We were delighted when White Bear returned after a short hiatus towards the tail end of 2017. They played a storming set supporting Eyre Llew at Sneaky Pete’s last month.
Alive & Amplified caught up with the band and have an exclusive of a track from their new EP ‘I Like It Here Inside My Mind’
For those who don’t know tell us about White Bear.
I guess the best place to start would be our sound, as it’s primarily what most people have come to know us from, whether they’ve seen us live, or heard any of our previous releases.
Since White Bear’ inception, it was always our aspiration to be as openly creative as possible, taking inspiration from numerous different sources and not just music itself. You could say that our sound was birthed from our eagerness to try different things, whether that was sonically or indeed through the lyrics and their subject matter.
The ambient, post-rock label we’ve been given over the years definitely comes the closest in terms of pigeonholing us, but our pool of inspiration is so broad it’s hard to personally pin ourselves down to one specific genre, especially when you’re keen on breaking down such barriers.
We’re from Dundee, and we’re still based there. It’s not particularly a city that is associated with a band like ours, whereas Glasgow is perhaps a more likely fit, but having said that, Dundee is our home, and it’s always great to play a show there, especially considering a lot of people that follow White Bear are from Dundee or near by.
As a band, our ultimate aim is to be as progressive creatively as possible. We don’t value ourselves against anyone else, as everyone has their own thing to give. To us it’s not about success as such, rather it’s about pushing what we are creatively capable as both individuals as well as a band.
You have recently come back for a short hiatus. How have the band developed in this time?
Our hiatus was certainly unplanned, as our original bass player rather unexpectedly decided to call it a day. Danny is a very close friend to all of us, so it definitely hit us hard. And then of course we looked at all available options, including potentially calling it a day, but we felt that we still had a lot more to give creatively speaking. Our good friend Michael who has played bass previously in numerous other bands was keen to fill the position, and he slotted in seamlessly.
We are always looking at developing the sound according to what is inspiring us at that specific time. Since Michael has come in it has certainly been the most progressive period the band has seen since we started White Bear. Perhaps not so much with this new EP, albeit the second track, but in the very near future you’ll hear White Bear start to shift back to its more experimental roots, something that has come about naturally whilst writing for ‘I Like It Here Inside My Mind’.
Tell us about your new EP ‘I Like It Here Inside My Mind’?
With the inclusion of Michael and of course the hiatus, we felt it important to release new material as soon as possible. We wanted it to carry a slightly different sound to our previous releases. Less sheen shall we say, and instead, giving the tracks a far grittier guitar sound than usual, and the drums a more electronic feel. As always we focused heavily on the overall dynamics of each track in order to deliver that punch of power you usually get with a White Bear track, or at least, that’s our intention.
We’ve always written songs that feature ambiguous lyrics, and in this case it’s no different, however, art plays a hand in several moments throughout the EP, something that has served us not just for lyrical inspiration, but also the titles of the tracks.
The track ‘Everyday’ is certainly a far cry away from the complexities of any track from our last EP ‘The Promise of a Life of Violence’, but it still carries that core White Bear sound that is easily recognisable. And to us, that recognisable sound is something we consider very important, so it goes without saying that this new EP carries on from where we left off.
What are your influences when writing & recording?
When it comes to influences there are definitely too many to list, but there are a few that have always played an integral part, especially when it comes to the writing process. A few years back, Sigur Ros did a Radio 6 interview from their studio in Reykjavik where they talked at length about their creative process. We had already tried numerous different approaches to writing but adopted a similar process to theirs when it worked wonders for us. It’s all about simplicity, as over complicating even the slightest of things can drastically slow your output. We never talk, not until afterwards. For us, it’s all about the music, and being in that moment. It’s from that initial jam that we try our best to keep the song pretty much in its original form, meaning certain songs don’t have a specific structure or template. This gives the song a more open and experimental feel that’s free flowing and unpredictable at times.
When it comes to recording, we like to get the basis of the song down before we start to experiment with various soundscapes and textures. We never try to replicate anything and the great thing about doing this on the spot in the studio is how fresh it sounds, and that definitely sticks out when you play the songs back. And to the listeners it gives off that same unpredictability that you wouldn’t get otherwise. It’s all about taking risks and not being afraid if they backfire. On numerous occasions Daniel has rewritten whole verses on the spot whilst in the vocal booth to our amazement. Nothing is ever set in stone, and thats the way we like it, constantly evolving.
What is the music scene like in Dundee? Are there any bands we should be looking out for?
As with every music scene, you’ll only get as much back, as you put in. If you’re out at shows often then as with any city I’m sure you’ll find something you’ll like. Dundee always feels as though it’s going through a transitional period that never ceases. I think the issue is the scene keeps shifting from trend to trend, which isn’t a bad thing, but because it happens so quickly it’s hard to garner a passionate following. But as with the theory of trends, they always seem to come with a lack of diversity, and Dundee has certainly been guilty of that, something that cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow don’t have an issue with. Dundee definitely has a wealth of talent, I just wish that Dundee as a city gave artists more of a platform to showcase themselves, as many great venues have closed their doors over the years.
You are playing a show in Dundee Church on 28 April. Are you looking forward to playing a hometown show?
Hometown gigs are always fun because everyone shows up. It’s great to have people who have followed us from the beginning come down to hear what’s new, and it’s great to hear their thoughts on the set. You always want to be on top of your game, and give the audience the best experience possible. Church is also a little bit of history for us, as we played our first ever show there. It’s somewhere we’ve played many times over the years, but it’s a venue we never get tired of. We’re really looking forward to this one, as it’s to celebrate the release of the new EP.
What are your plans for summer?
At the moment it looks like it’ll be a quiet summer for White Bear, as we’ve no festival slots booked. However, that doesn’t mean we won’t be busy. We’re constantly looking ahead and we have our sights set on the later half of the year especially. But we’ve got a few shows around Scotland planned in the next few months in response to the EP release.