Anyone already familiar with alt-poppers Bear Driver will know their debut album hasn’t come easy. Starting with their single ‘Wolves’ back in the summer of 2010, the band have released a handful of self-labelled EPs and free downloads, causing the blogging world to spin on its heels but still failed to set alight the little black box marked ‘charge’.
Usually this signifies a musician’s resentment of marketing schemes and record label deploys, but Bear Driver seem happy to be drifting along at their own pace, catching attention at SXSW 2011 and holding it by playing in support of bands like Young Knives. More recently their single ‘Big Love’ has turned heads and gained the band airwave time on BBC 6 Music, courtesy of Mr Marc Riley.
A laid back approach to music making hasn’t always been a trademark of the band, who formed when Oli Deakin and Harry Dean, “kept talking about writing some songs together”. Oli adds, “In the end we just booked a gig and [then we] had to write some songs.”
Bear Driver’s guns blazing attitude extends to their line-up, with various musicians swapping instruments and some founding members departing entirely. Notably singer Cassie left last summer to pursue a solo career, and founding drummer iPod “wasn’t really pulling his weight [...] so he was officially sacked during the first song at a gig”.
Thankfully their haphazard career path has made no impact on the quality of their music, which continues to follow a sound akin to Wolf Parade at a Yo La Tengo gig, or indeed Bear Driver in an abandoned swimming pool.
“[We recorded our debut album at] a pool in Bermondsey. It began life as a swimming pool but now makes a very fine studio, with glass roof and aqua-blue floor and walls,” explains Oli, “It was definitely the right place to make the album. It has lots of natural light and that big echoe-y swimming pool sound.”
Once again Bear Driver’s ‘try it and see’ ethos reigned supreme, as Oli admits, “It all came together really quickly. We just set up in the room together; mic’d everything up and started playing.”
With a career that already spans three years, from a fan’s point of view Bear Driver have taken their sweet time about getting a full length out. But Oli’s not worried about the interim, insisting the time was well spent:
“When we first started we only had a few songs and things picked up pretty quickly so we just kept writing. By last summer we felt we had the album we wanted to record so we did it. It’s been fermenting since then, and is finally beginning to seep out.”
“We’re quite keen to use a DIY approach,” he continues, “We started out just recording in our basement or rehearsal room. Once it’s all tracked we try to work quickly on the mixes, just keep them as lively as possible. It’s easy to get hung up on a particular guitar part or vocal or whatever, so if we hit a stumbling block we just leave it and come back later. Normally whatever it was has sorted itself out.”
Nor do inter-band relationships deter Bear Driver’s progress.
“There’s a healthy amount of arguing about this or that but we all set out with the same idea, to record live and try to capture what our gigs sound like,” Oli asserts, “So there weren’t really any lines to draw [in the studio]. Oh, except Jon wanting to call the album Nashville Skyline. Which it isn’t, but everyone thinks it is so I’m not sure whether that line was successfully drawn…”
Hear Bear Driver’s debut album below, due out on Adventure Club Records on the 11 June, and catch the band at the following dates:
07 June: London, The Barfly (w/ Among Brothers)
08 June: London, The Old Blue Last
21 June: London, The Old Queens Head (Oh! Inverted World Presents)