For a band so steeped in classic songwriting, Bear's Den were never going to approach their debut album lightly.
And so it proved. The group analysed their career with some caution, releasing a flurry of EPs, little self-contained documents as an introduction to their world.
Heading to the studio earlier this year with long term producer Ian Grimble, 'Islands' is a rich, expressive document. Lyrically, huge care and attention has been paid to each word, with Bear's Den seemingly able to construct an entire living, breathing universe with just a rhyming couplet.
Lead singer - and songwriter - Davie explains that he views each track as being like a mini-novel in its own right. "I’ve always been interested in the way Raymond Carver and Ernest Hemingway leave room for interpretation," he says. "It allows the listener to have their own individual relationship with the songs."
Due for release on October 20th (pre-order link), 'Islands' is an imposing introduction. With that in mind, Clash is able to premiere snippets of fresh material, much of it unheard.
Alongside this, Davie has pieced together a track by track guide to the forthcoming album.
Check out the audio below, and find Davie's insightful words after the jump.
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Agape is a word that has been taken and used by Christianity to mean something it didn't originally mean and I guess I kinda did the same. Agape, to me, is about being open with people and not hiding anything from the people you care about. As a word, strange as this sounds, Agape to me sounds like a book opening and we were looking for a song that had that kind of feel to it for the first song on the album. We were also listening to 'About Today' by The National a lot and lyrically I wanted this song to come from a similar place.
The Love We Stole
I wrote this song around the same time as I was writing 'Sahara Pts 1&2' and 'Writing On The Wall' from our last EP. Those three/four songs originally were all one giant song and I had to split them up for the sake of the band's sanity! There's a short story by Raymond Carver called Vitamins and the final line is "Things kept falling..." That line encapsulates how you feel when it seems your life is falling apart and to an extent I was in that place when I was writing this song.
Above The Clouds Of Pompeii
My Dad and I went on a trip to Pompeii together when I was a kid and it made a really big impression on me. It's a deeply personal song to me and to other people as well so talking about it too much will only ruin people's own interpretations. It was one of the first songs I wrote where I never actually wrote it down. I wrote it in my head over the course of a month and that process removed a lot of the pressure of staring at a blank page which I used to do a lot. I played it to Kev and Joey in the back of a van on our first tour and we've been playing it ever since.
There is a biblical story called The Binding of Isaac that I've always found really interesting. I was reading Wilfred Owen's war poetry and stumbled across a poem about the binding of Isaac in relation to war. After I read that and really thought about the story I found the whole thing very confusing. I started wondering what Isaac's life would have been like after his father nearly sacrificed him and how it would have felt from his perspective. Whether I could have understood it or not. The song is imagined from the perspective of a friend of Isaac's.
Think Of England
I was playing this game where you have to write a song and record it in an hour with two friends from other bands and I was told that my subject matter was 'England'. Just before I started my friend said... "you better hurry up and start thinking of England mate", which was pretty funny in itself but ended up inspiring this song. Kev and Joey seemed to really like it and had so many great ideas around it so we decided to record it properly for the album.
I was really shocked when I first heard about Magdalene laundries and the stories that have emerged about them. They were designed as institutions for "fallen" women who were sent there in order to repent for their sin in the pursuit of becoming pure again. In reality many of these institutions essentially practised slavery on these women. A lot of the reasons why women were sent there in the first place were ridiculous and were often through no fault of their own. I watched Philomena after writing this song and my feelings are similar to Steve Coogan's character in the movie. The song allowed me to vent my anger, frustration and sadness for all those who needlessly suffered.
When You Break
'When You Break' is essentially the breaking point of the album. Similar to 'Stubborn Beast', it's directed at "you" but really I feel more like I'm talking to myself in this song. It's probably the darkest song on the album but it still carries a lot of the same ideas and themes from the other songs. Kev and Joey's parts add so much intensity to the song as it grows - they really make it reach a whole new level.
About four years ago I spent a month living on my own in Scotland at my uncle's mill cottage with the aim of writing some new songs. It was just white stone walls, wooden floorboards, a desk, a chair and a bathroom. I only ended up writing this song in the whole time I was there. I definitely went a little crazy whilst I was working there. This song came from a difficult place of realising how isolated I was making myself at that time in my life. I thought I was writing it about someone else until I finished it, when I realised it was a really accurate portrayal of where I was at that time.
I wrote 'Elysium' a while ago and it's almost word for word taken from conversations with my friends and my stepbrother about religion. My stepbrother is a really funny guy and i always used to play him my new songs so he could tell me if they were terrible or not. He was at university when I had written this song and I sent it to him to see if he thought it was any good. He played it to a girl one night and told her it was written about him - the next day he called me and told me I was a genius as my new song had helped him get lucky!
It's one of the first songs I wrote for Bear's Den and it was my way of dealing with some pretty ancient issues that we're haunting me. I needed to get rid of them or at least get them out in the light and see them for what they were. I'd come out of a relationship at the time and I put a lot of my thoughts and fears to bed when i wrote this song; it's kind of a "goodbye and I'm sorry". The closing lyrics were originally the chorus and they're now this final afterthought. Bad Blood felt immediately like the song to end the album and in the same way that 'Agape' feels like the opening of a book, 'Bad Blood' feels like the closing of a book to me.
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Bear's Den are set to release 'Islands' on October 20th - pre-order it HERE.