As Vancouver’s premier “triangle dance band from the future,” four-man Bear Mountain is poised to make another big splash in the indie pop scene with their sophomore effort, Badu. The vibrant, rhythm-rich album follows their 2013 debut, XO, and is being released by Last Gang Records today, September 9. Earlier this month, Acentric Magazine had the privilege of sitting down with the band’s founder and lead vocalist, Ian Bevis, to chat about the much-anticipated new music, some of their guiding philosophies, and what’s up next as the guys ascend new heights in both popularity and artistic development.
AM: On your label’s website, you guys are described as an “electro-dance” band, and after listening to your music, I’m suspicious that that description pigeonholes your sound a little. As much as it’s electronic, it also includes so much live instrumentation; for example, we have “Badu,” the title track, which I feel is a 50/50 split electronic and jazz track. How do you guys describe yourselves to folks hearing you for the first time?
IB: It’s always hard to describe your sound to someone who hasn’t heard the music, and we usually use something along the lines of Electronic or Alternative. But really I think it being more difficult to categorize a band is indicative of what and how people listen to music these days. People’s tastes have really opened up, especially on the radio, and everything seems to take influence from many different genres. It’s like we’re seeing this global melting pot of music, which is making space for music that maybe before was hard to categorize or people were confused by, but now it just may fall under the pop category.
AM: Speaking of “Badu,” the song was released as a single last December, yet its album namesake is coming a full nine months afterwards. Any reason for that long wait?
IB: We definitely took our time to make this album, and the reason was that it had to be right. We just kept writing until we felt like we had a cohesive body of work, and it took longer than expected. But the album is better for it. The next album definitely won’t take as long though, we learned a shitload about making records while making Badu.
AM: In the meantime between albums, you’ve released two EPs – Give It Up and Hopeful, respectively. As if your music wasn’t danceable enough, each EP feature three unique remixes by artists like Harrison and Nick Catchdubs. Talk to me a little about your choice to encourage these artists to put their own spins on your tracks.
IB: Well our songs, whether it’s by design or not, always have an ear to the dance floor. If it can make a room full of people move, then it works. So getting remixes done by people like Harrison just allows us to open up the track a bit more. Flipping the song in a new way, especially a mix for a club, gives it a new flavor.
AM: Something your sound has maintained between your last release and this one is a real sense of celebration. Your music pulses with a feeling of jubilance, of brightness – a real love for life – which is really refreshing, I think, for young people growing up, constantly bombarded with negative media and cynicism. Where does the joy come from? What keeps you guys going?
IB: Yes! I think if you watch the news and the media, it’s easy to be pessimistic about the world. But the truth is there is so much growth and positivity happening outside of that negative narrative. It’s our mission as a band to bring that level of joy to every show we play, and watch the crowd light up. Music is the best way we can affect change, so that’s what we do.
AM: I learned that the band get its name from Jack Kerouac’s 1958 novel, The Dharma Bums. As a big American literature nut, this really interested me. Have Kerouac and his fellows ever been a muse for you? Would you guys consider your music as a continuation of the American Beat culture?
IB: I love this question. The spirit of the beats definitely resonated with me for a long time and still does. There was this level of optimism and pure joy that Kerouac wrote with when he was younger, that touched on the burning joy and freedom in a moment – especially if you look up the original scroll from On The Road. Unfortunately, I think those moments only came from the contrast of the darkness that he also experienced (with some heavy drinking). I wouldn’t consider our music as a continuation of that culture, but I think we can touch on the same feelings of freedom that they experienced.
AM: On your website, you describe “Give It Up” as being about “capturing the present moment and squeezing every bit of life out of it.” While we’re talking about the Beats, this description sounds a lot like the Eastern philosophy of mindfulness, which a lot of Westerners today associate with the popularized practice of yoga. Any connection here?
IB: I think there is a connection there, if only slight. But I hate to draw a direct comparison to yoga, as there are many practices out there to bring awareness. There’s a famous speech by [prominent 20th-century Indian philosopher] Krishnamurti where he said, “Truth is a pathless land,” and I think that’s something very important to remember.
AM: You’ve already toured once, and you’ve already made appearances at a number of high-profile music fests. After Badu’s release, what’s next for you guys?
IB: The album is coming out on September 9, then we’ll tour this fall and winter, and play festivals into the spring and summer. Right now we’re all about getting this music out and playing as many shows as possible. We’ve toured a lot of the US and Canada, and we’ll do that more this year, but also go into new territories and do what we do in front of more and more people. We’re just going to keep doing what we do, and do it for more people along the way.
Badu is now available for purchase on iTunes, as well as on Bear Mountain’s bandcamp, and for streaming on both Apple Music and Google Play. Keep up with the band via Facebook and Twitter, as they announce upcoming tour dates and exciting new content.