Bear Hands "Haven't Figured Out a Way to Exorcise Demons Yet"
Brooklyn's Bear Hands are celebrating the release of their second full length, Distraction, with a major national tour that will include a set at Coachella and six shows at this year's SXSW music conference. The tour starts this Wednesday, February 26th, at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, with support from Miniature Tigers, Total Slacker, and Jack and Eliza. We caught up with the quartet's shy but charismatic frontman, Dylan Rau, to find out more about their understated, but multifaceted sound, as well as their big plans for 2014, now that they count both ultra-respected indie label, Cantora, and the big guys at Warner Brothers Europe, as their professional bases.
Bear Hands has a knack of talking about some pretty dark subject matter, but keeping the music relatively light. Is that an intentional choice, or just the way your personalities blend when you're writing?
Dylan: Yeah, I would say it's slightly intentional. I have little interest in minor keys, tonal glumness, etc. We try to make dancey tunes and have a good time while doing it. At the same time, it's impossible for me to avoid dark subject matter lyrically, so some kind of balance needs to be achieved.
Do you consider yourself an inherently dark person then, or is that just what you're most driven to write about?
Dylan: I certainly don't ever recall being described as sunny or anything like that. My father got me reading newspapers from an early age and I think there's nothing more depressive than being acutely aware of the dire realities called 'current events'.
So, is Bear Hands a means for you to exorcise demons?
Dylan: I haven't figured out how to exorcise demons yet.
Distraction came out this month. What have been your favorite responses to the album so far?
Dylan: Reading reviews has never really been fun for me, so I'm not sure. I suppose the steady trickle of fans on Twitter make me feel happy about the record's reception -- people quoting the lyrics and stuff.
How important is New York -- and Brooklyn, where you all live -- as a form of inspiration when you're writing?
Dylan: Very important in the sense that I often feel the need to leave town to write! I hate feeling claustrophobic when getting down in the pursuit of anything creative...
So, do you ever write in town, or is that truly impossible?
Dylan: Sometimes, I'll write vocals while driving around Brooklyn in the van. No music or anything, just kind of that atonal rap thing that sometimes works to get down verses, or a hook if you're lucky. Most of my writing is still done in my parents' basement in suburban Connecticut!
The lead single from Distraction is "Agora". Is that written from personal experience? If so, how does someone with agoraphobia manage on the road, where privacy is an impossibility?
Dylan: Yeah. I spent a couple years holed up in my apartment reading, interneting, and drugging, which manifested itself in a minor case of agoraphobia. Honestly, being on the road is such a repetitive, groundhog day-esque experience that I rarely feel anxious about the day-to-day minutia and social interactions.