China Bears are everything indie has been missing since angry post-punk took over and quite frankly as much as we’re pissed off with Brexit China Bears sound is the refreshing cold lemonade after a sweaty run; we’re feeling hydrated again. And as much as we’re as excited as everyone that IDLES and others are challenging toxic masculinity the press rant on as if music has never had male poets; come on guys we’ve always had poetry and now we have a new band of poets who aren’t literally screaming about their mental health. China Bears have just signed to Fierce Panda Records who might not mean much to you but having released early days work of Coldplay, Bloc Party and others these guys know what they’re on about. Are China Bears the going to be the next band to grace stadiums? If new single Stay For Good is any prediction, the answer is yes they will be. Here’s what lead singer/guitarist Ivan had to say to us recently.
Hi, thanks for taking the time to chat to us, how are you? You’ve just released your latest single Stay For Good which has been getting good Radio 6 airplay and praise; how does the band feel right now?
Thanks for having us! We’re very good thanks, we’re feeling super great about how the release of Stay For Good has been going, the response from BBC introducing and BBC 6 has been very warming and encouraging!
You’ve just come back from The Great Escape where Steve Lamacq spoke about being in the audience for one of your performances, how was The Great Escape?
We were over the moon to find out Steve Lamacq came to our set, the whole weekend was such a good time. We managed to cram in 3 shows in about 24 hours, so very tiring but definitely one of our highlights as a band so far!
This is your first work with a record label; how have things differed with that support? We must note that the label is the legendary Fierce Panda; how did this come out about and for a young band what were your reactions when the name Fierce Panda first started getting mentioned as an option for China Bears?
I met Simon from fierce panda a couple of years ago and reconnected earlier this year. We showed them the new EP and were thrilled they wanted to be a part of this release. Working with a label has been a new experience for us, one that we’ve enjoyed, Fierce panda work very hard and genuinely care about the music they put out.
We’ve heard Frank Turner commented that you are “Brilliant, I wish I sounded like that at my stage of their career”; what song or part of your sound he was talking about? How did this come to hear you? Frank Turner has had quite a wide scoping career, are there parts of his work that have influenced you and if so what parts?
We met Frank at our university graduation actually, he was the guest speaker. We played a couple of our songs, meet me in London and night calls, then had a chat to him afterwards, he’s a very nice man and has been very encouraging to us! You have to admire the amount of graft and hard work Frank turner has put into his career, something we look up to.
The Maccabees split at their peak in many people’s opinion leaving a hole for heartfelt, whimsical indie pop. Although you have your own take on this area of indie; how does it feel to be being bandied about as the answer to our hole? We’re aware you’re influenced by The Maccabees, how did the split feel for you? We noticed a low level of mourning among the industry losing them.
I’m a big fan of The Maccabees and was really sad to see them split up, we actually went to their last show at Ally Pally. Being compared to them feels humbling, as you’re right they definitely have had an influence on us.
To continue to press you, although we can’t get enough of the releases so far, can you chuck out some band names or musical styling influences to help paint an audio picture for our readers, your future fans?
We’re into bands like Frightened rabbit, the National, Snow patrol, Coldplay, Band of horses, but also singer songwriters such as Keaton Henson, Phoebe Bridgers and Ben Howard.
Your single Stay For Good appears to have a lyrical story of difficult romance, can you talk to us about the lyrical concepts of the track and the oxymoronic upbeat musical sound of the song?
The song definitely follows a tough break up I faced last year, dealing with life after and the change that comes with that. The oxymoronic upbeat compared to the lyrics weren’t intentional, it’s just what I wanted to say at the time, but I like tracks that do that, as mentioned before bands like Frightened rabbit and the National are great at this.
We’re aware there’s a second single coming and then an EP, obviously we want to know everything about it! When will the single be out; when will the EP be out; tell us all you can about your releases?
We have two more singles to follow, the next one being a track called Sunday, set to release on the 31st of May. The whole EP will be released this August, and we honestly can’t wait to share it with everyone!
With the support of a label often brings the ability to refine and shape your sound further; how true is this statement for China Bears? How much of a piece or concept is the EP as a whole or is it a collection of songs with no direct relationship but all fit well together?
I think that can be true but not in our case. We’ve been a band for a few years now and a lot of these songs have been with us for most of that time, not all. This EP as a whole is just about these last couple of years, moving from adolescence into adulthood, and all the changes that comes with that: your relationships, what you want in life and what kind of person you want to be.
Touring bands are always best people to ask about upcoming acts, you literally play with them as your supports; who’s been impressing you recently?
We’ve got to give a shout out to BRIDGES, October Drift, The Howl and The Hum and Sophie and the Giants, all hard working bands that write great music!
Questions: James Wadsworth