Interview: Bear’s Den, Without/Within

Bear's Den
Image Courtesy of Bear’s Den

Our love of UK nu-folk trio Bear’s Den is older than the band itself. Cherbourg, a band which featured two of Bear’s Den’s members (Andrew Davie and Kevin Jones), was one of the first artists we covered on Timber and Steel and we’ve been following the work of its members ever since they parted ways in in 2010.

Bear’s Den are currently in Australia supporting Matt Corby on his national tour as well as a couple of headline shows. We caught up with multi-instrumentalist Kev Jones from the band after their Sydney shows to discuss the tour, the new EP Without/Within and Jones’ role as founder of record label and music community Communion.

Gareth Hugh Evans: Welcome to Australia! How are you finding it so far?

Kev Jones: We’re having a lovely time. We played the Horden Pavilion three nights ago and then we had one show two nights ago but then we’ve actually had some time off in Sydney which is quite unusual. We’ve been exploring a little bit, seeing the sites, getting some rest. It’s really nice to be here.

GHE: Is this your first trip to Australia? As Bear’s Den?

KJ: For all of us it’s our first time to Australia as a band and as individuals.

GHE: I’ve big fans of you guys right from the very beginning. When I first started Timber and Steel it was just as your and Andrew Davie’s previous band Cherbourg had finished. I started following Davie’s solo stuff and then when Bear’s Den came out of that I continued to make sure I was on top of everything you guys were doing. It feels like it’s been its been a fairly slow burn for Bear’s Den – it feels like you’ve taken to the slow and steady approach.

KJ: I think we’ve been quite careful. It’s very easy get over excited about the music you’re making and trying to push it too hard, too quickly. I was the bass player in Cherbourg so Davie and I have been working together for six or seven years now. It was always for us the question of “are we getting it right” before we really start running with it. Releasing little EPs has allowed ourselves to grow organically – that’s quite important to us.

GHE: Can I ask what the decision behind creating Bear’s Den as a new band rather than continuing with Cherbourg given both you and Davie are in both bands and the sound has its similarities? What makes Bear’s Den distinctive?

KJ: I just don’t think we worked out what we were trying to do with Cherbourg. I think we learnt a lot of lessons from it. It was quite a set formula with Cherbourg and I think we’re all multi-instrumentalists in Bear’s Den and it allows us to be a lot more fluid with the sort of sounds we can make and what we choose to do with them. The dynamics make more sense to us. It was really fun being in Cherbourg and we’re still close with the other guys – in fact Chris Maas who was the drummer in Cherbourg is now Matt Corby’s drummer so we’re actually hanging out at the moment. I think the way everything slots in with Bear’s Den makes more sense to us.

GHE: It feels like with Bear’s Den as well that you’re not tied to that indie-folk sound. The latest single, “Writing On The Wall”, is probably the least folky I’ve heard you guys. Was that a conscious decision – that’s Bear’s Den isn’t going to be pigeonholed as indie-folk?

KJ: To a point that’s true but I don’t think it’s conscious as such. It’s more just evolved from the fundamental philosophy that we’ve adopted to make sure we’re servicing a song correctly. Having a lot of multi-instrumentalists in the band means that we can decide to put some synth bass in it or drums or we can do little tiny instruments and the banjo thing. It’s not like a statement intent – it’s more “what does the song need?”.

GHE: You mentioned that you’re out here touring with Matt Corby. You’ve played with him in the UK as well yeah?

KJ: We have yeah. We toured with him last year.

GHE: Matt’s part of the same community as you guys with Communion and having similar friends through bands like Mumford and Sons. How’s it been touring with your mates?

KJ: It makes such a difference. For us as a band we’ve been on the road for eight weeks now so to arrive in a new country and deal with a whole new set of instruments and gear you have to get used to and getting in front of so many people can be quite intimidating. To be able to walk into a room and immediately be with your best mates really takes the edge off from a touring perspective. You’re able to slot in and everything runs much more fluidly. It’s really nice. And we’re working so hard at the moment the only way we get to see our friends is to tour with them. It’s the best thing every – it’s so nice to do that.

