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Escape Velocity

85 Bears Versus The Bono Swine Flu Machine
Toby Cook , January 5th, 2010 04:41

Are Doppelgangers best left on desert islands? Are they Don Caballero’s natural heirs? Are U2 responsible for the swine flu outbreak? 85 Bears do their best to explain things to Toby Cook

Of all the things to do on a balmy Tuesday evening, sitting in the sun in the considerable courtyard of East London’s 93 Feet East, supping pints of mid-priced larger and moaning about how your mobile phone refuses to allow you to use the key lock – thus leading to unsolicited nuisance calls to the first name in your phone book – is right up there. The fact that on this occasion the company is provided by post-metal instrumentalists 85 Bears, merely sweetens the deal.

Comprising of former members of Miocene, Hentai and Burma Guns - and formed less than a year ago - with no more that a three track EP under their belts, word of mouth and a steady touring schedule that has taken them to all corners of the UK, 85 Bears are starting to see many a lofty comparison drawn between them and some of the genres more established artists – just don’t mention Don Caballero though.

Hello 85 Bears, How the bloody hell are you all?

Adam Hogwood (guitar): Pretty good, thanks.

Alex Juror (bass): Yeah, lovely

AH: You can’t ask for better; the weather's lovely, we’re having a beer and about to play a gig – I’m really looking forward to it. We’ve just done a sound check and it sounds great, plus I’ve seen some good gigs here [at 93 Feet East] but have never actually played here, so it’s a good box to tick too.

Ben Davis (Drums): It’s the first time I’ve even actually been here, I’ve never even seen a gig here!

AJ: Yeah, it’s great, I feel like part of the ‘in crowd’ playing at 93 Feet East, I feel so special! Like I’m one of the ‘cool guys’.

BD: I even got dressed up for tonight; I put on a shirt and I’ve got my travel deodorant and everything!

Can you tell our readers where 85 Bears are from – how you got started etc?

AH: I’d know Al for a while from a previous rehearsal space that our old bands all used and we got to know each other and realised that we had similar musical tastes, but never really had the chance to start anything. We’d spoken about it a couple of times, but it just nothing really happened.

Later on from that though I was in Burma Guns with Ben, and it wasn’t really the stuff that I wanted to do...

BD: Yeah, you just sort of filled in, in a way.

AH: I did fill in. I filled in for a friend, and then two years down the line I was still there, and Burma Guns had had various member changes over that time. It was OK but it wasn’t really the direction I wanted to go personally, so I took a stand and said “well let’s try something new”. I asked Ben if he was interested, and he was! Didn’t we all meet at a gig once too?

All: Yeah!

AH: Yeah it was a Don Caballero gig, and I was like, “I need a bass player, but I don’t really know anyone” but that day we bumped in to Alex at the Scala. We asked Al, Al was up for it so we just booked out a rehearsal space and it worked out really well.

BD: That was in late 2007, yeah?

AJ, AH: Yeah.

AJ: So anyway, we did a demo about eight to 12 weeks after we got together, which is what we’ve got every gig off the back of really! Just something that we did in a day, in a local studio... it’s quite strange if you think about it!

The 1985 Chicago Bears team is of course one of the greatest NFL teams in history – has the name got anything to do with them?

AH: No, no. Not at all!

AJ: [laughing!] Shame they only lost one game that season, but we’ve never heard of them!! They can’t do anything, they can’t sue us!

AH: No, that’s exactly where it comes from. It’s weird, so many people have been saying that to me actually – I thought that people would never get the reference.

AJ: I’m quite shocked that so many English people have picked up on it! We though that it was obscure!

AH: Basically in the 80s they used to show it on Channel 4, and my dad used to watch it and I remember that at that time they [the Chicago Bears] were the team to beat, with the likes Walter Payton and William ‘The Refrigerator’ Perry – they had the best season of all-time, ever...

AJ: No, the Miami Dolphins in 1972 had a better season!

AH: Well, OK, the second best then! Anyway, for some reason I remember coming across it on the internet and looking them up and saw ’85 Bears’ in brackets, and I just though that it looked pretty good as a band name. I put it to the guys and they liked it so we went for it. Plus, the thought of 85 actual bears is quite intimidating too!

So, are you still keen NFL followers? Got any tips that I can take down the bookies?

AH: Yeah – don’t bet on the ‘85 Bears!

