Monqui Presents


Bear Hands, Kiev

Tue, March 19

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

Roseland Theater

Portland, Oregon


This event is all ages

On an unseasonably warm night in March, 2013, within the august, hallowed walls of the Royal Albert Hall in London, something extraordinary happened. Five musicians took to the stage, launched into a song called Inhaler, and blew the roof off. For the 5,000-plus people who were lucky enough to be present that evening, the experience was more like a mass epiphany at a revivalist meeting than a gig. Foals whipped up a frenzy and sent it hurtling towards the audience, who gave it a shake and sent it hurtling right back. Two hours later, we staggered, reeling, out into the night. This was more than music. This was alchemy. But then, inevitably, came the fear. Could the band ever match this? My advice for the fretters is simple: put on track one – the title track and lead single – of Foalss visceral new album, What Went Down. Put it on anywhere – on your headphones, in the car, in the great wide open, and put it on LOUD. I buried my heart in the hole in the ground, sings Yannis Philippakis, like a fire-and-brimstone preacher in a Deep South prayer house, over eerie, pitch-shifting organ. With the lights and the roses and the cowards downtown. They threw me a party, there was no one around. They tried to call my girl but she could not be found. Thats when the beat kicks in, a giant Motorik beast of a thing that hurls the song forwards. A lowering, syncopating theme enters the picture, threatening to drag the song down into the depths. And, oh God, heres the chorus. It doesnt just arrive, it explodes. When I see a man I see a lion, Yannis screams. When I see a man I see a LIAR.Radiant, roiling, roistering, rabble-rousing: this is music that is at once beautiful and hellish, euphoric and demonic. What, and you were worried Foals couldnt match what theyd created before? Match it? Theyve fucking left it for dust. It cannot be the case that one type of music can be more resonant, more significant, than another. Music, from whatever genre, either connects or it doesnt; not because its chart-pop, or alt-country, or deep house, or art-rock, but because it speaks to us, baffles us, ensnares us. Sometimes, though, a band will ride roughshod over that logic, will create something that takes music beyond the usual narrow considerations of chart placings and boy-meets-girl platitudes, and renders all around it irrelevant, trivial, disposable. All of the truly transformative and era-defining albums have grappled with questions that are a world away from the bland bleatings of homogenised pop. Permanence and impermanence, life and death, solitude, vulnerability, intimacy, passion, rage, humanity –weighty issues that make demands of the people creating that music, and of all those who listen to it, too.
What Went Down confronts these issues head-on. Recorded with James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, Florence + The Machine) in the same Provence village where, 127 years ago, the artist Van Gogh was hospitalised in a psychiatric ward after slicing off his ear, the album sees the band take their songwriting to a new level. Yet it was, says frontman Yannis Philippakis, the easiest to make. We spent two months in the studio, and thats quick for us. Theres a propensity in the band to over-think, and sometimes undo what had been great in the first place, out of boredom or restlessness –or a desire to make something better. But it rarely is. But I think wed all have got bored of being in the band had we not had that restlessness. I mean, I cant begin to imagine, or predict, what the next record will sound like, but thank god for that. There are so many bands where you just know what their next move will be, because itll be the same as their last one.No sooner had Foals rounded off their world tour for the Holy Fire album with an incendiary headlining set at last Septembers Bestival, than they were back in the studio – and its that sense of urgency, Yannis says, that gives What Went Down its power. By the time we got to Bestival, we were playing the best we ever have. I had this image of the band as this 10-legged beast, this ruthless, elegant machine, with everyone pulsing at exactly the same frequency. The five of us were at this level where the shows were still reckless and on fire, but it felt like wed become this predatory animal, designed to annihilate the spaces we were in. The point is, if wed had two months to deflate, to re-enter normal life, before going back into the studio, the new record would never have sounded like it does.Too often in the past, Yannis has been crudely characterised as a tormented, chain-smoking obsessive, as someone not liberated by music but driven half-mad by it – to the point where its tempting to feel that those doing such pigeonholing would rather musicians and songwriters were opinion-free automatons, trumpeting the light-entertainment party line. Do we seriously want that? Or do we want artists for whom creativity is like mortal combat, who bear the scars of those battles but dont hesitate to re-enter the fray? Yannis is the first to admit that hes a poor advertisement for the serenity that music is supposed to induce. But for him, thats not the point. Hes not using music, using songwriting, to cauterise the wounds (wounds that most of us, if were honest, carry round with us, too). Hes using it to explore them, to attempt to understand them. Writing the title track came about during a period , Yannis says, where he was thinking a lot about masculinity, but also about being an animal, being violent and primal. When I sing that song I feel like Im this fevered, skulking, brawling person. But again, theres a vulnerability in there, too, and I think thats got something to do with moving to London. Id been in Oxford for so long, and I had to recontextualise myself, Id marked the lampposts in Oxford, I knew my co-ordinates. In London, I thought, Im one of 10m people you know?Its about trying to escape yourself, too; trying to tear everything away.The decision to work with James Ford was an easy one, Yannis says. The chemistry was just immediately right. He doesnt praise you, hes very British in that respect. I remember, for the first few days in France, Id be going, Whys he not being more encouraging? It took me a while to realise that that was a good thing. There were two clear aims this time: a really lean sound, nothing extraneous, nothing too fluffy, trying to get away from some of the more epic tendencies the band have. At the same time, we wanted to explore the more experimental side of the band, and push the extremes out further, in every direction – to dial everything up, to make the heavy stuff even more menacing.
Bear Hands
Bear Hands
In an age where Instagram and YouTube clips dominate the ways in which fans consume music, Bear Hands have reached for something more traditional. With their third album You'll Pay for This, they've crafted a record that holds the listener in its grip from start to finish. Attention spans maybe shrinking, but Bear Hands have overcome distraction and completed a truly coherent album, further developing their sound without losing one iota of edge. Growing up doesn't mean growing old; it means getting smarter!

