My Baby Too
My Baby Too is available at:
2nd July, 2016
Electronic; Synthwave; House; Singer-Songwriter; Shoegaze; Indie; Dream-Pop
The E.P., Hold Down the Feel, is available at:
BEFORE I come to looking at my featured artist…
it is worth raising a few points – revisiting one I mentioned yesterday. I will start with that one because it seems to be happening with a lot of groups/solo artists. Bear Feathers, like a lot of his contemporaries, is making sure he has an impressive social media outlay but neglecting the relevance of photos and images. I am intrigued by Bear Feathers but there is little in the way of photography: giving you a look at the face and voice behind the music. It may not seem like a big deal but, in the future, journalists and media sources will come calling and look to connect with them. Photos are almost important as music videos – a way of bringing a musician to life and getting them into the mind. Society is obsessed by photos and images – with Instagram and selfies taking over – so it is something every new artist needs to consider. I will not bang on about that point but it is something for Bear Feathers to mull over. I wanted to look at Brighton-based acts – where Bear Feathers hail – Electronic/genre blends and the importance of local acclaim and support. Bear Feather is the creation of Neil Durrant who has been pitching his stall around East Sussex for the past few years. Having recently played in Worthing (West Sussex): it seems like there is a great support down south for Bear Feathers. In addition to splitting time between the Sussex counties: it is certain more opportunities around London and larger cities will become available. I have looked at quite a few acts around Brighton and it seems like an area that is proffering some of the more interesting and intense musicians around. Of course, Royal Blood is an act that is synonymous with the area – even if they have not been exactly prolific in the past couple of years. If the duo ever decides to record an album again – let’s hope they get on it soon – then that will be much anticipated and celebrated. The Wytches are another cracking Brighton band that keep things heavy and hard. That is a big point that has come to mind: those artists that play on the raw side of music. Spending a lot of time in London; I am not hearing too many bands that are tougher and more accelerated. There is a tendency to perform Electronic/Indie sounds and keep it quite introspective and acclaim – not quite as rousing and spirited as one would hope.
Over the past few years, artists like Blood Red Shoes, The Kooks; The Go! Team and Rizzle Kicks have put Brighton firmly on the map. Between them you get plenty of colour, energy and fascination for sure. There are quite a few Brighton bands that have made an impression this year and will continue to do so into 2017. Fragile Creatures play around Brighton and are desperate to put British guitar music back into the fore. Bear Feathers matches clever lyrics and Beatle-esque sounds to create something both ‘60s-nodding and current. Shoegaze-cum-Indie guys Black Honey have been making strides and always wanted to remain secret – that is not going to be a reality into next year. Fear of Men are a darker alternative to many of their local peers. They write songs about mental illness and themes that might carry a stigma – a sort of modern-day Smiths with a bit of Joy Division. Their guitars and compositions recalls the 1980s Manchester bands while their lyrics tap into a common vein – subjects that need to be addressed. That is the wonderful thing about areas like Brighton: the band market is very much alive and well. I have mooted, in recent posts, how hard it is to find a ‘Best London Bands of 2016’ result on search engines. If you try typing that in you have to navigate a labyrinth of insufficient and unrelated articles to get to something vaguely relevant. Throw in names like White Room and Golding and you already have a steady spine of bands that can be mainstays of the future. I have bemoaned the lack of notable new bands – being overtaken by solo artists – and that holds true for London. There are a few coming through but not being exposed the way they should be. Brighton is a different affair and much more notable with regards its groups. In the absence of the likes of Royal Blood; Bear Feathers fill the void very nicely and are starting to gain ground. Before I carry on, let me introduce my featured act to you:
“During the last three years Bear Feathers (Neil Durrant) has fronted a Garage Punk band, Produced Deep House, Synthwave and remixed various upcoming acts. These tracks have featured on BBC 6 Music, Radio 2 and Amazing Radio – gaining support from Super Star DJ Dave Pearce, Jeff Wooton (Gorillaz) and Lo-Fi genius James Yuill. Bear Feathers is where many influences fuse together in an original combination of melody, vintage electronics and blistering guitars”.
Bear Feathers is hard to pin down in terms of the styles and genres played. There is a lot of Electronic and synth. stylings but that is paired with Rock, House and Shoegaze elements. It is very much indicative of the variation and characteristics of the city. I know people who live Brighton way and always extoll the virtues of the musicians that play down there. I am not sure if there is something in the air but (the artists there) are much more nimble and fascinating than their London peers. It might be the people and the sights of the city; maybe the calmer lifestyle but it is seeing some terrific acts emerge. Bear Feathers has that granite core and scintillating guitars; there are nods to older House artists and some fresh and zesty Electronic strands. Tying it in with my last point: the support of local stations and outlets is vital. Bear Feathers just played Recreations (Worthing) and performed alongside some tremendous bands. Organised by Sam Duckworth (formerly of Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly) – it was a successful gig for the Bear Feathers. Aside from that, there has been some support and backing from local stations but it is the crowds and opportunities around Worthing and Brighton that have ensured continued performance and success. Many bands and artists flock to London because they get few chances to shine where they live – the local media is rather scares and sparse. That is quite a worrying trend: the cities are filling and towns are being deserted by musicians.
