The Electric Circus presents:
Hunter & The Bear
+ November Lights
Moved to The Mash House
Polite applause and concession stand runs are the norm from arena crowds experiencing new young recording artists opening for venerable veterans. But that was not so when Hunter and the Bear warmed up for Eric Clapton’s recent UK tour.
Not only was the upstart London-based act greeted with considerable enthusiasm, Clapton fans actually missed part of Slowhand’s set to score Hunter and the Bear’s music and to press the quartet’s flesh. “It was amazing,” vocalist-guitarist Will Irvine recalled. “We went out in the hall between sets with our merchandise and I was stunned how long the queue was. I thought it was a line for the bathroom but I was wrong. It was for us. It was incredible.” Guitarist-vocalist Jimmy Hunter was just as taken aback. “Clapton fans missed the beginning of his show just to say hello and ask why they hadn’t heard of us,” Hunter said. At that point Hunter and the Bear was just a year-old but the fresh group made an impression. Hunter and the Bear, which makes compelling melody- driven rock, sold hundreds of discs at the show. “It was encouraging because Clapton fans are music fans,” Hunter said. “They’re not into him because he’s sexy, even though at some point I’m sure he was.” Great point and that’s the common denominator between the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and Hunter and the Bear. The latter is a throwback, which crafts an intoxicating blend of muscular folk-rock, which hits listeners in the gut. The icing on the cake is moving, manly harmonies by Irvine, Hunter, bassist Chris Clark and drummer Gareth Thompson. The strong harmonies and warm melodies is a mighty amalgam, which is unlike anything on the charts. “The sound we have isn’t something we ever consciously thought about,” Irvine said. “We got here by a natural progression. We come with something that has that raw power and tends to hit people hard.” Hunter admits prior to the band’s 2013 formation, he was deeply touched by a Zac Brown Band performance. “I was in complete awe when I was watching them do an acoustic version of one of their songs,” Hunter confessed. “They were all singing together and a lightbulb went off over my head and I thought, ‘someday, somehow.” Someday is here and Hunter and the Bear obviously knows how to wield a sonic hammer. The stirring single “Like a Runaway” is a powerful and hook-laden cut with imagery that screams dog days of summer. The tune features a commanding vocal by Irvine and a clean, compact but hard-hitting solo by Hunter. The pretty “Wounded” is spare and catchy and is perhaps the deepest, most meaningful and vivid track in the band’s canon. Their vocal blend, which is like a sonic fingerprint, is unmistakable.
Hunter and the Bear delivers deeply meaningful and visceral songs since they are aware of what they want and the act ignores trends. “We aren’t trying to do what anybody else is doing because we want to be us,” Hunter said. “It’s all about computers. You can be really good at working a computer but you can’t play a guitar. We’re about working at our craft and I hope it shows.” Indeed. Hunter and the Bear earn high marks in the studio for its attention to detail and subtlety. The band has more in common with Mark Knopfler and Bruce Springsteen than its contemporaries. “I love Mark Knopfler,” Hunter said. “I think he’s the best guitarist of the last generation. He’s not Steve Vai playing 300 notes a minute but he’s about making great note choices. We’re trying to follow in those type of footsteps. We all love Dire Straits and we all grew up loving these bands with incredible vocals.” It’s remarkable how quickly Hunter and the Bear coalesced. Hunter and Irvine formed the band only two years ago while at university. Irvine had never been in a band. He sung while Hunter strummed along in their dormitory. Hunter gave Irvine some guitar lessons and the tandem was off and running. “We started playing pubs and clubs,” Hunter said. “We played Ed Sheeran and Kings of Leon songs for the drunken masses. Then we went off to Scotland and spent two weeks writing songs and before we knew it, we needed a rhythm section.” At the year one mark Clark and Thompson were hired. Within three months the group released its “Before I Come Home” EP, which is filled with deep, powerful and at times dense tunes. Three months after that the young, emerging band opened for Clapton. “That was special and scary for us,” Irvine said. “It was unreal playing before 13,500 people, which was about ten times more of a crowd than we had ever played to before. But we’re about building on that. I’m not talking about a goal of playing for huge crowds but to make the best music that we can make. We’re about doing what we believe in and not following whatever trends are out there at the moment. We want to hit people hard (sonically) and put our voices together to make a sound that only we can make.” Hunter and the Bear has reached a new echelon with its latest release. The band is vulnerable yet strong. The act has upped its ante but Hunter and the Bear is still rising. The group’s potential is unlimited but the future is now for the next significant band to come out of the UK.