GHE: In Australia Matt Corby comes with a very very loyal fan base – and it’s a fan base that really embraces the other bands that Matt Corby tours and plays with. Have found that his fans have adopted you?

KJ: Yeah I think they have. It is quite early to say for sure. On the UK tour I certainly felt that we had a very warm welcome. His fans are all lovely.

GHE: You’re also playing Communion Melbourne while you’re out here which is part of the global Communion record label and community that you’re one of the founders of. It’s taken a while for Communion to kick off properly in Australia – there was Communion Sydney for a couple of months and then Communion Melbourne kicked off last year. Why do you think it’s take so long to establish in Australia?

KJ: I think it’s the same as anything that the label does – it’s all about finding the right people. Same philosophy that we have with Bear’s Den to be honest – you have to find the right combination of people. Melbourne Communion are just the greatest guys so as soon as we found them we were like “that makes sense” and off we go.

GHE: What I love about Communion as well is that it’s a global community. Obviously you guys are in the country this month so you’re able to play Communion Melbourne. And then when an Australian band who’s part of the Communion family here tours overseas they are invited to play at Communion in other cities.

KJ: Absolutely. What we’re trying to do is extend that family vibe wherever we go. That support network is crucial. It’s hard work being in a band – obviously it’s lots of fun as well – but there’s a lot of difficult times and when you’re able to refer to someone else who’s experienced the same thing as you or has advice, the stronger that network of people is the more everyone benefits from it and gets the support they need.

GHE: I’m chuffed that you guys chose to play a couple of headline shows while you’re out here, on top of the Matt Corby supports, in these smaller spaces.

KJ: The dream is to come back all the time and build relationships with our potential fans over here.

GHE: At the end of this month your new EP Without/Within comes out which follows on from Agape. Is the plan continue releasing EPs or is an album in the works?

KJ: We’re definitely working on an album in our heads. I don’t want to say for sure but I think when we get off this tour we’ll start looking at how we might approach making that. So yeah, we”re getting to a point where we’re ready to start I think.

GHE: I’m really liking what I’ve heard of Without/Within so far. When you’re putting together these EPs are they just a collection of your latest songs or are you putting tracks that “go together” on them?

KJ: It’s a very painstaking process actually. We like to tie things together lyrically and are very much always trying to create a body of work that exists. For us it’s important that we create something that’s hopefully bigger than just a bunch of songs. In terms of sonically and lyrically it’s quite a meticulous process for us.

GHE: Kev, thanks so much for taking to time to chat to me on one of your days off.

KJ: It’s lovely to speak to you.

Without/Within is due for release on the 1st November. The remaining dates of Bear’s Den’s tour with Matt Corby are below:

Wednesday 23rd October – GPAC Playhouse, Geelong, VIC
Thursday 24th October – Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide, SA
Sunday 27th October – Arts centre, Fremantle, WA

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 20th July

TFIF

This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

– The week kicked off with a 100th Birthday tribute to Woody Guthrie. Tributes and celebrations are planned all year – check out the Woody Guthrie 100 web site for more details.

– The original anti-folk heroine Regina Spektor announced a string of Australian tour dates this September. Details here.

Jinja Safari released the long awaited video for their single “Toothless Grin” on Friday evening featuring all sorts of budget effects and green-screen trickery. Details here.

– After weeks of speculation Mumford and Sons revealed that the title to their second album will indeed be Babel. The cover art and track listing was also revealed with the album hitting stores on the 21st September. Details here.

– And if you’re hanging out for new Mumford and Sons tunes you’d be wise to listen to the new track “The Brightest Lights” from King Charles which features the UK quartet. “The Brightest Lights” comes from King Charles’ new album Loveblood. Details here.

– Having just released his new album Broken Brights Angus Stone has announced a massive national tour in November. Details here.

Boy & Bear drummer and accomplished singer-songwriter Tim Hart has announced the details of his forthcoming solo album Milling the Wind including a gorgeous video for the first single “A Number of Us” and a national tour throughout September. Details here.

– Local record label Inertia are offering up “Ho Hey” by The Lumineers as a free download. We think you should realistically be buying the whole album – it’s fantastic. Details here.

