Time Money Speed, a conversation with Bear in Heaven

Bear in Heaven grapple with time in their latest effort, Time Is Over One Day Old, a ten-track record that witnesses melancholic reflections and raw realizations with an overarching, resolute focus on renewal. The music feels like a long exhalation, a necessary release of emotion that arrives on the band’s tenth anniversary. Now, less than two weeks before they set off on tour, taking a breather is exactly what Bear in Heaven needs. As we sat in The Counting Room in Brooklyn over a couple of beers, guitarist Adam Wills reeled off their pre-tour to-do list, from the petty tasks of dealing with credit cards and passports to the more daunting ones of finding a new sound guy and a van. And when we took a walk to view a mural of their album cover that went up on Bedford Avenue last weekend, they were astounded to be met by a blank brick wall, a fresh layer of paint covering any trace of the art—introducing yet another issue for them to deal with.

And we have to find the time to kiss the people we love, like, a lot,” frontman Jon Philpot added.

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Joining Jon and Adam is recent addition Jason Nazary on drums, who betrays his weariness the greatest and is the most silent of the three, choosing mainly to watch as his bandmates rattled off answers to my queries. It’s not surprising that Bear in Heaven is tired; in addition to their to-do list, they face the excitement surrounding the album’s release earlier this week and performed a release show at Brooklyn’s Rough Trade on Monday night to a crowd of about 200. In fact, Adam was still feeling loose from acupuncture that afternoon and already had future appointments in the works for the band. But despite their chaotic schedule, they were obliging enough to lend me a moment of their day to chat about the album, the inconveniences of time and money, and the importance of letting go.

 

A lot has happened in the past week; how are you guys feeling right now?

Jon: Just like, “What the fuck.”
Adam: There’s still a lot to do. On the record release day you work really hard to get there, and it just feels like another day. What gets really weird is touring, which is still two weeks away.
Jon: We still don’t know, like, do people really like the album? So we need to get out there in the world and see what the real deal is.

To quote one of your guy’s mom, “What is the meaning of the phrase ‘Time Is Over One Day Old?'”

Adam: Ah, that’s classic my mom. The last record, she was like, “Oh, I finally get your music, it sounds like something that would sound cool on pot.” And it’s like, alright, you’re starting to get it.
Jason: And it still holds true.
Adam: Her question is exactly the answer—it’s a very vague phrase. It’s a good name for an album title because it’s porous. You could pour whatever meaning you want into it, and it would hold that meaning.
Jon: It changes for me all the time. Do you want me to tell you what I think it is this week? Something that’s gone on too long. There’s been a lot of things going on too long that just don’t fucking end. So it’s time to change pace—it would be really nice to hit some stride. So that’s what it means this week. Check back in two weeks from now.

The album is very much about time, obviously, and reflection, and it sometimes feels like a release of frustration. What sorts of ideas and experiences went into its shaping?

Jon: Life, getting a new drummer, becoming a father, getting scared of just life. Money was a big factor. It’s time, money, or speed—that’s the pyramid of life. There can only be two of those. Have you listened to a drone concert? One of the things that happens to you—it kind of goes back to my feelings this week—when you’re watching a concert of drone music is you sit there, and you’re like, This is great. Then you’re like, What the fuck is going on, nothing has changed. Then 45 minutes later, you’re back into it and you’re like, this is fucking awesome, keep going. At that point you want it to last forever.
Adam: And that’s how you feel about the record?
Jon: Definitely, it’s a ride.

Jon said of the album that it was like, “Breaking up with old ways of thinking, old ways of being…and finding something positive.” Can you talk a little about that?

Jon: It’s just been a lot of letting go of excess that I’ve been doing personally that trickled into the music, and we’ve changed quite a lot with Jason entering the band and breathing new life into the whole thing. I started selling a lot of gear. It was kind of the idea of simplifying—you can shed light on some important thing you’re doing…who we were in past records is still there but just brought down to the simplest form.

So do you feel like you’re at this point of satisfaction, whether personally or creatively?

Adam: No, that never ends. You don’t ever open your door and are like, “Here I am, I’ve reached the room I was trying to get into.” Because that door’s got another door on the other side of it.
Jon: And then on the other side of that door, there’s a bunch of jerks.
Adam: Yeah, very often there’s just a room full of jerks.

What were some of the challenges that you faced during the process?

Jon: Money, time…but everybody’s got that problem, right? Some people don’t. God bless you, you lucky fuckers.
Adam: It feels weird saying time and money, but all the inconveniences and challenges were kind of underneath those umbrellas.
Jon: It’s a trick: each thing you make sort of pushes you to the next place, and they all generally pose problems, and then new problems always arise. If we could figure out how to get past that time and money shit, that would be great, but then the music would probably sound like bullshit.
Adam: That’s the catch. You need hurdles to make interesting output.

You’ve had some creative ways of promoting your music, like when you slowed down I Love You, It’s Cool by 400,000 %. I’ve been enjoying your Instagram grids with this latest effort—can you talk more about the project?

Adam: I wound up ditching it because of time and money, because we had to focus on other things. We were scrambling to come up with fun ideas, and Jon had a couple of ideas for short videos so I took it and ran with it really hard. But even just one a day is a lot, a couple of hours for each one. To me all that stuff was very much shaking hands with the title of the record—sometimes very obvious and sometimes very loose tie-ins with time. It wound up working like a visual patchwork that suggests an overall mood in line with the message and tone of the record. We always like to have fun with that stuff. It’s a sickness.

Switching gears a bit—I’m always interested in knowing what musicians listen to vs. what they actually play, so what have you all had on heavy rotation recently?

Jon: I’ve been listening to The Fall a lot lately, weirdly.
Adam: I’ve been listening to a ton of reggae. And to this Popcaan record like crazy this summer. It’s like a new kind of dancehall guy. And I listen to a lot of sacred music, a lot of vedic chants and a lot of medicine songs from Peru or from North America. I listen to it all the time to shut myself out. And then Jason listens to jazz.
Jason: A little bit, and a little of Sun Ra…a lot of Factory Floor.

And one more question before we head out, What is your WILD Wish?

Jason: Unlimited acupuncture would be awesome.
Adam: I have a practical wish. I hope myself and my bandmates retain their health and happiness while we support this record we basically drew blood to make because that is an achievement. I hope we connect with our fellow humans through this album. I hope people get stoned and have sex to it. What we made is much bigger than all of us, and I hope people receive it in a way that we intended them to receive it or in a way that we never imagined them to receive it, whether it be during this year or 30 years from now.
Jon: I wish me and my family would get abducted by aliens, and we would be beamed up into a spacecraft, and we would be taken up to a planet where all of us could make music with our minds and bodies. But we would feel it right here in the center of our being.

 


text by: Claire Voon










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