Bears in Brooklyn, Bears in Berlin, Bears…in…Heaven!

Photo by Shawn Brackbill

Brooklyn, New York band Bear in Heaven is one of those bands that never stops. They never stop touring, never stop writing, they never stop just to stop! Before they became a well-deserving buzz band back in 2009 they were an American band among a huge pool of others, trying to make it on the indie circuit for a number of years. Their latest release, I Love You, It’s Cool  (Hometapes/Dead Oceans), has garnered an exceptional amount of attention and support, nationally and internationally (if you tune into music media, you must have read about their unique album stream that they did before the release on April 3).

This summer the guys are touring Europe and Mexico before traveling back to their home base in New York. We were in touch with lead singer Jon Philpot via email as the band was making tour stops through Italy last week. We hammered out some of the details of the new album as well as some basics about the band.

THE BOMBER JACKET: What’s the funniest question you’ve been asked after you tell people your band name?

Jon Philpot: “Do you play Reggae?”

You worked with Wrenchie (producer David Wrench) for I Love You, It’s Cool. You’ve said that he likes to take chances in the studio. What were some risks/chances you guys took on this new album, and do you feel they worked out?

He placed the instruments in a different place than I would normally place them. For example, he mixed the kick in a range above the drums. He also wanted to push every song to sound crazy. He loves it when things sound mental. The ending of “Sinful Nature”…that’s all him.

Did any of you ever actually get to play Wrenchie’s conga drums?

No, we haven’t had the chance yet. If we do, there will be documentation.

How was recording at DNA Studios, as opposed to recording in your practice space?

Stressful and less stressful. We had time against us in the studio. Every second wasted was a dollar lost. At the practice space we could be very loose with time. But it took forever to get stuff done. Especially when you have to set up all the mics and gear just to record for a few hours. Plus, you have to wait for the band next door to be quiet so you can get a decent recording.

One of the mixers used on your newest album was also used to mix “Star Wars.” How cool was that, and is there a “Star Wars” influence on the new album?

You mean “The Force” mixer? Yes we had the force and we like laser sounds.

You guys sometimes record several versions of songs before you decide on the one you want. Would you ever consider releasing some of the different versions of your songs as an EP, or digital download? (Like Radiohead’s Scotch Mist versions of In Rainbows.) What about “Cool Light”?

We’ve talked about releasing “Cool Light” in its alternate form. Maybe one day…maybe.

Ex-bandmate James Elliott sent you sounds for the recordings. Were there any you didn’t use on the album? What’s the craziest thing he sent you?

He sent us a lot of out of tune stuff… It was a strange process integrating his stuff with the song (“Kiss Me Crazy”). Though, it certainly gives the song an off-kilter edge. That’s the kind of thing we’re always striving to find. Ugly things that sound good.

Editing Wonder Showzen must’ve been an intense experience. Has any of that experience bled over into your music?

It was an intense experience. I had to quit editing for a few months after the second season. It did influence how I pull things together in the studio. Also, I can spend hours working on minutia and not feel bad about it. It’s a mindset. Committing to an idea and going all the way and beyond. Plus, those guys helped out on our first record. They recorded a kids choir that appears at the end of our song “For Beauty”

Do you have any plans to work with some of the people from Wonder Showzen or Superjail for a video or collaboration?

We already did that. John Lee of PFFR directed the music video for our song “The Reflection of You.” Mission Accomplished!

You mentioned that your long tour (for Beast Rest Forth Mouth) helped make you a better band. What do you feel you’ve learned from recording the new album in a real studio, and how will that translate to your live shows?

When you play live as much as we do you get better and you learn what works live. It’s not always a home run but you have a better idea. Performing in a studio is nerve wracking. You have to play it right and you have to do it quickly. So what I’m saying is, between those two things, we’ve just become better musicians. For us, it’s not about thinking about what we’re doing, it’s about trying it and failing or trying it and winning. The difference between the studio and the live show is we have more lights when we play live and less people clap in the studio.

What’s the last/most recent lucid dream you can remember having?

I just woke up from a nap. I was dreaming about trying to find a European wall outlet that worked. It was sorta stressful.

List your three favorite aquatic mammals, in order of fierceness?

A poor dolphin, a hungry dolphin, a sad dolphin.

Do all bears go to heaven?

Yes, especially the human ones.


–Rob Egan and Jen Brown

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