"Giants" was pretty much the song
of the summer 2014. And now the band behind that banger is back with a new album, You'll Pay for This
, out April 15 on Spensive Sounds, and currently on the Spring Fling Rock AF 2016 tour with Cage The Elephant, Silversun Pickups and Foals. We caught up with Bear Hands vocalist / guitarist Dylan Rau earlier this month in advance of the Pittsburgh date of the tour at Petersen Events Center on March 25.
On You’ll Pay For This, how did this theme of money play into the album and the recording process?
I think money is omnipresent is people’s mind, ya know? You can never have enough of it. People that don’t have money are obsessed obviously obsessed with trying to climb the ladder. People who have tons of money are obsessed to an even crazier degree. I don’t know, I think some of that got instilled in some of the songs. We realized we had a song called “I Won’t Pay” and for some reason years before that Ted [Feldman] and I had a sustained joke that we would end a song on stage short yelling “You’ll pay for this.” I don’t know why we thought that was very funny. Then when it was time to name the record, we realized we could tie a couple things together phonetically and I don’t know.
In reading the press materials for the new record, you said something like, with people having short attentions spans, it’s hard to grab them. But you thought you were able to grab them with You’ll Pay For This. What did you do to pull the listener in with this album?
Right. I think the band has always tried to be a lot of different things at the same time and allow each song to range pretty widely, in terms of generic indicators. That’s kind of how I listen to music. I listen to it more on a song by song basis. I listen to a lot of different genres. Rap and dance and indie and super bubblegum pop or whatever. We kind of wanted the record to be a pastiche of everything or a palate of what’s going on in music and what is going on forever, I think. And I think we tried to do that in every record and this one we did it even better, hopefully. Hopefully you always improve.
You’re releasing the album on the band’s own label. How does it feel to get back to a DIY approach? Does the album mean more to you doing it this way? How did you settle on self-releasing?
Yea it does make it mean more to us. We’re more involved on a day to day and minutia level of decision making. Also, our management company has a great team and have a lot of people who work really hard and help us out. So that’s really important also. But yea, I want to see my baby do well. And seeing as we’re the only artist on the label right now, it kind of has to do well. But in the future, we would love to be able to find someone exciting on the road in some weird town and put out music with him or her.
Between Distraction and the new album, was there anything you consciously changed between the two? Did you try to incorporate different genres, do anything different from a songwriting perspective? Or was it just the band evolving?
There wasn’t really a conscious effort, but the main difference is Ted [Feldman] has come into his own as a songwriter. On Distraction
, I think Ted maybe came up with the initial idea on two songs or so and on this record, more like half. We’ve been collaborating a lot more intensely. I think previously I would just kind of go away and write the bones of the song and bring it to the band and we would put it together. Whereas this time, there was a lot of me and Ted, eyeball to eyeball, working on things. I’m really happy. He’s a really good songwriter. It’s so great to have a partner like that.
At this point, Bear Hands has been around for 10 years. How does it feel now compared to when you guys started out in 2006?
I feel a tremendous amount of accomplishment for making this band go for 10 years. There were many times when it was difficult to go on and we weren’t making any money. There were peaks and valleys in how interested people were with the band. I think we operated under the “just don’t break up” kind of rule. We would take extended breaks from each other after we went on tours for a long time. We knew we just needed to stay away. The foursome, it works. And now it feels like it’s not made of glass and could fall apart. We’ve become pretty invested in each other.
Obviously, you’ve had a great deal of success with the band. Specifically with the popularity of Distraction and how well received “Giants” was as a single and getting a lot of radio play, was that a big boost for the band?
Yea, definitely. Both records felt like inflection points in the band’s trajectory. Just being able to get your first full length record out is like a hurdle many bands don’t get over, which requires a lot of work and money and preparedness that not everyone has. And Distraction
was obviously a major step forward in terms of numbers and people across the country being interested and getting play on the radio. So yea, 2014 we toured basically the entire year and the show were getting bigger and bigger. That’s a great feeling after doing it for so long.
The last time you played Pittsburgh was in 2014. I know you tour a lot and go through a lot of cities, but do you have any memories from your time playing here?
I had a crazy night in Pittsburgh once where I think we might have gotten banned for life from the Brillobox because of an accident with some spray paint. So that’s a Pittsburgh memory of mine. We’ve actually had so many good shows in Pittsburgh. I really like the town and we have friends there also. But yea that one night didn’t go as planned… I would just like to add: Brillobox we’re sorry. Please have us back.
Being a band that called Brooklyn home for a number of years, what do you think about the music and bands coming out of there? Is it annoying to you? Do you like that it has been a haven for bands and a growing music scene?
No, it doesn’t annoy me at all. I spent some formative years in Brooklyn. I really have much love and affinity for it. I’m kind of trying to extradite myself to California right now, but I think it will forever be a wealth of creativity and a lot of special people there, clearly. It is a competitive environment also but that’s often times necessary to make good art. I’m proud of everyone who comes out of Brooklyn. Brooklyn, big ups.
BEAR HANDS, CAGE THE ELEPHANT, SILVERSUN PICKUPS, FOALS
. 7 p.m. Fri., March 25. Petersen Events Center, Oakland. $25-215. 412-648-3054