Arts & Entertainment

Press Pass: Bear In Heaven

presspassStop us if you’ve heard this one before: A heat-seeking band from Brooklyn is buzzing their way into a host of magazine hot lists. Yeah, not exactly an original set of characteristics these days. Fortunately for Bear In Heaven, one of the latest Brooklyn breakthroughs, the electro/krautrock group owns so much originality they’re remixing the work of other artists in addition to authoring their own albums.

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Bear In Heaven (Courtesy Photo)

 

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: A heat-seeking band from Brooklyn is buzzing their way into a host of magazine hot lists. Yeah, not exactly an original set of characteristics these days. Fortunately for Bear In Heaven, one of the latest Brooklyn breakthroughs, the electro/krautrock group owns so much originality they’re remixing the work of other artists in addition to authoring their own albums.

This week, the core trio of frontman Jon Philpot, bassist/guitarist Adam Wills and drummer Joe Stickney will be releasing a special edition of their latest critically acclaimed album, Beast Rest Fourth Mouth, bundled with a remix companion disc featuring new spins on the songs of The Field, High Places and Studio among many others.

With the band in town to play D.C.’s Rock and Roll Hotel last Sunday, we checked in to get their approach to remixing, writing from scratch and a constantly evolving line-up.

Mike Hume: What’s your first step in approaching the remix album?

Adam Wills: It’s all been quite natural.  As soon as we had released the record [Beast Rest Fourth Mouth] we had friends and strangers alike banging on our e-mail door to remix some songs, so we started making stems for those folks. By January it feels like we had 10 remixes of various tracks and we realized it wouldn’t take much more work to curate the rest of the disc. So that’s what we did and it turned out quite well.

MH: Do you prefer to rework songs you don’t like to make them good? Or songs you already like and make them better?

AW: I don’t think we’ve ever worked with something we don’t like in the first place. We’re quite picky with what and who we work with, and that pickiness has paid off in terms of quality and happiness with a project years later.  It’s all about standards.  However, remixes are challenging from whatever direction you start from.

MH: You’ve said before that your original writing can take months for a single song. When do you know that you’ve got a track exactly where you want it?

AW: You can feel it.  Almost physically, things click.  That can happen very quickly or very slowly.  It’s all about being honest with ourselves; self critique, step back, be aware of gimmicks, be timeless and picky.  We’ll be happy with a track for a very long time, then we’ll kind of self obsessively make an edit to it, and then, boom, it clicks and all of us can feel it. We never stop working on something till it just clicks. If that makes sense.

MH: Do you always start the songwriting process the same way?

AW: No, not at all. I’m curious if any band starts from the same place and has their process nailed down that way.  We start completely different each time.  We jam a lot, record it, pick apart sections, expand them. Sometimes Jon comes in with a new synth patch that’s inspiring, or Joe has a new drum beat to work with, but, guaranteed the starting point and path are usually remarkably different than the last song we wrote.

MH: You’ve had several changes to the band’s lineup, what works about this group now?

AW: We’re streamlined and determined.  We’re loving how much room we have and how we’ve been able to sound even bigger than the four-piece [with Sadek Bazaraa] or even the six-piece [with David Daniell and James Elliott]. We’ve busted ass to maintain a massive amount of dynamic range, and it’s cool we can do that as such a small band.  Beyond the performance aspect, we’re just solid friends.  We’ve been in this together from the beginning, and it’s nice to be in this, holding hands, jumping off the cliff with your best friends.

MH: A lot of reviews label your music as cinematic or associate it with movies. Do films inspire you to write? And what role does cinema play in your music?

AW: Absolutely it inspires me. Personally, I’m looking at my bookshelf, 80 percent of it is film theory … I went to film school after all. Cinema has been a major influence in my life, I’ve worked in the industry, Jon is also an editor. I cannot deny that this must bleed right into our music.