AJ: No, me an Adam are more football [soccer, to be clear to errant American Googlers] fans really, we’re both huge West Ham supporters – but I think if we’d had a name with football connotations it might have been a bit much for people – you know like, 1986 Hammers or something!

Obviously some people will remember you from your previous bands – mainly Miocene and Hentai – 85 Bears are a completely different entity though. What prompted the move a way from metal towards the sort of post-rock stylings of 85 Bears?

AJ: Well, it’s quite funny, because while they sound quite different as an end product, a lot of how it came about – as well as the interaction of the band members and the writing – is quite similar. The big difference is that in Miocene, for example, everyone was into really different things in the sense that one person would bring a lot of Drum and Bass, another would bring a lot of Metal, and so on, but everyone’s tastes crossed over. In 85 Bears I think that everyone's tastes are a lot more aligned in terms of the things that we’re looking to achieve with each song. Really the influences are exactly the same, but when you look at how the guitarist and drummer have approached a song – from a bass player’s perspective – they've got a really different take on it, and for each of us it becomes a more personal thing.

AH: I don’t think that there was ever moment when we all sat down and said “right, we want to sound like this” at all, we literally just went into a room and just played. I don’t know if that sounds a bit pretentious, but it just kind of happened that way. The style that we play, as individuals, is probably is very much down to the music that we listen to, but put those three elements together, like when we jam in the studio, and it’s like “yeah that sounds good, let’s try that again” and so forth. There’s never anyone saying, “yeah, lets try and sound like 'this' band”, or “let’s do this like 'these guys'”.

AJ [To AH]: I think part of it is that with Hentai you grew up with those guys, and the same with me and Miocene, and it’s that teenage thing where no matter how eclectic your tastes are, what you end up playing seems really natural and it seems really natural to be into, say, Aphex Twin and Tool and Will Haven and Cinematic Orchestra. All those things seem totally natural when you’re with people you’ve know for a long time, but when you’re playing with people you don’t know so well you don’t really know what to expect – so if it sounds good, there’s probably a lot of luck involved!

I keep hearing comparison with yourselves and Don Caballero – how do you feel about that?

AH: Yeah, I can kind of see it. I guess if the only thing that you’ve ever heard of us is that first EP – especially the first track, even though we don’t actually play it anymore – I can see why people would lazily compare us to Don Cab’. But if you come and see us play live, I don’t think that you can really compare us to them. I think it’s just that they were an influence, and influences always come out in some form in the music.

AH: In a lot of ways I think that they’re a lot more ‘out there’ – their stuff is sometimes a bit of a musical collage. Our stuff, I think, is a lot more focused – it has a lot more melody.

BD: I think, in a weird way, we’re more accessible – you don’t need to like Don Caballero to like us.

AH: Yeah. It’s cool to be compared to those guys but sometimes people say “Oh yeah, they sound like these guys” or “Yeah, they are obviously influenced by this band” and I’m thinking: “I’ve never even heard of them... I don’t even know who this band [that we’ve been compared to] is!”

AJ: Why do you think it is?

Me? Personally, I can understand why people would make the comparison, but I think it’s largely down to lazy journalism. Someone has heard your EP, and thought ‘OK, these guys are sort of proggy, post-rock, the guitar has a crunch, but is not heavily distorted. What’s a popular band that also fit that description? Oh yeah, Don Caballero. They sound like Don Caballero’.

AH: Yeah, that sounds fair. I mean, lets be honest, there are a lot of much worse bands that we could be compared to! I think that whenever people hear the EP they compare us to Don Cab’, but when they see us live, they don’t. So that’s a positive thing at least.

Speaking of your EP, ‘Shipwrecking’ came out in June and it has some fairly abstract song titles; ‘Jumpin’ With Joe From The Highest Step’ for example. What’s that all about then?

AJ: Well that song is named after Joe Kittinger, who’s a personal hero of mine. He was a borderline astronaut. It’s basically just idol worship!

AH: He was the guy who did the biggest free fall in history...

AJ: [interrupting] He was a guy in the sixties who went up in a balloon and then jumped out and did a skydive from about 106,000 feet or something...

AH: He was practically in orbit...

