Under The Radar – Blue Bear Share
“Under The Radar” is a regular feature on the Texas Music Scene where our official blogger, singer/songwriter/journalist Mike Ethan Messick, shines the spotlight on a deserving but lesser-known artist. Some of these subjects are just getting started and might be tomorrow’s headliner (or Texas Music Scene star); some are music veterans who’ve earned admirers around the state and around the world while taking the road less traveled. All of them well worth a look & listen, enjoy.
Earthy and layered with a warm yet urgent vibe, Blue Bear isn’t the only scruffy-but-sophisticated pack of indie-rockers casting their lot in the always-crowded Austin music scene. But, even at less than two years of existence, they may be one of the most promising, stacking melody upon melody with the sort of rootsy grace often attributed to their heroes (Fleet Foxes and the Decemberists among them). The occasional rockabilly-inspired guitar lick, folksy cover, or twangy harmony might give a little rustic texture to their music, but overall the Blue Bear collective is among the most forward-looking bands to occasionally cross paths with the Americana singer/songwriter scene in modern Texas. Co-frontman Jeremy Holmsley was willing to go on record with us about some of the band’s finer points, speaking on behalf of bandmates Brandon Aguilar, Casey Arthur, Jeremy Wilkinson, and Khoury Moore.
In your own words, describe your sound.
We would probably describe our sound as “indie/folk,” whatever that really means… with some pop thrown in. We are a 5-piece indie/folk band with catchy melodies and tons of 4-part harmonies.
Where are you based out of?
What are some of your favorite and/or most frequently played venues?
We’ve played at Stubb’s (inside) a couple of times now. That’s probably our favorite venue, great sound, cool stage… We also really like playing at Lambert’s, although we’ve only played there once (so far). We’ve done quite a few shows in the Bryan/College Station area, played at Ozona Grill and Bar a couple of times now, really enjoy the laid back atmosphere on the patio.
Name a couple of career highlights, so far.
Our number one ‘highlight’ would have to be winning The Recording Conservatory of Austin’s 6th Annual “Unsigned Artist Competition,” back in May. After being selected to the top 30 from hundreds of bands, we were in a month long online vote-getting contest where we barely made it to the final 4 bands (because we had only been a band for a couple of months and didn’t have a huge online following). After showcasing, one of the judges actually said that he wished he could give us 1st, 2nd, AND 3rd, because we blew everyone else away. It was by far the biggest moment we’ve had as a band so far. Another pretty cool highlight was being asked by The Art Institute of Austin to be their featured band for their “Summer Studio 2012,” which was a week- long camp for high school students interested in pursuing graphic design, audio engineering, photography, etc…
What music do you have out already, and what’s coming in the near future?
We have a “first” EP, a 5-track disc that we recorded before we even had a full band. The EP is called “Snowy Mountain Reserve,” and is available for free download at www.bluebearband.bandcamp.com. It was recorded at Alta Vista Recordings, here in Austin. It captures the original sound we were going for before we recruited a drummer and bass player. We also have a second EP in the works at Stinson Studios (when we won the “Unsigned Artist” competition, we were awarded 100 free studio hours at Stinson Studios). We are right in the middle of it right now, so hopefully it will be ready this fall.
If someone’s only gonna buy one song of yours … where to start?
I’m sure each of the guys in the band would probably give a different answer on this one, but since it’s me answering, I guess I’ll say “Season of the Sun,” which has been known as “Untitled” for quite some time, because we could never think of a title for it. I believe it was the second song we wrote together as a band (the first was” Snowy Mountain Reserve”), and it really captures the intricate vocal parts we like to have in our music, and also the folksy feel.
Name some of your main influences as a songwriter/musician.
Each member of the band has a boat load of influences, but we like to sum it all up by saying that, as a band, our biggest influences are: Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear, The Decemberists, and Band of Horses.
If a fan’s buying you a drink … what’ll it be?
We’ll all take a Shiner.
Name a couple of people you’d like to publicly thank for helping you in your career.
We’d like to thank our parents, families, and friends who have supported us since we started this thing a little over a year ago. We want to thank Tom Johnson from Alta Vista Recordings, who helped us get our very first EP done, which has led to so many great things. We also want to thank Cameron Gott for believing in us enough to willingly sacrifice so much of his time and effort to help get us to where we want to be.
***What’s one of the strangest gigs you’ve ever played?
The strangest gig Blue Bear has ever played was during SXSW last March. We were booked to play at a club on 6th street, and when we showed up there was nobody to help us set the PA up, and things were made worse when we realized that there was only one microphone. So, three of us had to gather around one mic for the whole show. It was pretty uncomfortable.
RECOMMENDED IF YOU LIKE: Fleet Foxes, the Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons, The Decemberists, Quiet Company