An Interview with Eliza and the Bear
On the 15th February I met with Eliza and the Bear prior to their show at The Duchess, York. With sound-check complete, I asked the band about how they prepared for a gig. Dukelow (vocals and guitar) responded “we’re pretty straight forward.” They had no specific riders, or rituals. However, I had interrupted an intensely competitive competition that involved throwing grapes into another band member’s mouth. They commented on the far from glamourous boredom that often occurred in the hours between sound-check and going on stage.
This then led to a discussion on the composition of the band and their group dynamic. They described how positive the relationship between members (James Kellegher, Callie Noakes, Martin Dukelow, Chris Brand and Paul Kevin Jackson) had been on the current tour. They now know what makes each other tick and which buttons not to push and they don’t push them- unless they’re bored. Although, Kellegher added “Paul’s got some great buttons,” but refused to comment further on what they were! The light-hearted relationship between the band members was clear to see. They insisted that “when you’re all mates it makes life way easier on tour.” They truly are ‘mates.’ Formed of two different bands from their hometown in Essex that both “failed miserably,” Eliza and the Bear are childhood friends.
The power of perseverance was their main message to their audiences. “We were just the five that ended up sticking at it the longest,” Dukelow explained. While only having recently emerged into the spotlight, Eliza and the Bear haven’t stumbled upon success. Their hard work and love of music has led to their increasing fan base. They say they owe it to a “passion for performing that never really died in us.” This passion is clear to see. Yet, they are realistic, explaining that had they not been making progress then they would have eventually stopped. To his comment on perseverance, Kellegher added: “There has got to be some point where you give up.”
Another skill that has come with time, is knowing where best the band can write. Before discovering that they write best in the studio, they have tried writing while on the road and by programming onto computers. As a primarily performance focussed band, they stress the importance and value of “getting in a room and being a live band.” However, the new writing opportunities that will be brought on the next tour of increased intensity, that will involve staying in hotels is something that they are looking forward to.
Having often been described as an “Indie” band, I decided to ask how they, personally, would describe themselves. Dukelow replied immediately: “I don’t think of us as an Indie band.” They found the concept of genres difficult to answer, acknowledging that nowadays the lines between genres have been blurred. Kellegher described how “Indie is now seen as rock without distorted guitars” which seems to be a relevant statement to make. While not wanting to be described as Indie, they felt equally uncomfortable with the idea of being described as pop-rock, or worse “soft rock.” They were just as insistent on not appearing as a ‘non-conformist band’ and only managed to agree amongst themselves that they were a “music band.” Yet, not being pigeon-holed into one genre should be seen as a positive. Eliza and the Bear’s unpretentious nature was clear to see.
Their lack of a defined genre could be seen to come from their varied music tastes and upbringings. Dukelow described how it was his dad who originally attempted to teach him to play the guitar. However, at the age of 9 he had outlearned him within six months. Kellegher, on the other hand, assured me that influence from family “doesn’t define everyone.” Often, it’s a case of having something handed to you, whether in school or amongst friends. He said: “I made friends and then I became a grunger.” While in conversation, the importance of groups within their school days is seen to be very important. “You were either a rudeboy, grunger or goth” and it was almost as if there were “turf wars” between the different groups, Dukelow explained. The difference nowadays, he said, is that grunge isn’t seen as bad. Having worked briefly in a school, Kellegher agreed that there isn’t the same attitude towards music tastes nowadays. Maybe this is why they now struggle to define their genre so?
Remaining on the subject of their childhood, they reminisced over the summers spent at Reading Festival. “There’s something about festivals where everyone just wants to have the best time.” They agreed that performing at the festival last year had been a highlight for the band. “It was like playing on holiday.” Although, they did acknowledge that, at British festivals in particular, it isn’t always hot and sunny. Dukelow insisted that the “rain galvanises people” and often adds to the atmosphere and experience. They also see festivals as a good way of getting to see new, previously unheard of bands. All the members have different musical heroes. While they couldn’t pinpoint specific influences and people they aspired to be like, they praised bands like Kings of Leon and Radiohead for being “one of those bands that you can go back to their album at any point and it still sounds fresh.”
To gain support and enjoyment from their debut album is their goal. “We are super excited, nervous, but super excited” added Dukelow as the interview drew towards a close. So they should be, their last tour sold out in many places and their tracks have seen lots of radio air-play. The self-titled album will be released on the 8th April 2016.
Words by Rachel Moore