In these times of streaming and online music, it’s rare for the Stag Radio post box to receive physical albums. So, when we received the recently released “Paper Heart” by British rock outfit, Hunter & The Bear, along with a handwritten note inviting us to meet them at their Guildford show, we were certainly interested!
Hunter & The Bear aren’t brand new to the scene; university friends, guitarist Jimmy [Left] and frontman Will [Right] first banded together in 2012. The duo was later joined by Gareth [Centre-left] on drums and Chris [Centre-Right] on Bass. Over the years, they have released several EP’s and singles independently but this year the band embarked on their biggest jump yet, releasing their debut album, funding their own studio time by touring the country. The band have also rubbed shoulders with greats such as Eric Clapton when supporting his live show and are not unfamiliar with the festival scene having played T in the Park and Reading & Leeds over their years.
The album itself is a powerful one and feels like a coming of age for the band. There is a clear contrast to be seen with their previous EP’s, ‘Wildfire’ and ‘Before I Come Home’ which have much more of a folk-rock inspiration. This change in sound is noted immediately with the opening track ‘You Can Talk’ with its punchy drums in the bridge leading into a strong and anthemic chorus with vocals that you can’t help but sing along to. This trend continues through the first half of the album. ‘Who’s Gonna Hear You’ stands out for me with impressive drumming by Chris, who is clearly not afraid to employ his whole kit in this one. Then, there is a pause for breath with ‘I Am What I Am’ where Will showcases his versatility as a vocalist; moving away from the catching riffs and beating drums to stand out and perform this heartfelt ballad. ‘D.R.K’ is next up and we are thrown right back into the action with a distorted riff and beat fit for headbanging. The album ends with ‘IX’ and ‘Nickajack’, the first of which providing an atmospheric and almost eerie introduction into the second. The track slowly builds, starting with Will, again with emotive vocals. He is gradually joined by the rest of the band leading into a familiar sing-along chorus. Followed by a whaling guitar solo; a fitting outro to the album.
Overall, an impressive set of tracks by the guys. All of the tracks can stand alone, there isn’t one song you can pick out as the ‘single’, they are all high-quality modern rock anthems that would not be out of place in a stadium or in the Radio 1 playlist. I believe they can thank their tour-to-record model for this which meant they could only give all their focus to one track at a time.
Their live performance was also impressive. We took them up on their offer and headed down to their Boileroom show on the 14th November. During the pre-show interview (see overleaf), we were told the guys were playing 5 brand new, unreleased tracks. I thought this was a brave choice for their sell-out tour opener and was sceptical heading into their performance. But their touring experience shone throughout the whole show, feeling professional and performed clinically; with the new and old tracks moulding into a clean sounding set. They performed confidently and with great showmanship with some fantastic drum and guitar solos to get the crowd going. Although they didn’t directly play the crowd they certainly kept them hooked with their talent.
I’m excited to see what 2018 has in store for these guys, I hope to see them upscaling in bigger venues and gaining more mainstream attention. Their music certainly warrants it.
Hunter & The Bear Interview 14/11/17-The Boileroom, Guildford
Interview Conducted by Spencer Moore
Q: So, it’s the first night of the tour. Is it still nerve-wracking even with your experience touring?
[Jimmy] We are a little bit nervous but only in a good way.
[Will]: We always try and do something new when we go on a tour. So, this time we are touring with a set of 5 new songs which no one has heard before. So, it’s quite a big thing in your head going into the show. But once we get going tonight and get over the first hurdle everything will be fine. Overall, I think it’s good to be nervous.
Q: You have quite an extensive and intense tour. How are you feeling about that?
[Will]: Right now, I can’t wait to just get stuck in and start playing the first gig. But the tour finishes with ten dates in a row with no day off. So, that’s going to be intense compared to what we have done in the past. We have played five in a row before but that felt like quite a lot especially with my voice. We’ll see. I might be a croaking mess by the end of it!
Q: Since it’s such an intense tour do you ever feel you need a break from each other when you finish?
[Chris] Well, not really, three out of four of us live together. Until we get a bunk bed set up.
[Jimmy] So whether we feel we need to or not, it doesn’t really matter. But I’m sure we will all want to go home and spend some time with our families. But really, we enjoy hanging out together so we don’t need too much time apart.
Q: So, with the tour having many sellouts including tonight. Do you see yourselves upscaling in venues for next year?
[Will] Where necessary, we are scaling the country this tour so it’s foolish of us to do it everywhere. We know we have key places around the country where our fanbases are where we can go up in venue size. But we are building good pockets of fans in places like London and Glasgow and we have already scaled up from our last tour in these places. And we are chuffed with the sellouts.
Q: ‘Paper Heart’ has been out for a little while now. What do you feel about the reception to the album in hindsight?
[Jimmy] Its been amazing and a great year in general for us. We had been planning the release for a long time and it’s been nice to see, especially after our album tour, the increase in interest in us.
[Will] It’s been nice to see the fanbase growing and it’s taken things up a notch for us. We can say we are a band with an album now which is something we didn’t think we would see.
Q: ‘Paper Heart was an independent release for you guys. Do you plan on continuing with independent releases?
[Will] It’s funny because since we’ve released the album there has been a lot more interest in labels releasing things for us. It’s not something we are against, and we are happy to have them conversations if it seems right for us. We are releasing our next single ‘Skin Tight’ on the 24th on our own. So, after that, we will see if anyone is taking the bait so to speak.
Q: Is there a song from the album that you feel was the most fun to record?
[Chris] I guess the main one for me as a song I enjoy playing would have to be ‘Hologram’. With the way we recorded in small batches getting the money together in between to fund the studio time. By the time we got to the end of the album and recording both ‘Hologram’ and ‘Nickajack’, we were sounding super tight and it really solidified our sound I feel.
Q: So, we have to ask. Where did the name Hunter & The Bear come from? It sounds a little bit like the name of a pub to us!
[Will] So when Jimmy and myself started the band and we came up with a list of hundreds of terrible names. But we decided to go with something that described us as a duo. So, Hunter is Jimmy’s surname and Bear was a nickname I had when I was little. When the other guys joined, we all thought about changing it because it’s now not just a duo. But we decided Chris has taken ‘and’ and Gareth has taken ‘the’, so we all have part of the name.