– Syndey locals Billygoat and the Mongrels released their video for “Dance Like a Baby Deer” and, well, we’re still not sure what to think of it. Details here.

Jim Conway’s Big Wheel, Hat Fitz & Cara Robinson (above), Claude Hay, Eli Wolfe, Lyall Moloney and many amny more have been added to the lineup for the 2012 Sydney Blues and Roots Festival. Details here.

Laura Marling recorded a Tiny Desk Concert for NPR Music and in the process revealed a brand new track titled “Once”. Will this be on the new album she’s currently recording? Details here.

– The National Indigenous Music Awards revealed their finalists for 2012 including a lot of folk-leaning acts like Busby Masrou (above), Gurrumul Yunupingu, Black Arm Band, Warren H Williams and Troy Cassar-Daley. The winners will be announced on the 11th August. Details here.

– Brother-sister duo Dan and Hannah Acfield have announced a mini-tour of the East Coast kicking off tonight at The Loft on the Gold Coast. The tour is to help launch their gorgeous new single “After You”. Details here.

– We posted the 1950s inspired new video from Sydney artist Miss Little, titled “A Place Without Time”. Details here.

– A joint UK tour late last year between Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo and Frank Turner resulted in the wonderful duet “Fields of June”. A new 1920s silent movie inspired video for the track has just been released. Details here.

– One day I’ll make it to the Newport Folk Festival. In the meantime I’m grateful for the fact that NPR Music will be streaming concerts from the festival online again this year. Details here.

– After a string of bad luck folk legends The Felice Brothers have found themselves in dire financial straits. To help them get back on the road and back into the studio you can purchase their brand new, 20 track digital album God Bless You Amigo. Details here.

Missy Higgins stuns us again with her gorgeous new single and video “Everyone’s Waiting”. Details here.

– After sharing stills from the shoot for the last week Lachlan Bryan has finally released the video to his track “Lily of the Fields”. Lots of sexy girls with candy-skull makeup. Details here.

– 50 years after his self-titled debut Bob Dylan has announced the release of his 35th album Tempest. Details here.

Reviews

Recordings

“Hollywood is exactly what I wanted from The Falls – a recording that captures the pitch perfect harmonies and energy of their live performance and enhances it through solid production”The Falls, Hollywood. Review here

Releases This Week

Carry Me Back
Carry Me Back, Old Crow Medicine Show
iTunes

God Bless You Amigo
God Bless You Amigo, The Felice Brothers
Official Site

Gigs Next Week

Ben Howard, Michael Kiwanuka, Tim Hart
Tuesday 24th July – The Factory Theatre, Sydney, NSW
Wednesday 25th July – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC

Breaking Hart Benton
Friday 20th July – Upfront Club, Maleny, QLD
Sunday 22nd July – St Elmo Sunday Social Club, Byron Bay, NSW
Tuesday 24th July – Old Bar, Melbourne, VIC

Communion Melbourne (The Tiger and Me, Liz Stringer, Sam Lawrence, Al Parkinson)
Sunday 22nd July – Toff in Town, Melbourne, VIC

Dan and Hannah Acfield
Friday 20th July – The Loft, Gold Coast, QLD
Saturday 21st July – Sol Bar, Maroochydore, QLD
Sunday 22nd July – Dowse Bar (Iceworks), Brisbane, QLD

Father John Misty
Friday 27th July – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney, NSW

Grievous Angel: The Legend of Gram Parsons (Jordie Lane, Clare Reynolds)
Friday 20th July – Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne, VIC

Jack Carty with Packwood
Sunday 22nd July – Betty Bar, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 26th July – Cafe Lounge, Sydney, NSW

John Williamson
Friday 20th July – Belmont 16ft Sailing Club, Belmont, NSW
Saturday 21st July – Rooty Hill RSL Club, Rooty Hill, NSW

Lachlan Bryan
Sunday 22nd July – Hickinbotham Winery, Dromana, VIC

Missy Higgins
Fri 27th July – Mackay Entertainment Centre, Mackay, QLD

The Paper Kites
Friday 20th July – Alhambra Lounge, Brisbane, QLD

The Rescue Ships
Friday 20th July – 5 Church Street, Bellingen, NSW
Thursday 26th July – The Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane, QLD

Friday Folk Flashback

“Man” – Cherbourg

To celebrate the launch of Communion Melbourne this weekend we thought we’d bring you this classic track from Communion co-founder Kevin Jones’ old band Cherbourg (most of the members of which can now be found as part of Bear’s Den). If you’re in Melbourne makes sure you get down to The Toff In Town this Sunday.