AJ: Yeah, he was pretty much in space but all he had was this special suit on, and jumped off this platform at the bottom of the balloon. Funnily enough, to me visually - in my own head - that song is like what I imagine that skydive to be like. It’s quite melodic up to a certain point – which would be the journey up, then there’s kind of like a spacier moment – where you can imagine him looking out and thinking, and then there’s this CRASH as he jumps out and is falling through the atmosphere and everything is just exploding around him.

AH: We’ve though about using live visuals, and if we get the capacity to do it, part of it would be footage of him doing that jump - that would be great.

BD: Al’s even going to get one of those laser pointers Sellotaped to his bass and during the song he’ll be like a professor or something, saying: “and now you can see here that...”

AJ: Yeah! The visual thing would be good to get going though, just as another way to show people what you’re thinking with a song. You can show it in the titles, but you don’t REALLY show it and it just becomes a title.

AH: But seriously, I think that it’s just a good concept to name a song after. That was just a fucking brave, stupid thing to do and it fits!

If you where ever shipwrecked, who or what would you NOT want to have with you and why?

Al: [Laughing] To be stuck with a doppelganger would be the worst! The person that I would argue with the most would be myself. I’d be, like “WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT!! YOU’RE CRAZY!!”, just arguing about the minute, day-to-day things!

I hear that at the recent Hinterland festival you blew an amp during sound check – that’s pretty ‘rock’... are you trying to get a reputation?

AH: Well, it didn’t feel very fucking rock & roll!

AJ: Yeah. Being rock & roll is the last thing on our minds really!

AH: Looking back though, I reckon that someone spilt something on it that temporarily disabled it because by the time I got it home, after five days, it worked! And it sounded better than ever!

AH: Actually, I blew another amp on Saturday so it’s becoming a bit if a habit!

AJ: We’re like the Gallagher brothers – we’ll have our arguments and stuff, but it’s not that rock & roll; it’s just bad news!

No throwing TVs out of hotel windows or anything like that yet then?

AH: Well, we’ve not really had the chance to do that yet, so who knows?

AJ: Actually, I don’t really look forward to it – I think we’ll probably throw each other out of hotel windows!

AH: Maybe you can throw your alter-ego out?

AJ: Yeah, I’d definitely throw him out!

What’s next on the agenda for 85 Bears?

AH: Well we’ve not long finished recording an album - it’s pretty much being mixed as we speak - so we’re waiting for that to be done first. I’m not really up to speed on that whole process though, so I won’t really know what to do with it once we’ve got it – but I’m sure that we’ll get it into the right channels.

AJ: It’s just about getting it out with the best possible distribution. There’s not much money in the industry at the moment, but at the same time we have had people offer to do a lot for us. It’s just a case of trying to make the right choice, being happy and going with it – and getting the LP out of course. It’s going to sound a lot better than anything that we’ve done before so hopefully when it’s finished and it comes out we can get a bit of touring done.

AH: Yeah that’s it really, you can’t really ask for much more – as we stand we’ve got a nice, nearly finished product, and we just want to take it to the people.

AJ: We haven’t set any kind of like target to get to or achieve in a certain amount of time. We’re just going to keep playing shows, recording and see where it goes.

AH: Yeah, I don’t think that we’re ready to promote Amnesty International or tour with Coldplay yet!

AJ: That’ll always be the dream though!

Or join U2 under their big grey claw thing?

AJ: Yeah, yeah! I think that thing looks a bit too much like the the Martian machines in War Of The Worlds, do you know what I mean?

AH: What? What’s this, I haven’t heard about that.

AJ: [To AH] U2 have got this big claw, like a prong thing that’s over the stage... and it dispenses swine flu to the audience! When Bono takes off his hat, that’s the signal.

AH: [laughing] I can imagine that Edge has a specially designed, digital delay swine flu pedal...

AJ: He wires it up and it switches between avian flu and swine flu!

AH: Yeah, that’s the way Bono keeps his crowd under control...

AJ: Well they’ve got so many fans that they probably wouldn't even care if they lose a few!

AH: They can actually kill their own fans!?

AJ: Yeah! They’ve got fed-up, they’re like, “Why are we putting up with these losers who keep humming, we’ll get the swine flu on the go and play to new, younger fans, with more expendable money!”

What? Just, get rid of everybody that’s ever heard Joshua Tree, or something?

AJ: Yeah. Just keep those that like How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb!

AD: Well, that’s us off the U2 tour then!

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