Since appearing on the radar in early 2011 with tracks like ‘Spitehouses’ and ‘Vanderhoof’, things have moved at astonishing pace for Eatenbybears, who currently find themselves on the verge of releasing a new single, ‘Your Pet Is Dead’. Injecting catchy, danceable rhythmic and melodic hooks with a level of diversity that’s generally unheard of around these parts – encompassing almost every genre under the sun, but glistening with 21st century sheen – the quartet have just finished a summer tour off the back of their decidedly tropical single ‘Simple As Hell’. AU chats to vocalist/guitarist Olan Stephens about the past, present and potentially very exciting future of Eatenbybears.
We hear you’re busy recording new material. Is the tropical, summery sound we heard on your last single ‘Simple As Hell’ indicative of the direction you’re going with the new music?
Yes and no. ‘Simple As Hell’ is a real summer single. It definitely came out of a subconscious desire for a sun-drenched summer. Written just before the holidays, it’s shimmering optimism is one that reflects the excitement at the possibility of a happy future on the horizon: “All I ask is that the sun shines, that the sun shines, that we could go outside”.
Seemingly hopeful and uplifting on the surface, ‘Simple As Hell’ takes a darker slant when considering things in the long term, expressing that by having a simple and carefree summer you could just be killing time, or wasting away creatively and expressively to the traditions and norms of society: “You’ve got me thinking about my future, about my future, about my future wife”. Is simplicity liberating? Or is it a trap? “Hell’s a pretty complex place”.
We’re now coming into Winter, and this is definitely reflected in the music we’re writing. Our next single to be released, ‘Your Pet Is Dead’, pushes the darker side of ‘Simple As Hell’ to the foreground; rooted in the idea of learning or perhaps never learning from our mistakes. Musically it draws on the same danceability and sheer energy of ‘Simple As Hell’, with vocals taking the forefront in an even bigger way, and our violinist/vocalist and now synth player, Aidan Kelly, setting the violin down and taking lead vocals in the verses. We’re embracing the seasons, because music’s for all year round, not just for summer.
Early Eatenbybears material was firmly rooted in math-rock, while – as we’ve mentioned – ‘Simple As Hell has a decidedly poppier feel. How have your influences changed and shaped the band during its life?
I think that Eatenbybears sound a bit like a band trying to play their favourite parts of every genre of music at once. This has been the case from the beginning as we referenced everything from instrumental post rock to contemporary classical to math rock in our early material. I think that our diverse instrumentation, which is ever increasing, and our wide span of influences helps us not to fall into any particular niche of genre, and leaves us with a lot of creative freedom which we aim to make the most of. We’re exploring a lot of different influences in our new material, particularly experimental pop music and hip hop production. Expect a lot more use of electronics such as synths and drum samplers, as well as some more vocal-heavy material. In the words of every hip hop producer ever, “It’s all about synths, subs and snares”.
What was your goal when you put the band together, and has the scope of your ambition changed at all?
We actually started out of an obligation to form a performance group for a module in the course which myself, Aidan and James are now completing in Queen’s University Belfast. The class was ‘Performance Workshop’ as part of our Music Technology & Sonic Arts degree and we were required to perform in class every week. We were enthusiastic from the start and almost instantly decided that we should write as much of our own material as we could and start gigging outside of class. We then met our bass player, Clark (Phillips), when he mixed one of our very first demos for us. There was no clear game plan other that write and play as much as possible.
But of course over time, more energy has been put into progressing ourselves within the industry, and spreading our music as much as possible, over the internet and by playing in as many different places, and to as many different people as possible. Our ambition has always been to experiment and to grow and learn, while taking the experimental aspects and hiding them in an accessible sound, almost tricking people into listening to styles of music they might otherwise not. We were hungry from the start and we’re still hungry now.
What do you make of the current musical environment/scene in Belfast, and are there any acts you’re collectively keeping an eye on?
The music scene in Belfast is as strong as ever. As the years go on, it just seems to grow and grow with so many acts now receiving international acclaim. I don’t think Eatenbybears would have come together so easily in any other environment, with gigs like Radar in the Speakeasy and Animal Disco giving new acts a great platform to get their music out to an attentive and enthusiastic crowd of regular gig goers. Clark has been recording some great new acts with his own production company, Great Northern Productions, such as Amateur Historians, PigsAsPeople and Chris Campbell. Rachael Boyd is awesome. Also worth noting is the worth of new electronic artists emerging from this city and just outside, such as Screendeath and SertOne, not to mention the elusive Thrash Hat, who we expect to be hearing a lot more from sometime soon.
So far, you’ve toured Ireland and took a recent jaunt to Portugal alongside Kasper Rosa. Are there any plans on the horizon for further touring in the near or distant future?
For 2013, absolutely. Plans are currently in motion for Europe and at home. We are also looking forward to next years festival season across Europe. 2013 is shaping up to be a busy year!
What are the plans for your next releases, and general plans – if there are any?
Well, we have literally just announced our new single “Your Pet Is Dead” which will be released as a free digital download on Thursday 15th November with a headline show in Twisted Pepper in Dublin to celebrate this release.
The other release we have is a remix EP which has been in the works for months now. It features work by Thrash Hat (Rory Friers, ASIWYFA), SertOne, Monto, KaraKara and Screendeath. More details coming soon but this will be released on Monday 10th December.
Also two special shows coming up in Belfast: Tuesday 20th November we will screen our Portuguese tour video at SARC, followed by a performance. This will be a strictly limited guestlist entry for this one. Details soon.
And we cap off the year with an Animal Disco NYE show in Voodoo with Mojo Fury and ASIWYFA DJs. Phew!
Eatenbybears will release ‘Your Pet Is Dead’ as a free digital release on Thursday, November 15.