Bear Hands are a Brooklyn-based indie-rock act that are giving the genre a run for its money. So far, they've done tours that any band in their position can only dream of being able to be a part of, including this past spring's Spring Fling AF U.S. arena tour, where the band supported the likes of Cage The Elephant, Silversun Pickups, and Foals (who they are currently supporting on their most recent U.S. theater tour that kicked off last Friday).
Vocalist/guitarist Dylan Rau spoke with us by phone on the day of their tour kickoff, in anticipation of the band's stop at The Fox Theater in Oakland, CA this coming Monday with FOALS (here's that "Buy Tickets" button should you need to look for it at the end of this article: http://bit.ly/2aJH1X8).
The tour kicks off tonight at the Paramount Theater. Have you guys done or taken on theater tours in the past?
Yeah! We’ve done a couple of theater tours opening up for people. We opened for Passion Pit, and we even opened for GZA of Wu-Tang Clan on his theater tour. They’re definitely fun.
Nice! Well know that you know the playing field of doing a show in a venue like that, what’s the overall feeling that’s around the band tonight?
Well, I’m like ten years deep in this band, so it feels pretty natural. We’ve done all kinds of gigs, from tiny little dives, to NBA basketball arenas. I think, generally, I try and get out into the crowd at some point before the show, and just get a feel for the vibe of the night’s audience. And I like to watch whichever band is coming before us to see what they do, and try to learn from that.
Have you guys played within Oakland or at the Fox Theater before?
No, we’ve never played Oakland before! We’ve played in San Francisco a bunch of times, places like Slims, Rickshaw Stop, and The Warfield Theater.
Oh awesome! Well I know this is looking like it’s going to be a great show this Monday with FOALS at the Fox Theater.
Question for you about You’ll Pay For This. This was the third studio album you had released. Having done two records prior and, like you said, having invested ten years in the band already, what was the process like in terms of everything from pre-production, writing, and mixing, this time around in comparison to the previous two recording experiences?
Well, I’d say that we spent more time on this record. The reaction we got from Distraction [the second album] was really positive. It made us feel like there were people out there listening to us, and that made us kind of sit down and take every detail of the process very seriously. Ted Feldman, our guitar player, co-produced the record with James Brown. He’s definitely the more technical-leaning member of the band. He and I wrote a lot of music together in Brooklyn at our practice space, but I think our most serious writing happened either at his parents house in Westchester, or at this house in Big Bear, California. We went there for about two weeks; it was a friend of a friend’s house. It was empty, and it didn’t even have the Internet. We were kind of “one-track-mind”-ing it. We probably wrote about four songs from the record in about a two week period up there.
Big Bear is a very secluded place, and it almost feels very much like “cabin” nature, if that makes sense.
Yeah! It was like a cabin and it felt isolated. We didn’t even leave the house or go out to eat or anything. We bought some groceries and then didn’t leave the house for about ten days straight or something.
That idea of “let’s just go away and write in a cabin” seems like a nice way to get away from literally everything and just focus solely on the music.
Totally. And whenever we’re in Brooklyn, there’s always engagements and social opportunities popping up in the middle of writing a song, or one of your friends is down the street at a bar. That can be very tempting, you know?
Oh yeah. There’s fifty thousand distractions. We’re in a society that’s made up of all of the shiny things and blinking lights.
Would you say that you guys are a band that writes on the road, or do you only write outside of touring?
Hmm…no. I really can’t. I’ve seen Ted make instrumentals on his laptop while we’re riding in the van, or maybe we’ll write in a hotel room on a day off, if possible. But yeah, [those processes] don’t really overlap for me like that. Touring is kind of like being in the army; it’s a slog. You have your mission each night, which is to play the show. After that, I don’t really have that much energy left to put towards the creative pursuit, honestly.
For sure. It’s almost two entirely different monsters to take on.
Totally. And we’ve also only done one tour on a bus; we’re in a van [right now]. I think maybe if we had a bus, and a little bit of luxury and space, I could see us maybe getting into [songwriting], but that’s the way we’re doing things now.
Having done the album and releasing it back in April, and doing the touring surrounding it, when did the video for “2 A.M.” come about?
I think we made the video a couple of months before the record actually came out. Ted usually directs our videos; both Ted and I studied film in college. But this time, we hired some local Brooklyn [people] that our management recommended. Basically, we just threw a party at this place in Brooklyn. We invited all of our friends and brought a lot of alcohol, and taped it, you know?
It’s interesting when I see videos like that with the “get a party going” aspect to it, where it can be hard to find a song that matches the scene. I think that the song really worked with the video, particularly with the brand of indie rock you guys make.
Yeah! Obviously, the song is about partying, or coming to the end of your partying.
How long was the video shoot?
I think people started showing up around 10, and then we went until about 3 AM, maybe?
Nice! Well, the song title is “sort of” true, since you went to 3 AM, not 2.
Well, to be honest with you, I had already left at 2 AM (laughs), so I don’t really know what happened afterwards. But I follow my own rules, you know? (laughs)
We’ll wrap this up. What kind of message, if you have one, would you like fans to walk away with after listening to your music?
(Pauses). Hmmm. (laughs) I think that I would like them to walk away thinking that they too can make music. There aren’t as many obstacles in your way as you think.
What does music mean to you?
Gosh, it’s changed so much over time. I felt like it was everything to me when I was fifteen or sixteen. It was so wrapped up in my identity. Now, it’s my life in a very broad sense. It’s my job and how I make a living. It’s almost like I have to find time to step away from music so that I can maintain the proper perspective and not drive myself too crazy, you know what I mean? I think it’s changed a lot over the years.
This has been another Shameless Promotion.