If you go down to the woods today…
You’re likely to be met with a faceful of bass-heavy riffs, explosive choruses and potentially a stray bollock or two (more on that later). Meadowhead noise-smiths Bear Chest are back, Sheffield, and a band once touted as natural usurpers to the Dead Sons’ vacated throne will be turning up the sludge with a brand spanking new EP recently assembled at 2Fly Studios.
Intrigued? Excited? Downright emotional? We know we are, so without a moment’s hesitation Exposed asked the trio to play a new track live in session and collared the lads – Miles (vocals), Cal (bass) and Sam (drums) – for pints and a catch-up.
So we’ve got a new EP on the way, chaps. Spill the beans please.
M: Yeah, we’ve got a new EP coming out on May 4th. We’re self-releasing it through AWAL, and we’ll be looking to do a physical at some point but at the minute it’s just digital. Then we’ve got a video to bring out as well, which we’ll be releasing mid-April.
It’s all go then. How many new tracks on the EP?
C: Four. We did this one with Alan Smyth at 2Fly. The last one, ‘My Bones’, we did with Ross Orton back in 2016 and more recently we released ‘The Gout’ as a single back in November.
Two legends on the Sheffield music production scene right there.
M: Yeah, it was great to work with both. When we recorded with Ross, it was our first EP so we needed the honesty and guidance from him and then for the second one we had a bit more freedom. We’d like to get back in with Ross because he’s into the heavy stuff, but he was too busy at the time so we got in touch with Alan and just gelled really well.
C: Alan was great, just really laidback and left us to it really, which is what we wanted with this EP. Ross’ studio is right next to our practice room and he really helped us out with songwriting on the last one.
I remember ‘My Bones’ getting a good reception, and it was around the time when you were building up a bit of a name supporting Dead Sons and Slaves, but then things seemed to go really quiet. How come?
C: Just through being bone idle, really. We went through a phase where we weren’t writing bad songs, but it wasn’t quite there.
M: It was a period of transition. Like, on the first EP you can really hear a Queens of the Stone Age vibe, it’s a lot more indie rock whereas this new record has a lot more doom and sludge in there. It’s not to the point of screaming or anything, but you can definitely hear how the band has changed.
Is that just reflective of how your influences have shifted?
C: Yeah, more or less. But over the last year or so we’ve just sort of clicked and we’re now finding it a lot easier to write songs together, which is a good place to be.
S: You start to learn what works as a band.
C: We’re trying to get a bit better at the social media side of things, too, because we’re rubbish with that. We played that Slaves show to a sellout room of 4,000-5,000 and there was hardly anything online for them to look up afterwards. We did a silly video of us dancing in our pants the other day.
Is having to play the social media game one of the main bugbears about being in a band these days?
C: I mean, you basically join a band to play gigs, write songs and get pissed for free. Nobody joins a band to post stuff on Facebook. We’ve tried to make it a bit fun though.
M: We did a ball-swap the other day.
C: It’s another version of a face-swap.
M: We swapped his face with my bollock. On Instagram.
Ah, gotcha. Did it get many likes?
M: It didn’t do too bad actually. It was like 4am and we’d been drinking a lot of Stella that night.
To be fair, you’d rather see a bit of that than the dull, sanitised timelines some bands have.
M: Exactly, it’s just a bit of fun. You’re in a band to have a bit of a laugh at the end of the day so you don’t have to take that stuff too seriously.
Which of the new tunes will you be choosing for the Exposed session?
M: I think we’ll go for ‘Sphinx’. It’s been played on Sheffield Introducing but it’s not been properly released yet.
Tell us a bit more about the track, lay out the vibe for us.
M: It’s a bit of a groovy, riffy song.
S: A bit meaty.
M: You can definitely hear the doom and sludge coming through in the chorus, but the verses are much groovier.
S: It makes you move your hips.
The heavier side of things was really picking up pace around Sheffield a few years back, with Dead Sons, Wet Nuns and Drenge at the forefront of it all. Do you reckon we could be seeing a bit of resurgence anytime soon?
C: I don’t know, the lighter indie sound has made a bit of a comeback in the charts and is pretty popular again. When Royal Blood first came about, a lot more heavier bands started coming out – then it all seemed to die down a bit.
M: It sometimes just takes one band to break through and it can happen again.
I mean, you basically join a band to play gigs, write songs and get pissed for free. Nobody joins a band to post stuff on Facebook. We’ve tried to make it a bit fun, though.
There’s National Record Store Day coming up this month. Which record in your vinyl collection are you saving? You can only choose one, mind.
M: Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats.
S: Pink Moon by Nick Drake. Genius.
C: I really wanted my parents’ copy of Hotel California, asked them for it and everything but they said no. Somehow my sister’s boyfriend has managed to get his hands on it. Anyway, I’m really into Fuzz at the moment so probably them.
Owt in there which might be of deep social embarrassment?
S: I’ve got a Barbara Streisand in there, don’t even know where it came from.
M: There’s a signed David Lee Roth in mine. Is that bad?
C: Our lass has got Steps, but I don’t think I’ve got any bad’uns. I’ve got an old Meatloaf album or two in there – but that isn’t embarrassing, is it?
Not at all. And how’s the rest of 2018 shaping up for Bear Chest?
M: Plan is to get the EP out and continue working on songs. With the ‘My Bones’ release, we planned to play gigs around it, but no-one’s heard anything from us for a bit so we thought we’d fuck off booking gigs for a bit and focus on writing songs.
C: We try and hold out for the good ones. Five good gigs are better than 20 shit ones.
M: We ‘ve got a show at Café Totem in April, the sort of venue we like – small and sweaty. That should be pretty mental. I’d say to people: “Come see us. And be honest. If you think we’re shit, we want to know.”