Post-punk/rock band Bear Hands just celebrated their 10th anniversary and are currently on tour with Foals. We were able to catch them play at the Hollywood Palladium and chat with guitarist Ted Feldman about their new album, tour life, and a little friendly competition with Foals.
How did you guys meet?
I went to college with Dylan, our singer, and he introduced me to Val and TJ at our first practice, in NY, the summer after my freshman year. Dylan and I met on the set of working on a film together.
What type of film?
It was like a student film. It was like a historical fiction student film.
Was it good? *laughs*
I don’t know how it came out. It was probably… she got a passing grade.
Oh you never watched it?
I don’t remember seeing it in the end. It was alright * Laughs*
Alright, so since you guys have been together for ten years now, your anniversary just happened. Has the dynamic changed over the years, at all?
Because you guys have obviously grown as people. Ten years is a long time.
Absolutely. When we started, from the first day, we were arranging altogether on the fly, some songs that Dylan had written. Over time, I’ve done a lot more writing and I think our sound has changed. We’ve had more instruments and electronics. And yeah…. I don’t know, its hard to say exactly how, but we’ve gone from being really excited by playing with new people to being keenly aware of everyone's habits. There’s a lot of chaffing that happens when you know what someone’s about to do before they do it. You go from hating that to loving that.
The predictability! And wanting to change it. And we used to fight a lot more.
It’s not like the honeymoon phase anymore, you're in the comfortable phase
Yeah, we know each other very well. I don’t know how much more the dynamic will change from here. Things happen, people move cities.
Since you were speaking about habits, you’ve toured with Passion Pit, Cage the Elephant, all those big massive bands, has anything they’ve done rubbed off on you? Either musically or not.
I don’t feel like we’ve been influenced musically by the bands we’ve toured with, but certainly seeing what is possible on a stage or steal some gear.
You try it out?
Yeah you try it out or you realize theres a lot of routing instruments. It could be simpler. Like of course, I can run my pedals this way. Things that seasoned bands or more professional bands or bigger bands, like have things streamlined that we’ve adopted.
Now the album title, You’ll Pay For This... why? Because I think that’s such an interesting album title that just grabs your attention.
What does it make you think of?
Honestly, I think of a guy going “you’ll pay for this!” with his fist balled up and like kind of angry OR like you’re going to pay for this album!
Exactly! That was the intention. I think those things, those kind of funny cartoon-y revenge thing and (we’re) in this crazy time of streaming music. But also I thought it was fitting because of some of the lyrical aspects. Like there are consequences for actions and what you do when you’re 21 alters your life when you’re 29.
If anything, it makes me question why? Its not clear, which I like. It made me think about it. What do you think is different about this album than Distraction? Other than obvious sound differences, more electronic influences.
Yeah, the arrangements are thicker. We paid less attention to how’d we execute it live before we made the record. Which gave us the freedom to add all sorts of layers and things and we’re still sort of figuring out how to rearrange and translate it for live shows. We worked with James Brown, who mixed our other records. But he was in production with us and I think that changed the dynamic of the sound a lot. I also think the songwriting went longer and deeper.
Do you think sequestering yourself up in Big Bear really helped with that?
Yeah its a lot easier, or a lot more effective, when youre sequestered and don’t have any distractions. You spend all day and all night finishing an idea. Like if you have an idea, and if you have dinner plans, you’re gonna abandon your idea because you have obligations. If you have an idea and you get so far and you need a break, but there’s literally nothing else to do, you keep working on it. You’ll get to the next stage.
Since you guys have been touring for about 10 months solidly or a pretty good chunk of time, is there anything you NEED to have on the road?
I need time blocked out for us to take care of business stuff and things that just aren’t the shows. Because if we don’t sit and have a meeting and talk about release schedules and videos or whatever, it just doesn’t get done. You get into a routine during tour and everything just kind of falls by the wayside. So having that and also blocking out time for myself. Just making an effort to get away from the touring party and do something on my own.
It helps you keep your sanity a little bit?
Yeah positive headspace. Yeah and its all awkward or weird if we’re all sitting in the van and someone just shouts out the important decision we have to make. We’ll just deal with it later.
You don’t know if everyone’s ready to deal with it in that exact moment in time. So scheduling really gets everyone mentally prepared?
Yeah, so I‘ve learned that you need to make an effort to schedule time to focus on business but also personal well-being
Is there anything influential that you’ve seen? Places, things that have happened during the shows, just moments that make you go "Wow I can’t believe I’m seeing or experiencing this"?
This tour so far, this is day four of this run, and we’re playing these really beautiful theaters. So yesterday we walked into the Fox Theater in Oakland and a lot of people were telling us how great it was. But then we were standing there at sound check in an empty place and Val and I were talking about how lucky we feel to be able to play in an amazing room like that. Some times things are really hard but what a privilege (its is that) we are able to do this for our work and for fun. Also I had a really crazy Uber driver that I was happy about.
*Laughs * Happy about? Crazy in a good way?
Yeah, he was an intelligent and maybe crazy dude.
Yes, we got into a deep philosophical discussion about the origin of man.
How long was this Uber ride?!
Like 30 minutes.
I was kind of let in on the fact that you guys like to have basketball matches. How’s that going so far?
Actually we haven’t played yet. But Foals is carrying a hoop with them in their uh…
Like a sticky hoop of sorts?
No like a stand up, regulation sized hoop. And we all got Nikes.
So you’re like prepped. Are they matching?
Uh well, they all have swooshes on them.
*Laughs* Well whats your prediction for that?
Well we have this new crew member, named Aaron, that does our monitors. He’s like 7…. like 7 something. He’s insanely tall.
So you’ll stick him under the hoop?
Yeah, so now we are just gonna detroy. We have the advantage.
Last question: so since you just started this tour, what do you hope will happen by the end of it? I know that’s a very broad question.
Well like with any tour, I hope that we’ve reached some new people, converted some new fans. That would be ideal. Most people will be coming out for Foals but I hope they catch some of our set and enjoy it.
Well they’ll be paying for it, that’s forsure!
Certaintly. We’re just happy to be on tour with friends and having a good time.