ABOVE: BEAR MOUNTAIN
With band members' influences ranging from jazz to house music, it's easy to see why no two songs of Bear Mountain's sound alike. They do, though, share some common elements, namely creative bass lines, synth, and a distinct sense of pure fun that bears comparison to some of their own favorite bands, including HAIM, Hot Chip, and Cut Copy. Its current lineup—including Kenji Rodríguez, Kyle Statham, and twins Ian and Greg Bevis—has been hitting stages for the better part of a year.
Bear Mountain's debut album, XO, released last month, combines tropical sounds and utopian dreams in each of its tracks. The band has been supporting Bloc Party on tour and will be gracing US and Canadian festivals with its unique vocals and beats throughout the rest of the summer. This coming weekend, they'll play the Governors Ball on Randall's Island.
We spoke with lead singer Ian Bevis about his favorite Canadian bands, giving into being on a label, and (kind of) quitting his day job.
ILANA KAPLAN: Where in the world are you right now?
IAN BEVIS: I'm at Niagara Falls. We're waiting in line for the Maid of the Mist. We're gonna do this successfully.
KAPLAN: I've actually never been there. Are you guys going to play music there?
BEVIS: That'd be a nice idea, but no. Today's our day off.
KAPLAN: It would make for some interesting background noise. Have you guys been playing a lot of festivals so far?
BEVIS: We have. We've got a few lined up. We played Sasquatch, which was one of our first bigger festivals. It was awesome. It was crazy. The crowd was just really good and super into it.
KAPLAN: XO was just released in the US. How long had the record been out elsewhere previously?
BEVIS: We self-released it last August on Bandcamp. Then it got some attention on the Internet and people heard it. And then a bunch of stuff happened to us throughout the year. Things just started rolling for us, we added a new song and re-released it last week. We basically put it up on Bandcamp and Soundcloud, and then re-released it. It's been a crazy nine months, that's for sure.
KAPLAN: Sounds like it. Your sound varies from downtempo, chill music to dancey, electro-pop. How do you create a balance in your music? Or rather, do you try to balance both in your music, or is one supposed to overshadow the other?
BEVIS: I think pretty much, we never try to limit ourselves. We always try to be open to any ideas that come up. We really try to push our creativity in terms of what kind of genres we can blend. That's what I'm super interested in. There are so many cool styles of music right now. Everyone is listening to so much! I know I just listen to blogs, and that's what I'm influenced by because that's the stuff I want to create. I want to take cool parts of one genre and cool parts of another genre and blend them together. Within the band, there are four of us. We all have very different musical backgrounds. Everyone brings something different to the table, which is how we come up with genre blending.
KAPLAN: Which song off of XO is your favorite to perform?
BEVIS: The new one on there, "Faded," is definitely my favorite to play live. Honestly, our newest songs are my favorites to play live. I don't know if that's because of the natural progression.
KAPLAN: They're fresh.
BEVIS: They're fresh and they're new. I mean, "Two Step" I wrote three and a half years ago.
KAPLAN: How did you guys meet?
BEVIS: Bear Mountain has been together for two years, but this grouping of the band has been together for about eight months. We needed a drummer, so Greg, my brother, moved home for Toronto and became our drummer. Kenji saw us play live once. He came up to us after the show and said, "I want to join your band. This is what I can do." When he joined the band, that really glued everything together. With the four of us, that's when we really became a band. I've been releasing music for four years, so there's older stuff out there for sure.
KAPLAN: Since you're from Canada, who are some of your favorite Canadian bands?
BEVIS: Canadian bands? There's a band called The Belle Game from Vancouver. Hannah Georgas. She's really cool. The Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade. Handsome Furs' Dan Boeckner. That dude has had a huge influence on me. Any music that guy has made or makes, I love. What Canadian bands are you into?
KAPLAN: Anything Arts & Crafts, I love.
BEVIS: Totally! There's that really cool culture back east from Arts & Crafts. I feel like there are some really cool bands coming out of Vancouver. There's this really cool band called HUMANS. They're cool too.
KAPLAN: Was being a musician your endgame?
BEVIS: Oh yeah, definitely. Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to play music for a living. This is an interesting debate. We're still working day jobs. We still have jobs on the side.
BEVIS: Yeah. It's really hard to make a full-time living playing in a band. I work for a marketing company while I'm on the road. I used to work for a tech company in Vancouver called Hootsuite for two years. I'm pretty plugged into that world, I still do a lot of freelance stuff and I work from the road. I was working for two years there, and then I quit my job in February of this year because it was too much. That was my, "I'm quitting my job to play music for a living," moment, but I still do stuff on the side to make some extra cash. I had a great job. I loved my job, but obviously music is what I want to do. It's my passion. When I was working, I would go home every day and work all night on music.
KAPLAN: Did you lose any freedom or did you prefer self-releasing your music as opposed to "giving into the man" and being picked up by a label?
BEVIS: That's an interesting question. Totally. I'm definitely a huge proponent of DIY stuff. That's what I've always done, and it worked for me. Releasing music solo and even the band, I used to do it by myself. I wanted full control of everything. I didn't want to go through a label. There are certain things that happened when we got an agent, a manager, a lawyer, and when we signed a record deal. I think a good balance is important now, because you can't do everything on your own. I think the music industry still has a lot of clout and a lot of power. They can make things happen for a band that they can't do for themselves. I think that the artist has a handle of the entire operation, asks questions and gets the answers. They need to keep a firm handle on that. I think if the artist does that, then they're going to be okay.
BEAR MOUNTAIN WILL PLAY AT GOVERNORS BALL MUSIC FESTIVAL ON FRIDAY, JUNE 7, AND GLASSLANDS GALLERY ON JUNE 10. THE BAND'S DEBUT ALBUM XO IS OUT NOW. FOR MORE ON BEAR MOUNTAIN, VISIT ITS FACEBOOK PAGE.