and Joe got into town Thursday and saw Olivia. I’ve actually got the tingles right now. It’s so fucking sad. We’re very interwoven with that whole city: musicians there and other friends who live there or work there. I stayed in Athens for three days after, just to hang out and to know that I was hanging out down there, and he passed away on the day I was leaving. It’s haunting, you know? It’s super sad because the guy was only 43 years old. And from what I could tell, obviously he was the man in Athens. He was friends with everybody. We have friends who don’t live there anymore that are flying down today for the funeral. Really sad.
To enter to win a pair of tickets to Bear In Heaven at Bardot on Thursday, August 2, tell us what animal you would hope to encounter in heaven in the comment section of this post. We will announce the winner on the Beached Miami Facebook page at noon on Thursday. Good luck!
Here’s the show listing from the Miami Music Guide:
Alex Broadwell is a North Carolina native, photographer, and video dude who currently lives in Miami. To view his work, visit alexbroadwell.virb.com.