Bjear is an Australian act who has taken us by surprise with the marvelous song Firefall several weeks ago. Introducing a very consistent and immersive indie rock sound, which sometimes gets close to references like Bon Iver or Volcano Choir, the song encapsulates the whole spectrum of feelings and the rawness of a home-made record. As we felt deeply in love with it, we could not wait to hear the full 9-track-album that Brae MacKee project is releasing in two days.
We are honored to give you a track-by-track interview on this very special debut album.
We would like to begin by asking you, who are Bjear? How did the project come about?
Bjear sort of starts and ends with me (Brae McKee) but couldn’t be what it is without the help, talents, and creativity of a bunch of other people. I guess I had/have the vision for the music I want to write, record, and play and couldn’t possibly do it without collaborating with others. There’s of a core group of friends that I hope to keep playing with forever (Luke Vianello, Dan White, Tom Montesi, John Day), but if they ever can’t or don’t want to I think Bjear will continue in some form.
It came about probably 5 or 6 years ago when I was 18. I’ve written a lot of music in that time but until recently haven’t had the skills to execute it in a way I was happy with.
We were wondering, what is the meaning behind the name?
haha. everything and nothing.
How would Bjear describe their sound? What are your main influences in terms of inspiration and sound?
I guess I’d say it sounds like me. That’s probably a weird answer but if you know me personally it probably makes some sort of sense.
So much has influenced and inspired our sound. It sort of feels like everything I’ve listened to and loved over the years has somehow made it’s way into what I write – even if that’s not obviously heard by others. If I’m to narrow it down to particular artists I’d say Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver, The National, Underoath, Sigur Ros, Pink Floyd, Frank Ocean, Talk Talk, Volcano Choir and John Coltrane.
Bjear (A), the album
You’re releasing your debut (and self-titled) album on Saturday, was it a long process until you recorded all the songs? Was the band goal to release an album after only one single has come out?
A really long process. I mean we’d recorded most of it in demo form and even released a few along the way, but it took me until 2016 to decide to take some time to hustle and record the album. One of the songs was written in 2010 and another in 2012 but there are some that were written two months ago. I wouldn’t say I had a goal to do an album – it was more that I had enough songs that I was happy with to justify recording an album.
The album is about the transition from youth to adulthood. And for such a young band this feels quite deep and instrumentally tailored. Does the feeling it transmits describe what growing older was like for you?
It does for me because the music and lyrics all mean a lot to me and all of the songs connect me to memories, places, people, feelings. Writing the lyrics has been a big part of me processing life over the last few years and sharing that feels cool but I also feel sort of exposed and vulnerable.
Firefall, the single
First things first, the first song we’ve heard from Bjear was the utter marvelous Firefall, which is the album’s fourth track. We’re completely drawn to its power and range. It seems to mix 90’s atmospheric with simplistic lyrics, but surprises every time we hear it, maybe because of the vocal intensity and the telling-story rhythm. What is it all about?
Too kind. It’s about a bunch of stuff – mainly a relationship. I sort of want to keep it vague haha. Some of my favorite artists have really vague poetic lyrics or even lyrics I can’t understand (Sigur Ros) and I’ve always appreciated how I can connect with them and find my own meaning in them, so I hope people can take all sorts of things from it.
Was it intended to be “the” single that would break through the musical ground for you?
Nah, not really. I released it because it was the first song we finished tracking and just wanted to get something out. It’s also Tom’s favorite so I thought I’d trust his opinion haha.
Sierra (track 1) for us sounded in bits like Bon Iver (from the first two albums) but rockier, almost mixing an Arcade Fire atmosphere to it all. How would you describe it?
That’s a very generous comparison – thank you. That song to me feels and sounds like a road trip I did with a friend in the states. A lot of nostalgia.
Was it the perfect opening for your album? Is it everything you were dreaming it to be, or more like an unexpected creative product?
I’ll let you and others be the judge of that one haha. I definitely had the intention to start things slowly and build from there and I think it accomplishes that.
