“We want to be the best live band on the planet,” says Will Irvine, lead singer of British rock group Hunter & the Bear.
“I guess a lot of people are aiming for that. We’re going to beat them to it.”
It is an audacious statement and some may be accused of outrageous arrogance to say such a thing, but for Hunter & the Bear it shows their determination and dedication to their craft.
The four-piece recently announced the name of their first album, “Paper Heart”, which was mixed at new studio The Gallery in Acton and is due for release in May.
This will be followed by a massive slew of shows in support of the record, including a show in London in June.
Will started the band with friend Jimmy Hunter beginning by playing cover songs before realising they had the potential to take things more seriously.
“We took things off after we finished university,” Will said.
“We were playing in pubs at the time as you do, doing covers, and we just thought let’s try and write some of our own stuff and we did and decided it was was sort of not terrible and worthy of giving it a go.
“We had never even considered music as an actual career option, it was just something we did for fun.
“The songs just got a lot better the more and more we did it.
“When we moved to London, that was the difficult thing.
“What are you going to do for money? Where you going to live? And London rent isn’t easy to deal with, so we were staying on friends’ couches and stuff and doing it as much as we could but it wasn’t easy to get gigs at first.”
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The duo made a great impression everywhere they played, with venues inviting them back for more, meaning the gigs just kept on coming.
After doing the circuit and honing in on original songs, they set their sights on building their sound, but to do that they needed reinforcements.
“Two guitarists isn’t enough to be a proper force,” Will said. “So then we found the other two guys which was great.”
At the time, Jimmy and Will had a monthly residency at the upstairs venue of Soho’s Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club.
They “stole” drummer Gareth Thompson from another band playing there at the time and auditioned for a bassist.
Only one guitarist showed up for the audition, Chris Clark, but Will said luckily for them he turned out to be “the best musician I have ever seen or played with.”
The beginning of 2014 marked the expansion of the band, which was the turning point when their fledgling career jumped up few serious notches.
They were asked to support guitar and rock royalty, Eric Clapton, who was looking for an up and coming unknown rock band to take on the road of his UK run of shows.
“Which was terrifying,” Will said. “It was massive and brought us on so much as a band.
“We were rehearsing and writing, it was a crash course on getting things tight and we did ourselves proud in the shows and it was great.
“The fact that we did that immediately opened lots of opportunities in terms of festivals and people wanted to book us for tours.
“It all kicked off after that.
“We knuckled down and we were happy where we were at but we wanted to be so much better than this still.
“We hankered down and got writing and released an EP.
“Since then we have been growing and the same things happened as did with our first shows, everywhere we go wants to have us back.”
Whilst the band loves recording and writing, Will said a live band is what they are, describing it as their biggest strength.
The live shows have also been the crucial funding source to enable them to record and create music videos.
“We decided we need to make music that we love, and if other people love it, it is a great bonus,” he said.
“If you find yourself trying to write to a brief of what people might like, that is never going to be a recipe for a good thing.”
Paper Heart has ten tracks, and for each one the band have a video to go with it.
“We have been so, so busy and really proud of everything we have done so far,” Will said.
It is difficult to pin Hunter and the Bear into a genre. They take inspiration from stalwarts of rock and roll such as Led Zeppelin and Dire Straits, but also look up to modern kings of the scene including Biffy Clyro and Foo Fighters for inspiration.
Will says they have a range of sounds and styles, from the softer end of the spectrum with singer/songwriter-esque material, to tunes verging on the edge of metal.
“We are in this for the long haul”
“It is a real mix, definitely,” Will said.
As for the future, they are already thinking towards knuckling down and working on album two.
“We are in this for the long haul,” Will said. “We want to be the best live band on the planet.
“I think that is only achievable if you play lots and lots and lots and keep progressing every day. That is what we are aiming for.
“I guess a lot people are aiming for that. We are going to beat them to it.”
Will said they have built a great relationship with their producers Joe Kearns and Jason Elliott , both from west London who recently founded their new studio, The Gallery, in Acton.
“They are two of the best in terms of young producers at what they do,” Will said.
“It is ridiculous we get to work with them.”
Hunter & The Bear’s latest single “D.R.K” is out on February 28 and The Paper Heart tour starts in June including the following dates:
London, Borderline June 14
Brighton, Patterns June 15
Oxford, 02 Academy2 June 16
Birmingham, O2 Institue3 June 17
Newcastle, The Cluny June 18
Manchester, The Deaf Institute June 20
Leeds, The Lending Rooms June 21
Tickets can be bought from here .
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