Meditative States

Bear In Heaven Talk Meditation, Musical Influences

Bear In Heaven make tribal-infused pop music.

Brooklyn’s Bear in Heaven became indie sensations upon the release of their second album, Beast Rest Forth Mouth, last October.

The album’s melding of minimalistic art-rock with pop structures and curious nods to ‘80s synth-pop sounded fresh and contemporary.

The album sent the four-piece band zig-zagging across the continent to appease rock-thirsty crowds.

“It’s been good. We’ve been seeing the world—going places,” said Jon Philpot, Bear in Heaven’s singer, songwriter, guitarist and keyboardist, as he momentarily caught his breath in his Brooklyn apartment. “We loved Montreal when we played there [at Il Motore] in April and are looking forward to coming back. It’s quite a nice town you guys have up there.”

Their sound evokes images of an almost pre-historic era; the songs often have a sort of primitive or tribal rhythm to them and the vocals are, in ways, reminiscent of chants. The band gives off a mystical, meditative vibe.

“[These sounds are] a huge part of drone and experimental music, which are sort of the scenes I’m coming out of. But on a more general note, I feel that music in and of itself can often bring you into meditative states,” said Philpot. “Sometimes you totally forget yourself at a show; you look around and suddenly find yourself asking, ‘What is this sound? Where am I?’ Those are the best concerts.”

But has Philbot actively pursued meditation?
“Let’s say I’ve tried. It’s not as easy as it sounds at all. It takes a lot of practice and patience,” he said.

Bear in Heaven recently released a remix album where dance artists such as The Field reworked their tracks. They’ve also remixed songs for techno artists like Matthew Dear.

“Dance music is a perfect example of music in which you can sort of lose yourself meditatively. A lot of the stuff on the remix album is more drone-y or experimental, and that’s still the music I listen to most frequently.”

The dense sonic world of Bear in Heaven also suggests traces of The Cure, Throbbing Gristle, Gary Numa and Vangelis to these ears.

“You nailed it, man!” Philbot responded to this observation. “I was listening to The Cure’s BBC Sessions when we were making the record, like, all the time. And I’ve been into Throbbing Gristle for a few years. I had been hanging out with a friend and he was playing this crazy, amazing music so I asked him what it was and he said ‘It’s Throbbing Gristle. They’re fucking great. Better than The Beatles.’ And yeah, recently I’ve gotten heavily into Vangelis—this record of his called The Dragon is also very tribal-like.”

Beast Rest Forth Mouth contains a consistent sound hammered home with tricks like reprises and recurring themes in the lyrics. “I think people want and need records. You might
not like all the songs on the first listen but I think most records gradually open themselves up and sort of expand upon that first song or sound that drew you in.

“As a musician making records, we never know what songs people are going
to connect with, so we just—this might sound naïve—go about it instinctively,”
Jon Philpot,

“Then you hear those other songs live and you’re like: ‘That’s alright on the record, but I loved it live.’ As a musician making records, we never know what songs people are going
to connect with, so we just—this might sound naïve—go about it instinctively,” Philbot explained.

“In the end, that one song that you happen to like is part of an overall statement, it’s a package: the imagery, the lyrics, the music—it’s a whole dimension. And that’s something worthwhile.”

Bear In Heaven play with Twin Sister, The Luyas and Grounders on September 30 at La Sala Rossa (4848 St Laurent Blvd). Tickets are $15. Show starts at 9 p.m.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 07, published September 28, 2010.