Eliza And The Bear

by
elizab
We caught up with Eliza And The Bear's James Kellegher (vocals & guitar) and Callie Noakes (piano) to chat about Nashville, Demi Lovato, and breakfast cereal.

How has 2015 been for Eliza And The Bear so far?
JK: It’s been quite quiet for us – we’ve been doing a lot in the “backroom”, kind of like getting ready for the album release and stuff. We did a quick tour with Twin Atlantic at the beginning of May and did a couple of festivals, but this is the first real time we’ve gone out and done a heavy load of touring. So it’s been busy, you know, and away from the public eye.

And how was your experience opening for Twin Atlantic?
JK: Really really good. We’ve been friends with them for quite a while now and we’ve always been like, “Ah we should play shows together; we should tour together” and it’s never come into place, and when it fell into place in May, we were really excited to get it done. It was our first support show in Scotland as well, so it really helped us out.

Do you still get nervous before shows, or do you find it more exciting, now that you play more often?
JK: Still nervous – you still get nervous don’t you Callie?
CN: Yeah, I have a tendency to throw up at big shows…
JK: We always say like, if you’re not nervous, it’s not going to go well. That nervous energy works and benefits you after the show, so it’s like a mixture of excitement and nerves.

 How does playing a small venue like The Fleece compare with bigger shows you’ve played, such as your slots at Reading and Leeds earlier this year?
JK: Small venues are nice and intimate – you can get really stuck-in with people and see face-to-face, and you can react off of individual people, whereas bigger shows it’s kind of like one big mass crowd and you deal with a huge amount of people.
CN: I feel my embarrassing mistakes on the piano are amplified in smaller venues, because people can hear my monitor mix. There were two people yesterday in Leeds, and I had my piano really loud in their faces, and I kept making horrendous errors – halfway through, the fella was like, “Are you sure?” [laughter all round]
JK: It’s backwards though, isn’t it? It’s like, bigger shows are easier, smaller shows are harder – there’s less people.
CN: [cynically] You can see the look of disappointment in people’s faces if you’re playing badly.

Do you feel like you’ve evolved as a band since you’re earlier days together?
JK: Massively. I feel like live is the biggest place where we’ve stepped forward. Support shows have been the most important thing we’ve done. We did the support slot on Paramore’s arena tour last year – being chucked out on that stage at such an early point in our career meant that we had to step up our game so fast. It was an absolutely amazing experience. It carved what we do now; we kind of learnt how to play live on that tour and I think we’d be a very different band if we hadn’t done it, so yeah, it was really helpful.

So we’ve got a couple of questions about when you write and record as well – how does the writing process work for you as a band?
JK: We have a studio near us in north London. We come in, we’ll have an idea, and we’ll jam it out and try and figure out melodies and lyrics and song structures. Then we have a recording studio in the back, where we’ll go in to chuck it down, record it and listen to it at its most basic level: piano, vocals and guitar and that’s it. We’ll figure out where we’re going with the vibe and where it should end up and then we’ll try and get it to that point.
CN: By listening to a load of Taylor Swift.
JK: [laughs] Yes, by listening to Taylor Swift essentially, that’s what we’re doing at the moment. 80% of what she’s doing, we’re doing as well.

And do you enjoy the process of recording?
JK: Yeah it’s great. Martin [Dukelow, lead guitarist] yesterday put it perfectly; he said, “The grass is always greener”. Because you’re on tour for two weeks like, “Ah I really want to get back in the studio and write something” – then you write for two weeks and you want to get back out on tour, so a little too much of one thing…

How was recording the album in Nashville?
JK: It was amazing yeah – really, really good. It was one of those experiences – like, if we never get to do it again, at least we’ve done it once. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and we’re all really grateful to have been able to do it, and having the support we had to do it was amazing. It really made the album what it is as well. It was called Black Bird Studios – it was unbelievable. We had Keith Urban next door, didn’t we?
CN: Yeah – and his white Rolls Royce. We felt like small fish, didn’t we?
JK: Yeah – big, big pond. But it was great – it was amazing, really, really good.

 Do you have a personal preference between playing live and recording? Which makes you feel most like you’re “in your element”?
JK: I feel like live is my personal preference. The days are boring – like, we’ve not done a thing for about five hours today, just sound-checked and –
CN: [outraged] I was watching Pretty Little Liars man, I don’t know about you, but I was keeping myself occupied!
JK: [laughs] But that little hour that you play is full-on and it’s amazing, so the whole day doesn’t matter. No matter what’s happened during in the day, the hour you play live changes your mood – puts you in a good mood, wakes you up. If you’re knackered, you’ll go onstage and be like “Oh, I can’t wait to get to bed”. You’ll come offstage and you won’t sleep for like, five hours.
CN: Well, last time we were here, I was uber ill, wasn’t I? And I still had a good show so…
JK: It perks you up. I don’t know what it is; it’s weird.
CN: [smugly] the adrenalin I reckon – my medical expertise says.