Brighton is a different kettle of fish; a place where there are some great venues and influential stations. Watching Bear Feathers come through; you would imagine there isn’t the temptation to come to London – ample chances for exposure and acclaim down in Brighton. Durrant has been pounding the local circuit and celebrated because of their direct and spritz-laden music. Tying in my points of genre blending and local acclaim: the two go hand-in-hand and are not coincidental. Bear Feathers has evolved and developed since the early days and have reached a point where he/they are being tipped as one of those acts to watch closely. Into 2017, there will be more gigs and one feels a lot more support from local stations and tastemakers. Why so many solo artists are being favoured is because of the lack of restraints and singularity. They do not have to reach a consensus and argue with other voices: they have their own ideas and can take their music wherever they please. Bands seem more rigid and structured which is seeing some worrying trends. Many are still entertaining the possibilities British guitar music is dying and not long for this world. That might seem like an over-reaction but we’re seeing fewer guitar bands come to prominence and been taken to heart. I am not sure what the reason is behind this but it may be due to changing tastes and new demands – perhaps the proliferation of solo artists and difficulties getting anything new from Rock. Bear Feathers has done things right and are made the best of it. Durrant has that solid and dependable guitar core but take the music in all sort of directions. There is that Shoegaze side and nods to baggy-shirted bands of Manchester – the likes of Stone Roses and Happy Mondays. There is – keeping the Manchester themes firm – nods to Oasis and The Smiths but you get attacking salvos the likes of Royal Blood, Muse and Queens of the Stone Age would be proud. Toss in some Electronic subtlety and beauty; House elements and some Pop colours into the mix – quite a heady brew and wonderful cocktail. It is this adaptability and bold sense of creation that resonates with a wide number of people and keeps the music fresh and agile. Bear Feathers is capable of producing songs that are resolutely his but can fuse different genres. Guitar bands of the past have been too beholden to purity and replicating their idols – not putting enough of themselves in there and stretching the music. Bear Feathers is one of the most focused acts around but one of the most variegated.
If you are new to Bear Feathers then you might want to go back and see where they came from. As you glean from the Facebook biography: it was Neil Durrant who started the project and created it with the intention of making an impression – distinguished and separated from the raft of other acts out there. Hold Down the Feel is the most complete and solid work from Bear Feathers but not the first steps. There has been other material and it is well worth investigating and listening to. Disconnection was released a couple of years ago and does differ to their modern material. You can hear some of the spacey, robotic electronics across the E.P. but it is rarer. Hints of Kraftwerk come out in the song: it is a modern equivalent of their music and you get transported into a strange and distinct universe. The processed vocals and rushing compositions are engaging and flowing – something not a lot of modern bands are trying. If you look forward, there is a definite change of sound. I explained how Bear Feathers have retained some of that Electronica and processed sound but is embracing guitars and Indie a lot more too. There are more House elements and some Disco too. What is great about Bear Feathers is the modern material does not forget Electronic and synth. sounds in favour of a more one-dimensional Rock core. There is a heavy proliferation of warm electronics and fizzing keys; some tempestuous percussion and a celebratory mood. You get little touches of Maximo Park and like-minded musicians but it is very hard comparing Bear Feathers with anyone else. The E.P.’s closing track is as energetic and explosive as anything they have created and sums up the E.P. as a whole. Sure, there are some more reflective and calmer moments but you find (across the four tracks) the need to engage with the audience through energy and force. There are so few bands that can seamlessly blend guitars and electronics and make their music original and appealing. You either find there are some rather predictable Rock bands or Electronic artists that are a little flighty, weightless and disconnected. Bear Feathers not only overcomes possible hurdles but is much more detailed and complex than you would imagine. So many different genres and sounds in the music make it a treat for the ears and senses. The confidence and commitment you hear on Hold Down the Feel is very pleasing. That can only improve and expand over the years and see Durrant really hit a peak. You can imagine Bear Feathers being a festival favourite – very soon and taking their music around the world.
