Interview with Hunter & The Bear

Hunter & the Bear are easily one of my favourite bands that have come to my attention during 2016, so I thought it was about time that I talked about them with you all. Before I begin, I need to thank Rob Hurley as he originally introduced me to them via his awesome blog I highly recommend you check it out, so many musical gems can be found on there.

So, let’s talk about Hunter & the Bear who are made up by Jimmy Hunter (Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals), Will Irvine (Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar), Gareth Thompson (Drums, Backing Vocals) and Chris Clark (Bass, Backing Vocals). Since forming in 2012 they have been working hard and gaining a great reputation for their music and live shows. While touring they have shared the stage with some legendary icons including Eric Clapton and Van Morrison.

Other than that, not much more can be found about the guys but I wanted to learn more. The best way for me to do that was to reach out to the band. Will got back to me and was more than happy to answer any questions that I had, this is what he had to say:

How did Hunter & the Bear come together and is there a story about the name?

Jimmy and I are old friends from up in Scotland. We got things going once we’d finished university in Newcastle back in 2012. At that point we were just a little acoustic duo playing covers in pubs. The band name came quite naturally as “Hunter” is Jimmy’s surname and “Bear” was what people called me as a kid. We came up with some terrible other options that I won’t mention! We decided to write some songs of our own and it went as well as it could’ve gone for a first attempt. Looking back, the first few songs were pretty rubbish but you’ve got to start somewhere! We took the plunge and moved to London to stay with friends until we had our feet on the ground. It’s a pretty daunting place when you come from a tiny village in the highlands. We soon got to grips with it and booked our first few shows playing our own music. Once we had conquered that milestone, it was pretty clear that we had to grow the band if we wanted to have more impact. We found Chris (bass) and Gareth (drums) separately and after a few jam sessions we were a functioning 4 piece.

Which musicians have helped to influence your music and it’s sound?

It’s hard to say who or what has directly influenced us. We like to make a big, powerful rock sound and we’ve been through quite a progression from the early days to get to that. The stuff we listen to will be anything from current stuff like Biffy Clyro, Royal Blood, Paolo Nutini back to the greats like Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, Bruce Springsteen, Dire Straits. We’ve got a pretty eclectic taste as a four but we all know a good song when we hear one.

For new fans out there, what singles/EP’s/Albums has you released so far?

So far we’ve released a couple of EPs and some singles. Our ‘Wildfire EP’ is still available on iTunes and Spotify etc along with some early singles but everything is aimed towards our debut album now. We’ve been releasing one single every month in the lead up to the full shabang coming out in May 2017. Six more singles to go and we’ll be there! All of those are available to buy/stream too so there are loads to listen to!

From the songs you have created which is your favourite and why?

That’s a tough question. I’m proud of everything we’ve released but I always tend to favour the newest stuff so I’m gonna say our recent single ‘Who’s Gonna Hear You’. It’s a big ballsy rock song and really marks where we’re headed with our sound in the long-term. We filmed the video in an old warehouse and it’s probably the most we’ve ever sweated in our lives. Worth checking out if you haven’t seen it.

What can people expect from your shows?

Our live shows are the most important thing for us. We want to be the best live band in the world one day and the only way to get there is by playing gigs 24/7. We’ve started to build a really great loyal following that seem to love coming to our gigs as much as we love playing them. That’s a really special thing for us. We always give everything we’ve got to the crowd and leave it all on the stage. For us the live show is king.

If there was to be a movie about the band, which actors would be chosen to play you all and why?

What a great question. I’m sure the boys won’t mind me choosing for them. I’m gonna go for a movie set way in the future where we’re all old and knackered but still rocking shows every night. For Jimmy (lead guitar) I’m gonna go with Billy Connolly. They already look and sound alike so there wouldn’t be much acting involved. For Chris (bass) we’re gonna have John Cleese. I think he’d nail the role of Clarky. Gareth (drums) would be Tom Hanks. For some reason I can just see him smashing it behind the kit with that cheesy grin. For myself I’m gonna pick George Clooney just because I can.

What are your future plans and goals for your music?

Everything is aimed towards our debut album at the moment. We’ll be touring loads off the back of that release around the UK, Europe and hopefully even further afield. We’re loving where this is going at the moment so we just want to keep this momentum going and see where it takes us. The album comes out in May so maybe ask us this question again in June!

Finally, is there anything you like to say to any new listeners out there or maybe to fans who are reading this?

Welcome to the party!

Now, let’s talk about their music which includes the EP’s Dusty Road (2013), Before I come Home (2014) and Wildfire (2015). As well as that, they have released the singles Wounded and Like a Runaway (both April 2015), Midnight Train (June 2015), Renegade (Aug 2016), Oh Daisy (Sep 2016), Who’s Gonna Here You (Oct 2016) and I am What I am (Nov 2016).

Listening to their music in the order they were released was an interesting experience as I have been able to hear how they have evolved from traditional folk rock to a more edgier style of rock Americana. The band may have grown but the foundations they have built at the beginning still remain with them which is a natural sound that has this charm about it that you will find difficult to resist. This can either be with their folky toe tapping energy like in the song ‘Dusty Road’ or delicate ballads like ‘Since September’. It could also be their edgier sound (my favourite) which can be heard in the stunning song ‘Like a Runaway’. Hunter & the Bear offer a great diversity to their music and this is one of the many reasons why they are causing waves.

The energy that this band bring is credit to how all these guys are on the same page in order to deliver something special to the listener with each release. As a result, they continue to release music of an impressively high calibre. I have already mentioned some of my favourites songs but I want to talk about two more which stand out for very different reason. ‘The North’ was featured on their debut EP and even back then, their lyrical talents were as strong as they are now. I love the details they share within its story which are delivered to perfection by Will’s vocals but the harmonies from the guys are equally stunning. The Celtic soul of its sound adds that charm that makes this song shine so much for me.

No song speaks to me more than ‘Renegade’. The way Gareth thunders in with his drums sets the pace of this track and it is full throttle. Will brings his growl with the vocals which give the song that extra edge and he sounds really good! The riffs/solos on the guitars give this song even more kick to ensure it is something you will not forget. Every time I listen to this, I can’t help but feel this is something that Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen would produce if they collaborated with each other. Yes, that’s high praise from me.

I can say so much about this band (in a positive way) but I need to tell myself to shut up otherwise this will be a very long feature. All I will say is that take a trip over to their YouTube and Soundcloud pages, music this good can speak for itself.

I can’t express how I am excited I am to hear Hunter & the Bear’s debut album when it’s released. I will be buying a copy and I can guarantee you will read my review of it here too, so watch this space. If you can not wait until then, go visit their website for all news, gigs and more about the band. You should also follow the guys on Facebook and Twitter as they love to connect to their fans as well as share information about upcoming gigs and new music.

It’s bands like Hunter & the Bear that makes me so passionate about helping to spread the word about independent and unsigned music. So I will be doing what I can to spread the word, if you feel the same then you should too!