What kind of direction are you headed in now in terms of touring and recording? Have you got any ideas for what’s next?
JK: We’ve definitely got our eye on album two. We haven’t released album one yet, but we had so much time. Once we’d finished the album in December last year, we had three, four months where we had nothing booked in: no shows. So we were like, “Why don’t we just carry on writing?” We’re still experimenting with what’s happening with album two; we’re excited to branch out and try new things and that’s what we’ve been doing – just experimenting: making what could be a silly mistake that sounds completely ridiculous but then saying, at least we’ve tried it and now it doesn’t work. The new stuff’s definitely got more of a rocky edge to it I think.

On the subject of albums, how do guys feel as a band about music streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music? They’ve obviously had a lot of press recently – how does that concern you?
JK: They’ve been great for us. Playlists and stuff like that have been so handy for bands of our size. I know there’s this whole thing about how much they pay and stuff like that, but a band our size isn’t going to be earning much money no matter how much they pay. But it’s the exposure that we’ve got from those services that has been invaluable to us. The amount of people who’ve forward and been like, “Oh I found you on this Spotify/Apple Music playlist” has been endless, so you can’t really fault streaming too much.

And on the flipside of that, how do you guys feel about the recent resurgence in physical music sales, particularly vinyl?
JK: Vinyl’s great; I’m a big fan of vinyl. I know Callie’s a big fan of vinyl as well. It feels like vinyl is the thing that physical copies needed. CDs are a bit throwaway; they’re kind of small, you can’t really read much of it. But a vinyl record is a big piece of artwork and you’re physically involved in turning the vinyl over halfway through the album; you’re physically involved in the process of listening to the album, whereas, a CD – you can kind of put it in and forget about it. Most people just get CDs, stick them in their laptop, stick them on iTunes and then never listen to the CD again. So vinyl is what physical copies needed – as an antidote.

Have you got any favourite sounds out there at the moment? What’s gotten you most excited recently?
JK: Taylor Swift, the new Bring Me the Horizon album (I’ve been enjoying that), Foals’ new album, The Maccabees’ new album…
CN: Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato…
JK: See, I don’t get the Demi Lovato thing.
CN: She is a pop princess man!
JK: I get Selena Gomez – I love her. But Demi Lovato – she’s like a B-list Selena Gomez. [Disapproving look from Callie] Justin Bieber’s new stuff is absolutely banging. I haven’t heard the Chvrches Live Lounge cover of that yet – someone said to me today that apparently it’s sick – I need to get that up now! Our line guy’s got some massive tunes on his Spotify that he’s been playing…
CN: [nods affirmatively] Sheer tunes.
JK: A band called Broods that he’s been playing – they’re amazing, so I’m into that EP.

So what advice do you have for up and coming musicians on today’s music scene, because it’s something of a dog-eat-dog world!
JK: It is a dog-eat-dog world [laughs]. The single thing that changed in our mind-set when we were writing music was that originally we weren’t writing for anyone else. The plan when we started this band was that we were not going to play shows; we were just going to write music because we like writing music and because we’re bored when we’re not writing music. So when we sat down and wrote our first bunch of songs, we had no one else in mind – it wasn’t like, “Oh, this is going to sound great live” or “Yeah, this’ll get us signed” or “This’ll be great on the radio,” it was just like, “I really like that song”. So I think if you can write music that you genuinely enjoy, people can grab onto that and really see that it’s quite a genuine thing. So just enjoy yourselves – don’t put too much pressure on anything, just have fun with it, because that’s what it’s supposed to be about.

Just before we finish up, we have got a fun question we wanted to ask and that is, what is your favourite breakfast cereal?
JK: [overwhelmed] Oh errr….

It’s a big question I know…
CN: What are those things we had in Nashville, James?
JK: Lucky Charms. Lucky Charms are banging.
CN: Or those Captain Crunch situations…
JK: Lucky Charms for American cereals. Ricicles if we’re talking UK stuff.
CN: What are Ricicles?
JK: They’re like sugary Rice Krispies.
CN: [intrigued] ok…
JK: They’re unbelievable. But Lucky Charms take the top spot. When we were in Nashville making the album, I would sit there and eat massive bowls of Lucky Charms, no milk, all the time.