The start of My Baby Too gives you an idea of what the song is about. If you watch the accompanying video; you will find lads arguing in the pub with Wood in the middle – by the time the introduction is over she is on the floor, writhing. The opening synths. and electronics go between Synth.-Pop and Dub-Step within a few seconds. It begins teasing, skipping and static before lowering and unleashing a spectral, low-down moan. Not only does that set the scene but it gets the listener ready and hooked. I am not sure whether the song was inspired by a real-life romantic struggle – perhaps Durrant finding competition and unwanted affection towards his girl. The heroine is being fought over and is an unwanted chattel as it were. She is a commodity rather than a person and is having to get involved in a Mexican stand-off. Maybe the other guy was not aware she was taken and there is a bit of flirtation from the heroine. That miscommunication and misunderstanding gets heated rather soon and finds confrontation and aggression take over. The hero has to be “that guy” and make the truth known. It is odd finding an apologetic tone but that gives new possibility to the song. It is unclear whether the girl belongs to the hero or the other guy in the picture. Maybe there is that history and old romance that died – the two split but the affections run deep. Perhaps it is simpler and there are other men swarming around the girl. It is understandable – watching the video – with regards the appeal and allure of the heroine. She is a flame-haired woman that has that instant beauty and attraction. You envisage yourself in a local (Brighton) pub and the two lovers minding their own business. Maybe a guy has come in and is trying his luck – pitching up to the girl and laying down his cheesiest chat. That unwarranted come-on has caught the eye and causing some unction. You can feel the tension and sense something rather explosive is about to unfold. The composition remains frantic and energised. The synths. are consistently racing and get straight into the brain. There is certain weightlessness and fatigue to the vocal but plenty of underlying urgency and stress too.
It is a fraught scene that one jumps inside and tries to referee. Bear Feather is effectively a solo project of Durrant but has that band feel – hence the reference to them as a band – but Wood’s role should not be diminished. Not playing a musical role in Bear Feathers: she is an unofficial member whose is the ‘face’ of the E.P. and appears in the music video – the inspiration behind the song. You see them as a partnership and musical couple despite the fact Bear Feather is Durrant alone. The song’s chorus repeats the title and really gets into the brain. An addictive and effective mantra that enforces the truth and keeps the intrigue flowing. Hearing the song you get impressions of the ‘80s synth. masters and something classical and epic. Durrant lets it be known it takes “three to tango” and things are not that simple. I get more intrigued by the origins and reality of the situation – whether there is a tussle over a relationship or something more complicated. You get the feeling the heroine/Wood is being courted by both men but not necessarily involved with either. My Baby Too is an inscrutable and mysterious song that does not readily reveal its truth and keeps the listener guessing. Even before the guitars come in, you can hear the building eruption and explosion. The hero is keeping his eye on the girl and ensuring she is not lead astray. You get hooked in the teasing and hard beats and warm, rushing electronics. That combination is pulsating and dangerous; grabbed and sucked into that whirlpool of sound and invention. Durrant sounds more and more anxious as the song unfolds. In the video, Wood acts as the Muse and gyrates and gesticulates with sexual indiscretion. Losing inhabitations and modesty: she is alarmingly bold; perhaps not shocking she is catching the gaze of fellow pub patrons. The song’s middle section gets more nervy and tense and provides an atmospheric break. The scene has been laid and you get another piece of the puzzle. I mentioned and referred to Bear Feathers as a guitar-based act as it is that instrument that is the most effective and notable part of the song. It acts as a contradiction and polemic of the rousing and colourful electronics. Before then, the hero reverts to the chorus and tries to make his voice heard. The hero has had his heart broken and was left – making things clearer – and has been complacent in the past. That seems to be the nub and origin of the song.
The girl was part of Durrant’s life but something happened to end the relationship. Now a new man is in the frame, there is a bit of jealous and regret emerging. At times, there is something quite unnerving about the sense of scene – a girl being put in the middle and two men both vying for her affections. Wood, as the video’s heroine, is a femme fatale that has captured the affections of a new beau but is in the mind of her former love – that sense of loss and unhappiness is evident. I mentioned guitars and how effective they are to Bear Feathers: it is a side of the music that should come out more. The final seconds are the most heated and inflamed across the song. The incredible squall and fire emanating from Durrant’s guitar is stunning. Not only do you get a scintillating and bracing riff but the most passionate moment of the song. After the consistent and familiar electronics that unfolded: the scene changes and becomes a lot more stormy and violent. The teeth are out and that electronic snarl blends with the synthesisers; they create a heady and suffocating mood that makes My Baby Too more stormy, swaggering and tense. You cannot escape that lust and roar that bursts from the electronic strings. It takes the song down and ensures the listener gets a swift kick. I would like to see the electric guitar come out more as, here and on the E.P., its incorporation is the most strident and memorable element. By the end, you have to take everything in and will still hear echoes of the chorus and guitar ringing in the ear. It is not just a perfect representation of the E.P. but the finest song on the disc – one that perfectly concludes it and shows what Bear Feathers is made of.