Communion Features on Bands in Transit

Communion

It seems like everybody with a camera and an interest in live music is starting a one-take-acoustic-outdoor-performance video series and posting it online. We’re pretty sure La Blogothèque were the instigators of the craze (if they weren’t the first, they’re definitely the most influential) which has seen video series popping up all over the world, including Australia. And we’re loving all the fantastic content that is being produced

While many of these film projects are simple point and shoot exercises (like the wonderful Your Take Sessions out of Adelaide), many have opted for a gimmick to capture our imaginations (Music in a Cab! Music on a Balcony!). One such project is Bands In Transit out of the UK who film bands performing out the back of a Ford Transit van (which also seems to be a sponsor for the videos). The series is pretty new but they’ve already managed to score some pretty amazing artists and the videos are really well produced.

Bands In Transit have teamed up with record label/club night/music community Communion to produce a series of videos featuring artists connected to the group all filmed at Hackney City Farm east of London. In an introduction video Bands In Transit interviews Communion founders Ben Lovett (Mumford and Sons) and Kevin Jones (Cherbourg) about the record label/club night/music community interweaved with snippits of the performances captured on the farm. Oh, and there’s pigs as well.

Kyla La Grange, the first Communion-connected artist to get the full Bands In Transit treatment has a a really unique voice and manages to deliver an electric performance which still maintains a folk sensibility. La Grange is definitely an artist we’re going to be keeping an eye on.

Andrew Davie’s new band Bear’s Den is pretty much his old band Cherbourg playing pretty much the same type of music, which makes one wonder why they bothered with the change at all. Not that we’re complaining – anything from these guys is welcomed regardless of how it’s packaged. Bands In Transit caught this lovely performance of “Stubborn Beast” featuring Ben Lovett on guest ukulele.

Bands In Transit also captured songs from Alessi’s Ark and Monument Valley on the day but their videos are still waiting to go up on the official web site. If you like what you have seen/heard above ensure you check back in with Bands In Transit for more product placement inducing live music.

Andrew Davie Starts New Band Bear’s Den

Andrew Davie
Image Courtesy of Andrew Davie

Ex-Cherbourg frontman Andrew Davie has been dabbling in the solo thing ever since the band split and went its separate ways, but it appears as though he’s ready to start playing with others again. His new project is called Bear’s Den and we have their latest track “Fickle Love” right here:

Sounds a lot like Cherbourg doesn’t it? Well that may be because, apart from Davie, Bear’s Den also features his old band mates Kevin Jones (bass) and Chris Maas (drums). The only Cherbourg member missing is Phil Fiddle with Bear’s Den opting for a keyboard player instead.

Bear’s Den has a bunch of UK dates coming up in April. As soon as we have any more information on the band we’ll definitely let you know.

While My Banjo Gently Weeps: Songs of Loss and Heartache

Heart Broken

If you’re anything like us you enjoy a good break up song just as much as (if not more than) a love song. So in the interest of balance (after yesterday’s love fest) we thought we’d present you a list of our favourite folk songs to do with heart ache, unrequited love and despair, fittingly on the day after Valentine’s Day. Kicking off the While My banjo Gently Weeps playlist is probably the greatest breakup song of all time from The Mountain Goats.

“No Children” – The Mountain Goats

“Boots of Spanish Leather” – Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan subverts the traditional folk tale of a man being forced to part with his lover to seek fortune overseas by adding a twist of reality to its ending. The Dylan version is notoriously hard to find on YouTube (it’s probably buried under a mountain of people filming themselves covering the song) so we’ve included the equally popular Nanci Griffith version instead.

