Eliza and the Bear prep themselves for 2016

For a band who seem to be trying for an authentic indie-rock aesthetic, with leathered-up photoshoots in deserts and urban parks, I’m surprised at the answer Martin Dukelow gives when I ask what album he’s most enjoyed this year. The Eliza and the Bear guitarist tells me that he has been a fan of Justin Bieber right from the very beginning and that, although he may have had “to hide [his Bieber fandom] in a cupboard for much of this time”, with the release of November’s Purpose, there was no shame any more.

It’s a fair point that with contacts and money one may imagine an immaculately produced album, but whether a sense of relevance and musical immediacy can reach each individual listener on that big a scale is a diff erent matter. This intrigues me: Dukelow seems ridiculously down-to-earth as he talks to me from his Essex home one morning before Christmas, so I’d hardly expect him to be caught up in manufactured Bieber Fever.

He is still reeling off a fantastic set of October tour dates, where Eliza and the Bear took in a home crowd at KOKO, Camden, amongst seven other UK dates. This comes before the London indie-rock quintet’s self-titled debut album release on 19th February, which will follow a 26-date UK tour.

Admittedly, Eliza and the Bear may well be compared to Dry the River, Arcade Fire, or any other of the seemingly infi nite number of bands of guys who smash out rocked-up guitar songs with sing-along choruses. But there’s something about the incessant brass on tracks such as ‘Light It Up’ and the swerving guitar riff on ‘It Gets Cold’ that separates Eliza and the Bear from the output of other similarly promoted bands whose riff s can wash right over you without making a dent.

This is where Eliza and the Bear are trying to move in new directions. I note this development away from a standard indie-rock line-up, and Dukelow is keen to mention the brass and string sections which allow this bolder extravagance. He notes the “shiny” and “big” sound that the band strive for – perhaps this is where his love of the perfectly over-produced Bieber sound comes from: a complete sound in which to showcase these riffs at their fullest.

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Away from Bieber talk, Dukelow raves about Hans Zimmer’s soundtracks, especially those for Inception and Interstellar. Surely this says more about the band’s soft-spot for lush orchestration than Bieber could ever answer for. And there is a mix of bands on shuffle in the tour bus, as Dukelow tells me how drummer Paul Kevin Jackson favours Death Cab For Cutie, whilst keys-player Callie Noakes is all for a bit of Taylor Swift. Along with Dukelow on guitar and vocals, the band is completed by James Kellegher on lead vocals and guitar and Chris Brand on bass.

This amalgamation of genres within the scope of the members’ iTunes libraries should only increase the potential for a kaleidoscope mix of future musical output. For now, Duke low speaks on behalf of the whole of Eliza and the Bear, saying they wish to “use the album as an introduction” to what the band is about.

The band spent seven weeks recording the album in Nashville. In his charming Essex drawl, Dukelow tells me it was “hands-down the best studio I’ve ever been in.” Working in the studio seven days a week most weeks, only in the fi nal two did the London/Essex boys allow themselves weekends off , where they experienced Nashville’s music scene, visiting bar after bar of live music. Now, the minds of the band members are on the present. Dukelow admitted to the band having written another 20 or 30 songs since recording the album. But until then their debut is still to be reckoned with.

 

Eliza and the Bear play the Oxford Bullingdon on 30th January