In the midst of their Spring Fling 2016 Tour with Cage the Elephant, Silversun Pickups and Foals and in anticipation of their 3rd album You’ll Pay For This, set to be released on April 15th, MEB Staff Writer Matthew Hanzman recently caught up with Dylan Rau, lead vocalist/ guitarist of Bear Hands, to discuss their busy touring schedule, the recording process and influences behind their upcoming record and much more!
MEB: Firstly, I know you guys have been on The Spring Fling Tour with Foals and Cage The Elephant which began in early March; so, you all have been touring pretty intensely this past month. How has that been?
DR: Yeah it’s been really fun. We really like all the bands. We’ve toured with Cage the Elephant before so we knew them; and we had never met Foals or Silversun Pickups before but they’re great people and excellent bands. There’s been a bunch of camaraderie on the road so its been really nice.
MEB: Thats awesome so you guys are all in separate tour busses I’m assuming, right?
DR: Yeah there’s like five tour buses. Its a crazy tour, you know. We’re playing arenas and larger venues so there’s like four tour busses and five tractor trailer trucks, I think [laughs]. It’s definitely touring at a level that we haven’t really done before.
MEB: That’s sweet; so have you guys been using this tour to showcase You’ll Pay For This or have you been playing mostly older stuff since the new album hasn’t come out yet?
DR: We’re playing a couple of new songs. We’re doing “2AM” and “Marathon Man.” But yeah, we are waiting for the release of the new record to really start playing most of it.
MEB: “2AM” and “Marathon Man” have been getting some really great feedback on Billboard, Spotify and The Alternative Radio Charts; so I was wondering, have they been getting the same praise and positive response from the live audiences?
DR: Totally, we’ve been really happy with how people seem to be responding to it. We put the single (2AM) out in late February, and yeah people have been reacting positively to it; and we cant wait for them to hear the rest of the record!
MEB: So would you say that You’ll Pay For This is a deviation from your past works or more of a progression of them? Has there been anything in your life as an individual or in the lives of the band that has changed your outlook, the way you approach the recording process or the overall sound of this new record?
DR: Yeah, I think this record is a little more focused. We had a lot more time and more money to do it, you know, like there wasn’t really anything else that was distracting us from the recording process which was nice. We headed out to California for a few weeks to write which was also nice. We put a lot of thought into the record and wrote a lot of material; so, we could discard songs that weren’t strong enough to make it.
MEB: And this’ll be your first record with a lot of hype and anticipation surrounding its release, right? Because you’re last record, Distraction, was the one that really broke you guys through into more widespread audiences; so before it you were pretty up and coming, am I right about this?
DR: Yeah I think thats true, you know. We were very unknown when Distraction came out. But yeah, “Giants” did well on the radio and now there’s definitely more people in the country that know us so we’re hoping there’s some anticipatory energy before the record comes out.
MEB: Yeah I think it’s really cool that you guys made the decision not to showcase new songs on this tour because I’m sure it will definitely increase fan’s anticipation for You’ll Pay For This.
DR: Right totally. And also, its hard to get a live audience really into songs that they’ve never heard before. You want people to be able to sing along and dance and that’s definitely harder if they’ve never heard the song before.
MEB: Absolutely. I frequently attend concerts and I can attest to that. When bands play songs from upcoming records, no matter how great they may be, they don’t receive the same feedback from the audience as the known hits.
DR: For sure, you can feel it when you play. People will stand back and evaluate it you know. They’re kind’ve judging you and just waiting for you to play a song that they know rather than enjoying the new music.
MEB: Yeah it’s true we’re all about that instant gratification us concert goers
MEB: So I know you guys recently played a show in Hartford, Connecticut and, correct me if I’m wrong, are you from there or are the other guys in the band from there?
DR: Yeah I am. I went to high school in Hartford and I grew up in Burlington, Connecticut which is right outside of Hartford.
MEB: Ok cool so did you notice anything special about the hometown show? Was there an even more intense vibe then the rest of the stops on the tour or an even more positive response from the audience?
DR: Um yeah, it was a very special show for us. Everyone’s families were there and like all four of our mom’s were there so, you know, it was a little overwhelming hosting that many people before a show; but then as soon as we finished playing it was very fun to be with our friends and family. It was nice to these people whom we hadn’t seen in a while.
MEB: So what’s been going on behind the scenes on this Spring Fling Tour? Since you guys are touring with Cage and Foals and Silversun Pickups, I was wondering do you all interact with each other a lot and spend time together? Or, are you mostly on your separate tour buses doing your own thing?
DR: I’d say before the show there’s definitely a separation. You know, everyone’s gotta get their brains together and prepared so they can be ready to do the show. But afterwards we’ve been hanging out a lot! We’ll hang in each others dressing rooms and we’ve been playing in stadiums so often time’s there will be a basketball hoop, so we’ve been having some Foals vs Bear Hands basketball games which have been really fun. So yeah, its been really great. All kinds of shit going on [laughs].
MEB: So whose been winning these games?
DR: Foals has been beating us, embarrassingly. We’re not a super athletic band, but it is embarrassing cause, you know, they’re British so that shouldn’t be happening [laughs].
MEB: My next question is about You’ll Pay For This, so feel free not to answer if you don’t want to give anything away about the record. Would you say fans should be expecting something very different from you guys; or is this record just the natural next step building from your past releases?
DR: Yeah, I think it’s still on the same page as Distraction and even our first release, Burning Bush. You know the band is almost 10 years old now with the same membership; so I think inevitably the music is going to sound like it’s ours. Also, we’ve always worked on a kind’ve song by song basis, you know. We’ve never been afraid to try different sounds or different genres. So, I think because we do it on a song by song basis, it’s a little all over the map but that’s the way Bear Hands has always been.
