Bear in Heaven at the Gas Station
ABOVE: BEAR IN HEAVEN. PHOTO COURTESY OF SHAWN BRACKBILL
Joe Stickney can’t believe Interview hasn’t seen Robocop. “Holy shit,” he says. “You need to do yourself a favor! You should watch Robocop 2 as well.” Stickney even goes so far as to compare his band, Bear In Heaven, to the popular film franchise. “We keep on losing real human band members, and sort of replace them with electronics. So . . . I think we are similar to Robocop.”
I Love You, It’s Cool, the band’s fourth release, is a painstakingly thought-out labor of love. But no one in the band is going to tell you that. Though the ridiculous video for lead single “The Reflection of You” is designed to generate laughter (and heaping amounts of nausea), listen closely and you’ll notice the lines “There’s nothing left between us,” suggesting deeper feelings than what Bear In Heaven wear on their sleeves.
Of course, the humor’s always there. The marketing campaign for I Love You certainly turned heads last year, when Bear In Heaven streamed album number four online in its entirety—and hilariously slowed down 400,000 percent, beyond any sort of recognition. But that was before the album was released in proper form earlier last month. Now Stickney is on the road, touring in support of the record.
Before we begin asking Stickney questions, we overhear a GPS navigator drone, “Turn left.” He pauses, and another person in the van spouts, “Everybody lock their own doors. There’s no power lock.” The doors slam shut. Then, the sound of footsteps. Stickney is getting gas.
JOHN TAYLOR: Where are you right now?
JOE STICKNEY: I’m at a gas station.
TAYLOR: What does Bear In Heaven buy at a gas station?
STICKNEY: Have you seen those commercials where there are some guys who are into playing, maybe a shoot-’em-up video game, and they go into a store and load up their arms with Diet Mountain Dew and shit? Each arm is holding, like, eight things of Diet Mountain Dew and all these gross drinks? Basically, that’s what we’re like. We just go in and it’s like, as many disgusting drinks as we can hold in each arm. I just get whatever bullshit I can find, you know. Whoa! They say these things are “tire checkers,” but they look like billy clubs in here. You could seriously… they’re just selling weapons at this place. There’s a wooden pole with a heavy, metal tip on it. They say it’s a tire checker. I don’t believe it.
TAYLOR: You’re looking at a billy club? I didn’t know you were in Alabama.
STICKNEY: I’m from Alabama, so watch what you say there.
TAYLOR: What part of Alabama?
STICKNEY: Mobile Bay area. Town called Pharaoh. I got to go back down and spend a little time on the water last summer. It was amazing. It was the first time I had been down there in the summer in a really long time. I’ve done a little bit of camping down there, but I used to fish all the time. Lots of castnet as well. Throwing the castnet. It’s a big circular net with rope.
TAYLOR: What did you catch there?
STICKNEY: I caught a lot of catfish.
TAYLOR: Did you eat any of the catfish you caught?
STICKNEY: You don’t eat the catfish you catch in Mobile Bay. They’re saltwater catfish. They’re all bones. It would suck too, because you pull them out from under the pier, and they have little spines in their fins, and they’re really sticky. They spazz out when you pull them out of the water.
TAYLOR: Any good fishing stories?
STICKNEY: I’m actually incapable of lying. I’ve never been able to tell a lie. I tried to lie and then I fell violently ill. When I was younger, I was a compulsive liar.
TAYLOR: When you lie, does your nose grow big?
STICKNEY: No, but it bleeds a little bit. I’ve probably got some good fishing stories, but I’d probably have to have a couple of beers to remember them. Like, if you study for a test when you’re stoned, and you’re not going to be able to remember it when you’re sober, it’s like that. You drink beer when you’re fishing, and you catch a real menacing snakefish, and then you won’t remember it. But if I had a few beers, then I would remember my snakefish-catching story.
TAYLOR: Growing up, I remember going to the casinos with my dad after a long day of fishing. There’s a lot of casinos down south, on the riverside. You ever do that?
STICKNEY: I just went to Atlantic City with my girlfriend last Sunday. We went to a bunch of casinos. I think I only lost about six dollars, so we cashed out pretty nicely. I made out with $55.
TAYLOR: Not bad. See any shows while you were there? I feel like every time I see who’s playing at the nearest casino, it’s always Bonnie Raitt or Boyz II Men.
STICKNEY: I saw that Kevin… Kevin… what was his name?
STICKNEY: No, the guy from King of Queens.
TAYLOR: Kevin James.
STICKNEY: Yeah! That amazing comedic talent was cruising his way through Atlantic City. I’ve been to a few shows that were funny, but for the most part, they’ve been a terrible experience for me.
TAYLOR: Speaking of comedy, I heard one of your songs made it into Adult Swim. Is Bear In Heaven into that comedy scene?
STICKNEY: Yeah. We’re huge fans of Tim and Eric.
TAYLOR: What do you think would happen to you if you were in a Tim and Eric sketch?
STICKNEY: I don’t know, man. Probably would be struck down and eaten by a homeless person. I don’t have a comedic mind like those guys, so I don’t want to put any ideas in anybody’s head. Because… stranger things have happened. We might end up in one, and you know, we’ll be selling clown shoes to midgets.
TAYLOR: You seem funny enough. What’s the most embarrassing app on your smartphone?
STICKNEY: I’ll tell you exactly what it is. I have Family Feud on my iPhone. I played it maybe four or five times. Ever. That, or “100 Pushups.” I’ve got the “100 Pushups” app. I have not made it that far into the program. What’s the most embarrassing app on your smartphone?
TAYLOR: Probably “Mixology.”
STICKNEY: I’m a bartender, and the Mixology app is probably the most embarrassing. It makes you sound like a blowhard. Like, “Who’s this pompous asshole over here calling himself a ‘mixologist’? I’m going to throw a shot of vodka in his face.”
TAYLOR: Wait, are you still at the gas station?
STICKNEY: We just left. I ended up getting bungee cables.
BEAR IN HEAVEN WILL BE PLAYING THE BOWERY BALLROOM IN NEW YORK TONIGHT AND AT MUSIC HALL OF WILLIAMSBURG IN BROOKLYN TOMORROW NIGHT. FOR MORE ON THE BAND, VISIT THEIR WEBSITE.