You'll Pay for This was recorded in a Westchester, NY home and a Brooklyn studio. It was co-produced by guitarist Ted Feldman and long time Bear Hands collaborator James Brown (Foo Fighters, Arctic Monkeys) and mixed by Alan Moulder (Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, Foals). The album is full of layers and synths, but it still feels organic. You can feel the pulse of kinetic energy surging through each note, riff, chord, and melody.

"Our band has been the same four guys for all nine years," said Feldman, nodding to songwriting partner and singer Dylan Rau and Bear Hands' impeccably solid rhythm section, bassist Val Loper and drummer TJ Orscher. "We've witnessed all the classic music industry cliché journeys play out our periphery - bands blowing up to stardom, bands crippling under the spotlight, crippling under no spotlight, bands tossed off by labels or the press… but we've somehow been able to keep a relatively steady hand."

You'll Pay for This is a potent mix of sticky 70's songwriting, CBGB's and Factory Records era post-punk guitars, and the high drive of modern pop and hip hop. It's like a flawlessly executed genre unto itself. The music is intense, relentless, and totally dreamy. However, the lyrics maintain a snarky playfulness that keeps things grounded. As Feldman astutely noted, "We take our work seriously but what's life without a sense of humor?"

Rau concurred, "As we get older, we have more fun winking than pouring our hearts out. We spent our early 20s in New York going out many, many nights. Finally, the fear of missing out is subsiding and we're realizing that being happy with yourself is more important."

The road to that happiness (and the band's origins, actually) can be traced back to their first album Burning Bush Supper Club, released to critical praise in 2010, but it was their second album, 2014's Distraction, that truly introduced Bear Hands to the world. They enjoyed healthy radio airplay, notching a Top 10 hit with "Giants" and a Top 20 single with "Agora," the latter of which they performed on Conan, marking their late night TV debut. Feldman recalls that experience as a bit surreal after witnessing the Batmobile being refueled while waiting to play. Bear Hands also built an impressive live resume, touring with acts as diverse as Cage the Elephant, Killer Mike and Passion Pit, as well as securing slots on all of the "can't miss" festivals like Coachella, Lollapalooza, Reading & Leeds, Outside Lands, Life Is Beautiful and Made in America's Philadelphia edition.

But Bear Hands are hardly just another indie rock band from Brooklyn plugging away.

With You'll Pay For This, Bear Hands actually had an endgame and a strategy. "It was the first time we could afford to focus and write a record," Feldman said. "All the music we made prior to this record was created in between jobs, touring, and life stuff. It was kinda cobbled together. On this one, we actually had the time specifically to make it. And we knew that what we made was going to be released, and there was going to be an audience for it. So that was a really different atmosphere to start with."

Rau agreed, saying, "The band now feels like something that is not going to go away and it feels like it's permanent."

That meant heightened expectations, further drive, and new responsibilities with the creation of their own record label, Spensive Sounds. Bear Hands became less a passion project and more a viable career path. The members attempted to adjust accordingly before finding their groove.

It took a minute. But it was worth it.

Feldman first approached this album with a 9-to-5 mentality. "I did that for a couple months," he admitted. "It didn't work out. I got depressed. I wasn't completing much. I didn't know how to use time that way. It was Brooklyn, winter, and I was in a window-less room. It wasn't the vibe."