“New Romantic” – Laura Marling

“Love Is All” – The Tallest Man On Earth
Don’t be fooled by the title. This song deals with the flip-side of love. The Tallest Man On Earth speaks in riddles most of the time, making his music conveniently ambiguous and one-size-fits-all- but this song is undoubtedly to do with loss

“Who Have You Been Loving” – Bobby Long

“Where Did You Sleep Last Night” – Leadbelly

“Ae Fond Kiss” – Eddi Reader
Probably one of the most beautiful unrequited-love songs ever written. Robert Burns wrote this as a farewell to his love Agnes “Nancy” M’Lehose when she followed her husband over the seas to Jamaica. It’s written with pain and longing and sorrow – and complimented by the wonderful voice of Eddi Reader.

“Never Love Again” – Cherbourg

“My Broken Heart” – Noah And The Whale
We could have included almost every track of The First Days of Spring, Charlie Fink’s tribute to his break up with Laura Marling, but we felt “My Broken Heart” encapsulated the tone the best.

“Diamonds and Rust” – Joan Baez

“The Chain” – Fleetwood Mac

“Sorry the Day I Was Married” – Tim Hart and Maddy Prior

“Untouchable Face” – Ani Difranco
WARNING: EXPLICIT LANGUAGE. Described by T&S contributor Milady Red as “the world’s best break up song” this is a fitting way to end our heart breaking playlist.

Interview: Kevin Jones

Kevin Jones
Image Courtesy of Chords and Candles

Aiden Quinn runs the excellent UK based site Chords and Candles and recently got the chance to chat with Kevin Jones, ex member of Cherbourg and co-creator (with Mumford and Sons’ Ben Lovett) of the Communion night and record label. Jones opened up to Aiden on all things Communion and folk music. This interview was originally printed here (go and show C&C some love!).

Aiden Quinn: How did you come up with the concept for the Communion label and what inspired the name?
Kevin Jones: Ben, Ian and I wanted to set up a night where we could showcase our favourite bands and provide a platform for developing artists and friends. We wanted to make it friendly and inclusive, to have a community feel, hence Communion. Also it’s on a Sunday which tied in nicely.
AQ: How do you go about selecting all the different acts that you have?
KJ: Various sources, friends tipping us off, people approaching us with demos. Any way we can really.
AQ: Who are you actually working with at the moment?
KJ: I’m working on lots of stuff at the moment: the Communion Christmas Party, Marcus Foster’s Album recording and SXSW mainly.
AQ: Have you met any people that have really surprised you, as individuals and as artists?
KJ: Kill it Kid certainly pack a pretty serious punch which you wouldn’t have necessarily expected from meeting them!
AQ: If you had to choose three of your acts that you see big things happening for in the near future, which are your personal favourites and why?
KJ: Marcus Foster, Matt Corby and Andrew Davie – all very talented singers and songwriters.
AQ: What are the best and worst things about heading a label?
KJ: It’s stressful and I’m lucky if I get an afternoon off a week, but It’s also the most rewarding job I could think of.
AQ: Do you still have time to work on your own musical projects or do you see yourself taking a more managerial role?
KJ: I’m still working on a few things of my own. Watch this space!
AQ: If you could sign up any bands that you currently don’t have on your books whom would you like to work with?
KJ: I’d love to have signed Everything Everything and Dry the River.
AQ: Most of the acts involved with Communion are male. Is there any particular reason for this, or is that just the way it kind of happened?
KJ: Next year they are mainly female! There’s no agenda there, obviously, it’s just the way things happen.
AQ: Most of the artists you work with are in the folk/blues kind of genre, why do you think that so many younger performers are falling into this style of music?
KJ: It’s fashionable. You imitate what you hear on the radio and at gigs. Laura Marling, Noah and the Whale and Mumford and Sons paved the way for the rest.
AQ: There has definitely been a shift in styles, from young people doing punchy poppy music to a softer and more acoustic style, thinking more about what they are writing and taking their time to develop. Do you think that this is something that we are going to see for a while? or do you see signs of it already evolving into something different?
KJ: It will evolve of course. I predict it will become more electric and progressive next year.
AQ: What would you say are the main aims of the Communion label? What message are you trying to put out to people?
KJ: We’re just trying to promote good musicians and honest songwriting. “Real” music if that doesn’t sound too contrived.
AQ: What advice would you give to young musicians, bands and singer/songwriters who are just starting out and wanting to become involved in the whole folk/blues scene and wanting to get involved with Communion itself?
KJ: Work on your songs. Keep writing, it’s a craft. “That will do” won’t get you anywhere. And say yes to everything until you get to a certain point, and then start saying no to almost everything.
AQ: Communion is a relatively young venture, how long exactly has it been going? And how do you see it progressing and developing in the future?
KJ: The night has been going for 3 years or so in London, the regionals a little less, and the label about a year. The plan is keep going!
AQ: I’ve seen you take an active role with some of the performers, playing bass for Matt Corby for example, is this something you do a lot? Does it help with the bonding process and getting to know the artists? Because communion seems to be like a family more than just a bunch of musicians.
KJ: Yeah it really does. People bond through playing music and there’s a mutual respect between us as label/artists and the artists we sign, develop or produce.
AQ: For Communion fans like myself who like to try and help out, is there any advice you would give to us? What’s the best way for us to help out with communion? Do you ever take on volunteers to sell merchandise and EP’s at gigs or is that something arranged with the individual artists?
KJ: The best way is simply tell your friends about us, and come to shows and buy records! It’s how we are able to keep doing what we are doing.
AQ: As well as Communion in the UK, there is also Communion in Australia; do you have plans to take it to anywhere else in the future? World domination perhaps?
KJ: We’re looking to set up a few more in Australia and looking at one in New York too.

