Spirit Of the Bear - Feature Interview

October 29, 2017


"Fade Into Blue" with band on the rise Spirit Of the Bear. The Ohio-based five-piece consisting of James Harker (lead vocals and guitar), Danny Svenson (keys, vocals), Ethan Schwenderman (keys), Jamie Vitullo (drums, vocals), and Mike Perorazio (bass) have formed a soothing synth sound, reminiscent of Beach House and Deerhunter. The band has a debut album coming out on November 24th entitled "Fade Into Blue." Lead single "Run My Mouth," showcases harmonizations, interesting synth interplay, and softer drums that creates a chill and memorable vibe. Harker's vocals throughout their work feature a high range and an emotive tone. Keys are heavily present, but prominent bass tracking can be found throughout their discography, especially on their most recent release "A Year Ago." This promising group is sure to be one to watch! Give Me A Try had a chance to interview singer James Harker about the band and the background of the upcoming LP. 

(album art by Ben Toomy) 


Give Me A Try: You are releasing an album in November; what is the album about? What was It like to record it?


James Harker: We are indeed releasing a new album in November! There's actually a big theme behind it; we all sat down and thought it through together and what ended up coming together was a collection of stories that happened in one of our lives or in the lives of people we're close to. Each song is about a different experience that represents "growing up" to each of us in a real-world kind of way. We're all still very young in terms of being "adults", but we're all in that weird transitional stage of our lives where we have to start being independent and thinking for ourselves and like, paying bills and stuff. So the album, in a nutshell, is all about how life throws things at you that you don't expect and how we've been dealing with these things at this transitional point in our lives. Sounds kind of cliche, but I feel like we did it pretty genuinely.


GMAT: What are your favorite songs on the upcoming LP? 


Harker: My personal favorites on Fade Into Blue are "Why Can't We Talk About It?" and "Folded" currently. I also really love "Life Like Paper", mainly because it was my 'big song', so to speak. It was the one that I wrote mostly alone and arranged strings for it and I really love what each member of the band brought to it. Honestly though, every song on the album makes me so happy to listen to, I can't even pick a true favorite. The album as a whole is my favorite, honestly.


GMAT: What is your songwriting process like?


Harker: Our songwriting process for this album was much different than usual for us. Mike, our bassist, rented out this old house for the summer, so all through the month of May we all spent like, at least 30-40 hours a week out at that house just writing together and playing Mario Kart. The album sounds much better because of it, I think. Everyone had a very clear and significant part in writing the new songs, and it ended up creating a really unique sound for the album as a whole.


GMAT: What's your favorite Mario Kart track?  


Harker: I grew up with Mario Kart DS more than any other so my favorite is probably Waluigi Pinball on the DS. But on the Wii I’d say Coconut Mall.


GMAT: How did you all meet?


Harker: We all went to the same high school and went through the same music program. The band started with Danny (the keyboard player) and I jamming together after meeting in an Algebra 2 class we had together. From there, each member has their own weird story of how we recruited them into the band, but it really all came together with our current lineup shortly after we released our previous album Remains.


GMAT: What is the music scene like in Ohio?


Harker: We're originally from Youngstown, Ohio, so that's really our hometown scene. The scene there is great, all the bands are friendly and it's a very tight community of artists. We've had a chance to break into Columbus's scene a fair amount over the past year, though, and everyone we've met and played with there has been awesome as well! Ohio in general is incredibly welcoming and supportive of up-and-coming bands.


GMAT: What genre would you say you fall into? 


Harker: I think we fall mostly, very broadly, under the moniker of "indie rock". We have some songs that are more pop-oriented, and some that are completely electronically produced, and some that are folk-rooted and some that are ballads and really everywhere in between. This new album definitely has a mind and a sound of its own, though, and I'd say it's mostly indie rock with some very distinct influences that range anywhere from folk to electronic to pop. There's a little bit of everything. One song has a full string section on it, another has me singing through a heavy autotune effect. And the whole thing is very warm and analog-sounding. It sounds diverse but it really does all fit together.


GMAT: What's your favorite venue to play?


Harker: In Youngstown, there's this old train station, The B&O Station, where we've played numerous times. That's actually where the album release show for Fade Into Blue is going to be. Our hometown crowd always comes through big time and shows there never fail to be amazing. Some other venues that we've played that have been extremely notable have been The Grog Shop in Cleveland and The Basement in Columbus. Both shows were huge and definitely some defining moments in our band's short lifespan thus far. 

GMAT: What would you like to do more as a band in the future?


Harker: Tour, really. We do a bit of touring and it always ends up being the most fun ever. So I'd say the goal is really to just keep touring more and more.


GMAT: What's on your playlists?


Harker: For me personally, my favorite band is Radiohead, and I listen to a lot of music in a similar vein. Through the process of writing the new record, I was very into the band Grizzly Bear and Gorillaz, and we were listening to a lot of Death Cab For Cutie as a group in general. Recently I've been super into Moses Sumney, Son Lux, and this guy Jordan Rakei. As for the other members, we all have really different musical tastes and it works really well in our band dynamic. Jamie, our drummer, is very into progressive metal (Animals As Leaders, Chon, stuff like that), Danny is into a lot of jazzier electronic kind of stuff, Mike is a Green Day and Death Cab die-hard, and Ethan listens to a lot of cool current indie music like Milky Chance and Sylvan Esso to name a couple. I can't provide testament to their current playlists, but that's generally the gist of it.


GMAT: Favorite Comedian? 


Harker: My personal favorite comedian is probably Louis C.K. I'm not too into watching stand-up comedy, but I have seen every Louis C.K. special. I feel like he says everything that I want to say all the time, but he can actually get away with it.


GMAT: Cake or cookies? 


Harker: I've got to go with cake. It's just so versatile, I mean you can put ice cream in a cake, you can really do anything with it. Just think of it this way: you can make a cookie into a cake, but I bet you've never seen someone do a cake as a cookie. Then it's just a cupcake, which is completely different. Cookie cake it it's own thing, but still qualifies as a cake. It's wildly popular and you can't go one school dance without someone using a cookie cake to ask their date. Cake has to be the winner here, there's really no contest.


Check out Spirit Of The Bear on tour (dates below) and be sure to listen to Fade Into Blue out November 24th!


(First photograph by Kayla Hay)




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