Their recent album, Distraction, is the ultimate soundtrack for a Saturday night out and they performed at the Coachella festival in California this past April. Bear Hands is flying high.
The Brooklyn-based quartet produces a sound that's many times compared to their friends MGMT, but their distinct combo of psychedelic pop, punk and rock make them a unique band all on their own. It's nearly impossible to avoid tapping your foot to their latest single, "Giants," let alone fight the urge to jump up and dance to it; while the chorus, "I am loving you more" echoes in your head for the rest of the day. They're energized, quirky and forever ready to put on a memorable show; how can you not love Bear Hands?
Before their show tonight at Radio Radio, I chatted with guitarist Ted Feldman about the band's rising success and how they have been able to remain close since joining together in 2006.
NUVO: I've gotta ask: where did the name Bear Hands come from?
Ted Feldman: It came to me in a dream. I saw a guy who I think might have been God or some manifestation of Him or Her. And he said, "You will start a band. And it will be called Bear Hands." And then 10 years later this thing happens and we're talking about a name during a car ride and I was like, "Oh yeah, I had that dream about the thing," so we thought it was a good idea.
NUVO: How has your sound changed since you had that dream (and released a clutch of albums)?/b>
Feldman: I'd say it's... pleasurable and fun. Those are the words that I'd describe our sound with. Has it changed? It's more pleasurable and more fun.
NUVO: When would you say was your "big break" and what was that moment like? Does a "big break" even exist anymore?
Feldman: We've been a band for a long time and we've sort of had advances where each one feels like a big break. Our first meeting with the record label industry person, when we first started working with someone and when we got a van -- that really felt like a big break. But then we have a song that's been on the radio this year and that feels like an even bigger step. So, I think it would be hearing our song on the radio, and that's a bizarre experience that I would recommend.
NUVO: You guys have been together for almost eight years. How do you stay close, and not totally kill each other after all the touring and shows?
Feldman: Well, there are plenty of positive reinforcements and that helps. And I think we all just believe in what we're doing and we like it enough. Keeping busy, that also helps -- just playing lots of shows and having something to do that's new and progressive. It's like any relationship; don't let it get stale.
NUVO: I read in an interview you guys did with The Guardian that while you do hope you make money from your music, you also want to make sure you're producing songs that you're proud of. Where's the line between making something you know will sell and making something you love?
Feldman: The art and commerce line is a very blurry one and I don't know if you can draw a line because we're very proud of everything we do and it's not like on our minds, "How is this going to sell when we make it?" But at the same time I hope that most people will like most of our songs and that we can make a living doing it.
NUVO: What bands or artists influenced you while growing up? What about now?
Feldman: While growing up it was The Beatles, Nirvana, Paul Simon, and then I had a new metal phase where I was into Incubus and Glassjaw was a big band for me. I sort of had the "emo kid" years. But I also listened to a lot of jazz. Now I'm revisiting some of that stuff, but I like everything. We all listen to a lot of 90s hip-hop and I've been listening to the band Parquet Courts, I like them a lot.
NUVO: What's the best part about being up on stage and performing in front of a crowd?
Feldman: In Indianapolis, in particular, there's just been a lot of energy and we've built some relationships with some people that we see at every show. It's really exciting to share that 45 minutes with people, make them happy and get sweaty ... just the whole thing. I like it.
NUVO: What track off of Distraction is your favorite, and why?
Feldman: I think my favorite track is "Bone Digger." I'm just really happy with how we wrote that song and I feel like it's strong front to back. We did some more different things harmonically than we usually do so it was some new territory for our band. That was exciting to me and I think it's probably the strongest one on there.
NUVO: Who writes the lyrics for your songs? Does it involve all of you coming together to write something or is it more of an individual process?
Feldman: It's a combination of Dylan and myself, but mostly Dylan. A couple songs started with me, but the majority of the records started with him. We have a process of writing and then rewriting and tweaking stuff that we go through.
NUVO: Where do you draw ideas from to write lyrics?
Feldman: Sometimes it's personal experiences or specific events and sometimes it's just you open your mouth and something comes out so you sort of follow the thread. That's how I make sense of it.
NUVO: Are there any particular bands or artists you would want to collaborate with at some point?
Feldman: I definitely would love to collaborate with other people. We've toured with a couple of rappers, and I would like to work with another artist in the studio just to see what happens. It's kind of weird for a four-person band to add a member, but it would be cool to add a guest vocal. I'm totally open to it; I think that's a good idea.
NUVO: Out of the four of you, who in the band usually takes the reigns and brings everyone together?Feldman: I think I do. There was a period where we were without a manager and I sort of took the reigns. I'm the youngest so I think I have the most energy. Everyone else is like, old and dying... they can't think straight. I have to get in there while I still have the youth and make sure no one falls off their rockers.
[Music] Jazz + Blues + R&B
[Music] Jazz + Blues + R&B