Ian Bevis of Bear Mountain: “Canada’s kind of like a really nice uncle”
By Dana Getz
Take glitch-drenched synths, sweeping falsetto and a sugary injection of unadulterated fun and you’ve got Bear Mountain, a genre-blending electro-dance group with a little bit of island flavor and a lot of big anthem sound. With influences ranging from jazz to house music, their style is somewhat of a musical grab bag, drawing upon contemporary pop, modern new wave, and subtle ‘80s funk.
The Canadian natives hail from Vancouver, BC, where frontman Ian Bevis and guitarist Kyle Statham formed the band in 2011. They later recruited Ian’s twin brother Greg as their drummer, adding visualist Kenji Rodriguez after a few live shows. The foursome has been hitting the festival circuit hard after finishing their tour with Bloc Party last month, and is now gearing up to play Lollapalooza. We had the chance to chat with lead singer Ian Bevis about their latest music video, Chicago deep dish and touring Canada on a tandem bike.
Can you tell me about the journey Bear Mountain’s been on since its formation?
Yeah, fuck, it’s been pretty crazy. A very crazy year for us. A year ago we were just really making music for our friends and family, and then we self-released our EP last August. I think “Two Step” was the first song that really hit—it ended up going number one on Hype Machine, which was pretty rad. And then we kind of started getting a bunch of eyes on us, and it just sort of evolved from there.
Let’s talk about your debut album, XO. What was your direction in making the album?
To be honest there was never really any thought about the direction. A lot of those songs, when I started writing them, weren’t really for anybody—I wasn’t even writing them for a band, really. They were just songs I was making at home on my computer. So there was really never any thought about it, and in that sense there was really never any limitations. So the songs didn’t have to be in the context of a band or in the context of a type of music, they were just kind of created. I think that’s really a benefit that allows us to kind of not work within any genre. I think that’s also how people are, right? They don’t listen to genres, they just listen to what they like.
You have a pretty wide-ranging sound. What are some of your influences? What were you listening to while making the album?
I think for influences it’s just, like, so many different kinds of influences. I think I listen to music the way most people listen to music in that I don’t think anyone just listens to rock ‘n’ roll or just listens to house. I think everyone listens to a little bit of everything. We never really pay attention to genre; we just consume music and make music we want to make. But, you know, Greg has an interest in jazz and Kyle likes pop bands and I DJ—it all kind of comes together. We all have different preferences, which is great because we all meet in the middle I think.
So how does that all fit into the songwriting process?
Everything kind of starts in my computer more or less. I never write a song on an acoustic guitar, I play acoustic guitar, but for me I can’t really write that way. I just write using audio samples. And then once there’s kind of an idea or an arrangement, I’ll take it to the band, and then we work on it from there and try to play it live. For us, everything has to be played live. Before we record a song we’ll play it to a crowd, and for me that’s the best way to know if a song works or not. We’ve had it before where we thought something was really good when were recording and when we played it to a crowd it didn’t really work that well, so we’re like, ‘Well, what’s the point?’
The music video for your newest single, Faded, has an interesting storyline. Can you break it down for us?
Yeah, well that music video came together in about three days. It was really a collaborative effort with the director and a couple other people. It was our first professional music video that we didn’t do ourselves, so we had a couple different creators on it, and it was an interesting process doing it that way. To be honest, I don’t know if I would do it that way again, only because we like to have a lot of control over what we do, as most artists should. There were a lot of different people involved, and for me that’s kind of a scary thing. But yeah, it came together in about three days. We met up with the director Matt and he had an idea, and we had our idea, and we met in the middle.
Where did the idea come from?
The slugs were Matt’s idea, the director’s idea. And then the triangle-head, extraterrestrial dude was our idea. And basically the boxing ring, we had to film the video in three days, and we had access to a boxing ring, so we went with that. It was really just a bunch of people got together, said, ‘Let’s make a music video, what do we got? This is what we got. These are our ideas. Let’s fuckin’ do it.’
What can we expect from your sophomore album?
I think we’ve all been working really hard on our individual skills, like our craft, you know? So we’re really kind of taking it to the next level. I think it’s just bigger and better.
You’re playing Lollapalooza in under a week. What are you most looking forward to about that?
Holy moly, it’s probably gonna be the biggest crowd we’ve ever played to, so we’re looking forward to that. And also, Lollapalooza is like the festival of festivals in North America, so I’m just really excited to be there.
Will we be hearing any of the new material you talked about?
Yeah, oh yeah. We’ve probably got like four or five new songs in our set.
Are there any other artists you’re hoping to see?
Usually we don’t have a ton of time at festivals, but holy shit, I wanna see 2 Chainz. Haim is playing. I fucking love that band. Exposure, I’ve seen them before, they’re awesome. Father John Misty. Dillon Francis, I’m a big Dillon Francis fan.
Is there anything you’re dying to do while in the Chicago?
I wanna get deep dish. The last time we were there, we’re like, ‘We gotta get deep dish pizza,’ and we went and got it but it sucked. We just went to some shitty joint super late at night. But we were at this place and they had the original Philly Cheesesteak—they also had deep dish but it looked sketchy—so I got it and it was the best Philly Cheesesteak I’ve ever had. Anyway, I’m definitely in need of some good deep dish.
How does the Canadian music scene differ from the U.S.?
Oh, good question. I always think there’s like a few different Canadian music scenes, as I’m sure there is in the U.S. But I don’t know, I go back and forth. I have varying opinions on this. There is a lot of support if you can get access to it, like the Canadian government has a grant for young bands so they can actually make a living. Once you get there it’s actually really, really supportive. But it’s easier to tour in America. Touring in Canada is actually pretty hard, ‘cause it’s so far between places, like Canada’s such a big country. The nearest major city to play from Vancouver is Calgary, which is 12 hours away. And then next to that it’s like a two-day drive to Toronto or Ottowa or whatever. So it’s a lot harder to tour Canada. I mean, Canadian bands are definitely known for being road warriors.
What Canadian thing do you miss most when you’re on tour?
The weed. Can I say that? Other than that, I don’t know. I used to feel nervous in the States ‘cause of like Big Brother and all that, but after spending a lot of time down there and touring down there, I really, really like it. I’ve really kind of grown fond of the U.S. But Canada, I don’t know what I miss. I mean the people are really nice. Canada’s kind of like a really nice uncle or something. I’ve actually seen a lot of Canada, I road a bike across Canada from Victoria to Halifax.
How long did that take you?
It took us three months. It was a four-person tandem bike. It was wild. We toured actually; we were playing music the whole time.
What can we expect from Bear Mountain in the future?
We’re playing a lot—lots of shows and festivals. For us right now the focus is definitely playing live, but also writing music and just really pushing ourselves to take our music to the next level. We have this idea that we wanna create, so we’re really pushing ourselves. That’s gotta be the focus for like any band. I also really want to play Glastonbury in the UK or at least tour over there.
BEAR MOUNTAIN WILL PLAY AT THE VIC THEATRE THURSDAY, AUGUST 1 AND AT LOLLAPALOOZA’S BMI STAGE ON SUNDAY, AUGUST 4. THE BAND’S DEBUT ALBUM XO IS OUT NOW.