When the creative process began for their latest album, July's Red Earth & Pouring Rain, London band Bear's Den not only had surplus inspiration, they also had sincere purpose: Create an album you can drive at night to.
Bear’s Den tours hard, they have since their first album, 2014's Islands, and they’re no strangers to long nights on the road, says frontman Kev Jones. For a British band so deeply tied to their folk-rock roots, they seem to summon the essential American road trip vibe. In the 1980s, we had Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run and Duran Duran’s Rio. And now Bear’s Den gives us Red Earth & Pouring Rain.
The album features plenty of callbacks to '80s pop -- heavy percussion, harmonious cymbals, and synthy guitar riffs. It's the perfect nod to throwback styles in this current the age of nostalgia obsession. Though Bear's Den -- which recently downsized from a trio to a duo -- may have re-framed their familiar folk sound, they’ve kept the haunting harmonies fused with a few banjo bangers.
City Pages caught up with Jones by phone ahead of Saturday' sold-out show at the Triple Rock Social Club.
City Pages: The new album, sounds like it came right out of the '80s. Like you've been listening to Duran Duran for a while. Was that the kind of direction you were looking for?
Kev Jones: Sort of, I think we were looking to make a nostalgic record. Like '80s music was the sound that we used to make that with, and it was quite nostalgic.
We kind of wanted to make an album that you could drive at night to, like the way you can switch off to the whole record and just drive. I guess, again, that is sort of a cinematic quality to a lot of music that was made in the '80s. I guess we did use a lot of '80s influences on the record, but because we wanted to make it feel that way.
CP: I read that you wanted to make a driving at night record -- like this sort of Bruce Springsteen vibe. Is that because of your touring, thinking "why isn't there a better album for this?"
KJ: We definitely spent a lot of time driving at night on tour through America shortly before we made this record, so that can be quite an inspiring thing. But there are the ideas on the record, like the idea of sort of moving forward, but having that sort of rear-view mirror to acknowledge where you're coming from, and what you're trying to move away from, and that sort of thing.
CP: Who is the woman on the album cover?
KJ: So the album cover is actually a photograph that we set up. We had a friend of the photographers sit in the car and we sort of painted her into the photograph. So no one significant. Yeah, well, we thought about it -- but we thought, it's best to just make it somebody we don't know.
CP: Going back to your first album Islands, with the song "Think of England" ... some of us know what that saying means, and some of us don't. What did you intend it to mean for the song?
KJ: The song itself was written by hanging out with a couple other songwriters, and we were all trying to write a song an hour. I think [bandmate Andrew] Davie was given the subject title: "Think Of England" -- sort of projected a dysfunctional relationship onto that, and that phrase, "Lay back and think of England" like to sort of to mean just get on with it.
CP: Are you going to play a Drake cover?
KJ: Maybe, maybe not ...? We love covering Drake! We actually did come out with a new Drake cover recently but we haven't added it to the set. I think it will end up in the set but we have to figure it all out first.
CP: You've basically sold out the entire tour. How does that feel being so successful with this but now without your original bandmate Joey Haynes?
KJ: That's a very good question actually. I guess it would have been nice to continue on with him. He left at a point where we were already starting to sell bigger rooms. So yeah, it would have been nice if he had stuck around, but I do understand why he didn't. We tour really hard in this band, it can get to be too much.
CP: The religious ties in your music. They're even more noticeable on the new album. Where is your place in all of that?
KJ: There are definitely a lot of religious imagery, or religious metaphors. For example: "Greenwoods Bethlehem" is about a place in India, called, Greenwood Bethlehem. The song "Gabriel" is actually about what your friends support, and the relationship with yourself.
I think like “Isaac” on the first record is about fathers and sons and families and familial relationships. We're not a very religious bands, or we're not a religious band at all, but we're just really interested in the language and the stories. If "Isaac" had been called “Steve," I don't think it would be quite as interesting of a song.
CP: How do you feel about covering Prince?
KJ: Ha! I think you'd have to be pretty brave to play a Prince cover, I think he's too good. It would be so cool to do it, but to pull Prince off, it's a very bold move.
With: Liza Anne
When: 8 p.m. Sat., Sept. 24
Where: Triple Rock Social Club
Tickets: Sold out; more info here