Having recently played as part of Duckworth’s seaside festival: Bear Feathers has reached new audiences and has been given the nod by one of our most original and impressive British musicians of the past few years. That is just the start of things: with Hold Down the Feel, you get a four-track E.P. that bursts with life and personality; so many different stories and ideas – that core energy and effusiveness that defines My Baby Too. I was compelled to focus on that track as it is out in the public ether and already gaining a lot of respect and reviews. It is the swansong to an E.P. that not only is the best work from the Brighton act but a sign of things to come. It might be impossible to nail Bear Feathers in terms of genre – he has Disco elements and all manner of sounds in the boiling pot. I know Durrant will be planning new material and ideas in 2017 but it will be fascinating seeing what form that takes. Whether there is another E.P. in the mind of a series of singles – whatever it is, many people will jump on it and be very excited. Over the past couple of years; you can really hear the improvement and change in the music. My Baby Too is the most instant and stunning song so far and the perfect way to end a stunning E.P. Filled with imagination, tight performances and incredible songs – one everyone should be aware of. Before I get to the conclusion and see where Bear Feathers is headed: it is worth looking at my original points and what I raised at the top. It would be good to know more about Durrant’s creation and how it came together and changed. With Wood as the ‘face’ of the E.P. and inspiration behind My Baby Too – not listed in the biography on Facebook – it would benefit knowing how she joined with Durrant and the time they got together. In her, they not only have someone making a vital impact musically, but there is that visual allure. She adorns the E.P. cover and is a Florence Welch-cum-Tori Amos red-haired figure that can get hearts skipping beats. Perhaps not relevant to the music: she holds fascination and speculation without saying a word or playing a note. Regardless of my predilections and requests; Bear Feathers should be thinking of getting some more snaps taken and some professional shots. After a run of gigs and some rather impressive tracks under his belt – Bear Feathers should entertain the possibility of greater exposure and success next year. Already played by ‘6 Music and some of the most influential stations in Britain – not long until there are some high-profile gigs.
That brings me to the points about multiple genres and Brighton in general. There is still that proliferation and zeal towards London bands – something that will wane very soon. I cannot find that many great London bands this year or any polls that indicate a huge explosion. That demand and request is almost Google-proof where Brighton does not suffer that fate. The small venues and clubs are not as vulnerable and endangered as those in London. Stalwarts such as Green Door Store are rising and premiering some of the hottest talent in the country. Not only building their reputation and core: there are a lot of great venues around the city available for the new musician. In addition, the radio stations there have their ear to the ground and it is easier to make a living as a musician – no need to flee to London and try your luck there. Not only does Bear Feathers have that support on the doorstep; there are some like-minded contemporaries that can drive Durrant’s act and are available for backing. Not only (do Bear Feather) have the chance to approach the hottest Brighton bands coming through – they are part of a local scene that is putting emphasis on bands and actively seeking the best of the breed. Bear Feathers impress me with the sheer ambition and appeal of the music. You get that sturdy and captivating Rock but so many other colours in the spectrum. Compelled by a range of genres and artists: Durrant started the group on these foundations and does not want to see Bear Feathers restrained, honed and singular. Hold Down the Feel is a terrific E.P. that captures all the layers and ideas like a huge net collecting butterflies. I urge people to get down to Hold Down the Feel and investigate everything it has to offer. It is an E.P. that registers the first time you hear it but keeps eliciting response and reaction every time you hear it. That is the mark of a great act – that sense of nuance and repeatability is something I am seeing less of.
It is only left to wrap things up and see where Bear Feathers might be headed. Durrant has been performing locally but one feels there will be a more wide-ranging and long-traveling itinerary unfolding throughout 2017. I could easily see him performing throughout the country and taking their music far and wide. Bear Feathers is not an act that is niche and unlikely to connect with the wider world. They have that everyman, universal sound that will strike a chord with so many people. Let’s hope Durrant can push the songs as far as possible and get those gigs – one of the acts you want to see live and hope they succeed. I am sure Bear Feathers will not struggle in the future and is going to be releasing a lot more material. The latest E.P. is awash with strange chemistry, memorable moments and incredible compositions; fresh and emotive vocals and a compendium of sounds to boot. I would like to see them in London next year and bringing their music to the masses here. Brighton is a very hospitable and welcoming city – Bear Feathers will find many opportunities and fans in London. I cannot wait to see where he will go and just how far he can progress. It seems likely the next year will find them transition to the outside mainstream and get within touching distance of the festival scene. Among an ultra-competitive industry with so many different bands/acts vying for huge success; it is with no uncertain proclamations I predict Bear Feathers…
HAS what it takes to go all the way.
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