The Tallest Of Mountains

Vancouver Electro-Dance Group Bear Mountain Ventures East

Bear Mountain makes sound you can see, combining music and visual arts.

Bear Mountain is a fitting name for a band emerging from the Canadian woods of the Pacific Northwest—their sound, however, samples music from all corners of the Earth, most notably the Congo.

The quartet released their debut album, XO, in May of this year, and it’s a record bursting with life. Rich earthy elements like Arcade Fire-esque chorus vocals and pulsating drum rhythms lay the fertile ground for digital mountains of rising synths and cascading guitar licks to grow from—frontman Ian Bevis’ high-pitched voice swimming to the surface to top it all off.

The songs sample sounds from vinyl records and even the online wasteland of YouTube, and Bevis says mixing in these interesting ingredients is an integral part of his songwriting process.

“If you’re making laptop music, it’s kind of hard to make it different or really find your own style, so I try to throw random shit in there to make it unique,” he said.

Bear Mountain started as Bevis’s solo project in 2011, as he experimented with sampling in his basement during his time as a student at the University of Victoria in British Columbia.

“That stuff was sketchy, bedroom shit. I didn’t know what I was doing,” Bevis laughed.

A fuller sound took shape when Bevis started collaborating with fellow university student and guitarist Kyle Statham. Eventually Bevis’s twin brother, Greg, was brought on as a live drummer, and the band was fully formed—well, almost.

After a live show, Kenji Rodriguez, a visual artist, approached the band saying he loved their music and thought it was “the music of the future.” He wanted to join the group—despite not knowing how to play any instrument.

Bear Mountain decided to re-define band membership altogether, and Rodriguez became a full-time member as their performing visual artist, bringing live shows to new heights as he performs optical magic onstage with them.

“During the live show, he’s onstage with us doing projection mapping, and doing the visual component of the show,” said Bevis. “We have four different shapes onstage with LED lights in them, and they’re synced with the kick drum. They light up with the drum.

“He’s also got some projectors and is mapping some images of those shapes, and also manipulating them and changing them in real time with the music,” he continued. “He’s performing with us onstage, but not actually making any music.”

With Bear Mountain in its final evolved form, the band released their cumulative songs in the form of XO this past summer, and were pleased with the result.

“It was kind of thrown together, and I think that’s why it works: it was never over-thought,” Bevis said. “We kind of just made it and did what we wanted.”

As for Bevis’s favourite song on the record, he adamantly chose the single “Congo,” one of the upbeat standout tracks from the album.

“It samples a Congolese choir from an old record I found. It came together so fast,” he said.

“I was just in my basement ripping samples off vinyl and as soon as I heard that [doo-doo-doo], I was like, ‘oh my god, that’s it. I fuckin’ hit something.’” — Ian Bevis, founder of Bear Mountain

“I was just in my basement ripping samples off vinyl and as soon as I heard that [doo-doo-doo], I was like, ‘oh my god, that’s it. I fuckin’ hit something,’” he continued.

“Those moments when you know you’ve got something good are so satisfying.”

The band is now embarking on a tour across North America from west to east—first a trip down the West Coast, then a long haul to Texas, an even longer haul to New York, and finally to Canada.

After playing Montreal, the band will have another month of touring across Canada and a dip into the U.S. from east to west before a final homecoming show in Vancouver.

Bevis said their cross-country road trip has been grueling at times, but the fans along the way have made it all worth it.

“Five dudes in a van, a lot of driving, no girls, I’m sure you can imagine,” he said.

“At this level we’re not making a lot of money, so it’s pretty stressful sometimes, but playing the shows, there’s a lot of payoff.”

Bevis said he’s excited to get back into the city of festivals and play a show here.

“I love Montreal. I actually went to McGill for one semester in the summer, basically partied my face off,” he laughed.

“I’m stoked to play Montreal again, for sure.”

Bear Mountain [18+] // Oct. 23 // Divan Orange (4234 St. Laurent Blvd.) // 9 p.m. // $12 + fees advance, $15 door