For the full interview and other great musical content check out Chords and Candles

Communion Gets an Aussie Flavour

Sarah Blasko
Image Courtesy of Sarah Blasko

UK nu-folk club Commuinion has announced plans to record and release a live compilation CD of upcoming performances and Australian artists are getting in on the act. Angus and Julia Stone and Sarah Blasko will both play a free set at The Flowerpot in North London this month which will be recorded and eventually released on the album. Other artists contributing include Mt Desolation, Lyrebirds and of course Mumford and Sons.

Communion was a night originally started by Ben Lovett (Mumford and Sons) and Kevin Jones (Cherbourg) as a way of supporting nu-folk music in London. An Australian version of the night happens occasionally in Sydney. The first Communion compilation, featuring Australian Matt Corby, was not officially released in Australia but given the popularity of the night and the bands involved we hold high hopes that the live CD will get a showing here.

If you’re in London head to The Flowerpot web site for information on tickets and dates.

Spotlight On: Cherbourg

Cherbourg
Image Courtesy of Cherbourg

People are always asking me if I can recommend any bands that sound like Mumford and Sons. While the options are endless when it comes to good quality folk the one band that is as close to Mumford without being Mumford is Cherbourg.

Hailing from the same West London Folk Scene as Mumford, Johnny Flynn, Noah and the Whale and Laura Marling (among others) Cherbourg’s sound is dense, rollicking and full of the folk sensibilities that have served their peers so well. Their harmonies are tight, their lyrics deep and they can pull out a hoedown with the best of them.

The only problem is after 3 EPs and raft of glowing reviews the band have actually split with the members (Andrew Davie on lead vocals and guitar, Kevin Jones on bass, Chris Maas on drums and multi-instrumentalist Phil Renna on everything from violins to piano) choosing to focus on solo projects.

So why profile them? Because they’re just so good. Their 3 EPs (Into the Dark, Last Chapter of Dreaming, No More Flowers) are a perfect jumping off point for exploring the nu-folk genre outside of what you hear on local radio. And it also means we’ve got 4 promising solo careers to watch out for over the coming years.

Andrew Davie’s solo work can be found here. Kevin Jones is the co-founder (with Ben Lovett from Mumford and Sons) and promoter of the Communion night in London and Commuinion Records.

Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Sounds Like: Mumford and Sons if Paul Dempsey was the lead singer
File Under: Nu-Folk
Official Site: www.cherbourgmusic.com
Myspace: myspace.com/cherbourgmusic

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