MEB: Yeah when I listen to your guys’ music, I definitely hear an eclectic mix of genre’s and influences but it all comes together nicely and cohesively. So, what were your main influences behind this record and what artists were you listening to most during the recoding process?
DR: A lot of Young Thug, the rapper from Atlanta. We’re all pretty hip hop heavy so yeah a lot of Young Thug; and I’ve been listening to a lot of dance music. But honestly, when we were making the record, I really wasn’t listening to much. It’s kind’ve like you’re in your own world and you don’t want to take your head away from working on the songs that are right in front of you. But yeah nowadays we listen to Young Thug before we go onstage every night so he’s definitely been an influence.
MEB: That’s awesome, does he have a new album out or did he come out with a new album last year?
DR: Yeah, I think he has a new mixtape, Slime Season 3, coming out soon; but we’ve been listening mostly to Slime Season 2. You should check out his stuff! [laughs]
MEB: I will for sure! So on your single “2AM”, I hear a Beck sound to it. Do you guys ever get comparisons to him or would you say he’s an influence?
DR: Yeah someone on the internet just said that the single reminded them of Mellow Gold era Beck; and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say that before but it definitely makes me happy to hear. We’re big Beck fans and we played a couple of festivals in 2014 with him. Watching him perform live was really cool and we’re certainly fans so yeah that would definitely be a compliment to us.
MEB: Yeah I was listening to the song and it definitely reminded me of Mellow Gold, exactly like you said, which was really cool. So I know you guys have been touring heavily this past month, so what are your plans for after the record comes out? Are you going to take some time off before you go on your next tour or are you touring over the summer?
DR: We don’t have much booked in April; but I know in May we’re gonna be around the country doing some radio shows. We’re gonna to be in Florida for a bit. I know we’re playing The Hangout Festival in Alabama and I think we’re doing a couple of weeks of shows with Silvesun Pickups; so yeah, I’m sure starting this summer we will be touring pretty heavily.
MEB: Awesome. So Bear Hands has been together for a while now, almost 10 years, and you guys are really starting to generate a lot of buzz and hype; so would say you are basking in the glory of where you are as a band? Or, do you guys still feel you haven’t reached a place where you can be content?
DR: Yeah, you know, it’s a perpetual mountain to climb and you’ve never really arrived. That’s the secret in being successful as a band or in anything in life for that matter, you know, you always should want more. If you didn’t want more, you could just sit under a tree and meditate all day and you wouldn’t have to try to write songs and perform for people. And don’t get me wrong, that could be great but I can’t get my brain in to that mode. So no, we don’t feel like we’ve arrived anywhere. But obviously we are very happy and thankful for the success we’ve had; but, we only want more.
MEB: So can you tell me a little bit about Bear Hands’ conception and when you guys were first coming up? I know you were a big part of the music scene at Wesleyan University; but how did you guys really break through? What would you say, if any, was your one defining moment as a band?
DR: Well there’s never really one moment you know. But I had always kind’ve written songs. I had a band in high school and throughout college I had been writing songs on my own. So, once we put Bear Hands together, we already had a bunch of songs. So, we just recorded them and I think we made a 4 song demo like the second or third time we ever played together. So yeah, I think recording music that quickly was definitely important. And then, the head of a small indie label, whom Ted (Feldman) happened to know, offered us a record deal like literally within the first three months of the bands existence; so that kind’ve thing is validating and it makes you feel confident going forward. So you know, it’s little things like that. It’s never one big moment, but little things like that which just compound on each other to let you know you’re doing the right thing.
MEB: It seems to me, based on what you’ve been saying, that you guys are very dedicated and passionate and this translates into the music that you make. And just talking to you now, it seems like you’re always trying to move forward which is a great mentality to have. It’s important to never become complacent.
DR: Yeah definitely, I mean it’s a hard business. It’s not easy to make money doing this at all and, you know, I’m 30 years old now and I’ve put a large portion of my adult life into this.
MEB: Did you just turn 30 recently or was this a few months ago?
DR: Yeah I’m actually turning 31 this month, in 20 days.
MEB: Oh cool happy early birthday.
MEB: So on “2AM”, you talk about not wanting to get old; so would you guys say you’ve entered into a new stage of your life in terms of adulthood and maturity, either as individuals or as a band?
DR: Yeah no I think that’s true. Being in Brooklyn directly post college, it was night life heavy, you know. Staying out until the bars closed that was kind’ve what you did. And I think we’ve reached a period where we don’t think its best or necessary to do that anymore even if we do still enjoy it.
MEB: Right. And one more question because I know music fans love to hear about their favorite band’s influences and you guys get the MGMT comparison a lot, so do you agree with that one?
DR: No, I really don’t think we sound like MGMT at all [laughs]. I think we come from like much more of a punk place. I mean we’re still four white dudes with guitars so I guess in that sense we’re similar; but I don’t really think the music is that similar. I think the comparisons came out of the fact that we went to the same school as them. They’re a great band, don’t get me wrong, I just think we’re different.
MEB: So then who were the bands biggest influences when Bear Hands was first conceived and would you say those same influences have stuck with you guys in the present day, or have they changed?
DR: We loved LCD Soundsystem. I think that would be a good comparison. Umm, I think Modest Mouse. We sound like them a little bit. And you know, we’ve been on tour with Foals and honestly Foals is probably a band were more similar too than most.
MEB: Yeah and when you guys were first coming together as college kids at Wesleyan, did you guys bond over similar music tastes or was it more you just started playing together and then you really hit it off?
DR: Yeah Ted and I met working on a movie [laughs]. You know I knew that he played guitar and he knew that I had been in a band previously; so yeah, I would say the energy was more focused on making our own music than it was bonding over others.
You’ll Pay For This is out everywhere on April 15th via Spensive Sounds.