The second track, Nevada, feels like a growing and inspiring song which mixes some soft indie nuances with a more aggressive instrumental approach in the end. A bit like what we loved from Local Natives. Can you tell us a little more about it?
Nevada is a bit of a strange mashup of genre and influence. The more aggressive parts you hear in it (and through the album) definitely come from my time playing, writing and listening to heavy music. Same goes for Luke’s drumming.
Is there a meaning behind the combination of the first and second track titles (Sierra Nevada)? Was it intentional since the first the moment you started writing both tracks?
I wrote Nevada a long time before I wrote Sierra and always thought Nevada would be the first track. When I wrote Sierra I decided it made a far better opener, but I still wanted the energy and joyfulness of Nevada to be really early in the album. The tracks being where they are with those titles is sort of just a happy accident and I hope it isn’t lame or anything haha.
Washington (the third track) starts with what seem to be some violins, but as its cadence accelerates, we feel it is much more about suffering or going through harder times than the previous songs?
Yea, the first two songs aren’t as deep or melancholy as the rest of the album but maybe foreshadow it in a few lines here and there. Washington is definitely darker and closer lyrically to the rest of the album.
After Firefall, Cold (the fifth track) feels like a heavy breath, or a pausing immersive moment. But only for a bit. The song grows like a reaction to something, maybe running way from a cold dark forest. What is this forest?
It’s sort of like a place or a time that seems perfect but in hindsight isn’t at all? That’s my best effort at explaining it right now.
The use of the trumpets is surprising and overwhelming in this track. Was it easy to record such an elaborate song in a home-made studio?
My room is pretty dead and my mics are sweet so yea, a lot easier than you might expect.
6. Big Sky
Big Sky (sixth track) starts like a breath of hope and seems built to feel much like a home-made song. But its lyrics aren’t so positive, and the transformation that it suffers in the end reflect that too. Is it a song about deception?
The original recording of Big Sky was the first track recorded with my current set-up at home and I wrote, recorded and mixed it in like 12 hours – so it’s very much a ‘home-made song’ haha. It’s probably more about self-deception than the deception of another.
Keeping the flow of the previous track, Hymn starts in a church. Is it like a redemption?
It’s a hymn. A psalm. It’s admitting that life doesn’t go as you plan it to and that acknowledging that and letting go of control can be really helpful.
The intensity of the vocals steal the show on this one. Have you ever played it live?
We haven’t yet, but we’re really excited to.
Is this a song to make everyone go to that little special place where feelings are more honest?
As I said earlier, it’s sort of a psalm – so it’s really personal. I wrote it for myself, with no thought of it being on the album or making anyone else feel anything. If it helps people someone something they wouldn’t usually feel then that’s cool but it wasn’t made for that.
The eighth track, is entitled Nell. Is it about someone special?
Yea, it is. It’s an expression of and story about grieving for the dead and the living.
As Tuolumne plays, we feel this album has played like a flowing river. Is this final song the shore we we’re supposed to reach?
I’m glad you feel that way. Tuolumne is definitely an ending and a song of closure for me. So yea, I guess it is the shore (or meadow) I intended to land reach.
A journey of no regrets
Thank you for taking us in this journey. Just some few questions to end with. If you could had anyone playing or singing in this album, who would it be?
This might be a really boring response, but I think it’s the album it is because of the people that are on it. It’s raw at times but I think that it best resembles Bjear, so I probably wouldn’t change a thing.
Is there any regret about all the music you made? And is there any regret about growing old?
No regrets. It’s where we’re at, it’s honest, and it has integrity – and that’s most important to me. No, life is beautiful.
Finally, where is Bjear looking forward to play? Can we expect to see you in Europe?
Not looking too far forward at the moment. We’re looking to play locally and hopefully in some other Australian cities if we can. We’d be honoured to have the chance to play overseas if the opportunity came. We’ll see what happens, but we’d love to play in Europe one day!
We at Where the Music Meets would like to thank you very much for this interview, this album has a special place in our hearts, and will certainly be one of the best things 2017 brings. We wish Bjear the best of success for 2017 and the years to come, and expect to see you again along the way.
My pleasure. Thanks for listening! Blessings.