Rau noted his own songwriting brutal truths, saying, "The first verses and choruses are easy. The hard part is finessing a song. There is a lot of detail work and editing. That's not sexy. Like John Lennon said, 'The second verse separates the men from the boys.'"

In order to get to those all-too-important "second verses," Feldman and Rau, who've been songwriting partners since their days at Wesleyan University, extended a tour stop in California and holed up in a mountain cabin east of L.A for three days. The duo did nothing but write, and it was the turning point. Rau, who confessed that he usually writes music on guitar while watching TV, relished the lack of WiFi and the ability to narrow his focus. As a result, the concentrated, 72-hour sessions were extremely productive.

The first single "2AM" is a groove-heavy burner, written collectively over time. Less of an "a-ha" moment, it revealed itself when it was ready. In the chorus, Rau laments "Nothing good happens past 2AM." Sonically, it's perfectly suited for one of those personal apocalypse climax scenes in an indie flick. Lyrically, it is indicative of the band's evolving mentality.

"There are themes of aging and changing. Maybe we've had our fair share of ugly nights," Feldman said. "It's a parenting cliché, but maybe it's true?"

Then there is "Boss," which starts out whimsically before launching into a torrent of angular riffs and the semi-snarled one-liner "I'm the bitch and you're the boss." Meanwhile, "Too Young" features a riff written in a car driving through Belgium, and imagines the future of a precarious relationship. "Purpose Filled Life" is a song that Rau penned while alone in his railroad apartment in Brooklyn. "I had to sing in falsetto the whole time, since I didn't want anyone to hear me next door," he recalled. "We weren't making money, I barely had a job, and it was a scary time. People were leaning on me to become more stable and I hoped the song would be like a self-fulfilling prophecy." The singer also nodded to "I Won't Pay," which has many unique parts and "an explosion at the end… since everyone likes explosions." #Truth.

You'll Pay for This is a sonic document of a band growing and moving into the next phase of its career and of young men graduating to the next phase of their lives. And it has a simmering intensity coursing through its veins. In effect, the album is like "the second verse." It will be what separates Bear Hands from their peers.
Kiev's full-length debut, Falling Bough Wisdom Teeth (co-produced/engineered alongside Chris Shaw – Wilco, Super Furry Animals, and released by Suspended Sunrise Recordings) follows two independent EPs: 2010's Ain't No Scary Folks In On Around Here and 2011's, Be Gone Dull Cage & Others (co-produced by Darrell Thorp – Beck, Air, Radiohead), which was reviewed as "trippy and cerebral at the same time, occupying that sometimes-exhilarating, sometimes-discomfiting space between left and right brain." The singles, "Crooked Strings" and "Falling Bough" have received extensive airplay on KROQ's Locals Only show, while Kiev was named "Best Indie Band" consecutively at the 2011 and 2012 Orange County Music Awards (cited for "intricate, eclectic music and big live sound") and earned an emerging artist spotlight from
Formed in Orange, California, Kiev was a slow burn, extracting inspiration from improv while carefully adding members over the years. Working in cohesive insularity in their creative space, a 1940s avocado warehouse, Kiev organically metamorphosed into a fully realized multi-dimensional collaborative by 2009. Between the five members, an intricate, tight-knit web of post punk, psychedelic funk, indie, jazz, jam, and minimalist styles are conjured through meticulous musicianship and mastery of electronics. Adding to the musical imagery on Falling Bough Wisdom Teeth are guest players contributing French horns, bass clarinets, bassoons, trombones, oboe and ARP synthesizers. A strong visual element is an integral part of Kiev's live shows; the quintet often adds a multi-faceted, tightly choreographed 3D projection element, which earned them the "3DFF Pioneer Award" for their performance at the 2011 Los Angeles 3DFF Theatre Fest.
As the two-part album title indicates, the hour-plus aural journey that is Falling Bough Wisdom Teeth mines more than one source for inspiration: The cover painting, titled "Falling Bough," by revered contemporary artist Walton Ford and '60s minimalist music pioneer Steve Reich. Despite the band's heady levels of musical, lyrical and visual creativity, Kiev creates inclusionary music that can be appreciated at any - and many – levels. Fans of contemporary artists like Grizzly Bear, My Morning Jacket, and Jaga Jazzist will find a familiar sense of sonic adventurism, technical prowess, and emotional intimacy in Kiev. "It's all a result of a deep connection the band has that we hope extends to the audience. Any given song contains each guy's fingerprint," Kiev concludes. "The cohesiveness speaks to how much time we spend together and how well we know each other."