“All your friends are sober/Yeah we’re getting older/Going out’s a drag now/All my spots have closed . . . All I want is to forget how old I am/(Can’t remember anything else)/Nothing good happens past 2 a.m.”
The sentiments captured in indie-rock, post-punk Bear Hands’ latest song, “2AM,” can be appreciated by many 30-somethings. They’ve all but outgrown pre-partying rituals, and leaving the house for a midnight rave isn’t likely either.
Bear Hands is a four-piece group made up of Dylan Rau (vocals and guitar), Val Loper (bass), Ted Feldman (guitar), and TJ Orscher (drums). They touch on themes of fading youth throughout theirs catalog, including their latest record, “You’ll Pay for This,” which features “2AM.”
“I just turned 31, and turned 30 sometime while I was writing the album,” Rau tells encore. “That’s a milestone age, [and] it made me take a step back, self-reflect, and that definitely shows in some of the tunes.”
Folks may know Bear Hands from breakthrough songs like “Giants” or “Agora” off of their 2014 record “Distraction.” Upon release, the former track charted at number eight on Billboard’s alternative songs. They’ll be bringing their aging angst to the Brooklyn Arts Center (516 N. 4th St.) on Tuesday, May 24, with openers Black Mantis.
Released in April 2016 with label Spensive Sounds, the title “You’ll Pay for This” playfully nods to the “perpetual victim status” that’s been deemed indicative of Rau’s millennial generation. “Maybe I have a chip on my shoulder,” he quips.
Rau has played the role of lead songwriter in the band’s tenure. Yet, this album reflects more collaborative efforts with Bear Hands guitarist Feldman than the first two records, “Distraction” (2014) and “Burning Bush Supper Club” (2010).
“It’s been really great getting some fresh blood in the mix and having someone honestly tell you how your writing fits,” Rau says. “Ted and I had been writing songs for maybe a year or year and a half, but I think once we started recording the record was done in like five months or so.”
The Bear Hands company all grew up playing in punk bands and while it’s always been a huge influence on the music they make today, there are other sounds they carried over to create their experimental rock. Rau listens to a lot of work by rapper Young Thug out of Atlanta and Tycho, an ambient music project led by Scott Hansen. “It’s kind of hypnotic,” he says of Hansen. “It’s less song-based and more instrumental.”
Rau’s never set out to write about anything in particular, like getting older or having a chip on his shoulder. It’s just how things went for their latest 12-track collection. “Purpose Filled Life” offers a little more optimism at the end of the album. Along with “I Won’t Pay” and “Déjà Vu,” it comes closest to what Rau envisioned of the recording.
“That’s at least half the battle,” he tells of the writing-to-recording process. “It’s not like a computer or producer can read your mind or ideas.”
The band usually mixes a demo on a computer first, and during that process they will carve out parts and make modifications. Songs don’t always work out either. In fact, Rau says they ended up recording a couple of extra tracks that were ultimately cut because they simply weren’t working. However, knowing what worked and what didn’t also was a part of the band’s growth on this record.
“[With this album] we’ve become sharper songwriters and better lyricists, and I think the production is better overall,” he continues. “We’re very happy with how it came out and excited to finally release it into the wild.”
It’s only been about a month or so since “You’ll Pay for This” was released. Thus, it’s hard to tell how the songs will continue to develop over time. While the band is embarking on a hefty summer tour, Rau’s day-to-day still often revolves around songwriting. He finds lyrics at every turn—while pouring a bowl of cereal for breakfast or driving to the next tour stop. He never turns off so to speak.
“Honestly, a part of me wants to stay at home and start writing another record already,” he admits, “but touring has its own benefits and I enjoy it also. . . . Usually, songs take on a slightly different character live, but I’m not exactly sure how these will yet.”
Bear Hands also have hired a fifth touring member with Will Runge temporarily playing keyboard. Rau admits it was a little concerning when the idea was first presented to bring a new person into the mix, but their immediate chemistry eased any trepidations. “We’re excited to have Will on board—he’s more than capable,” Rau adds.
Folks can catch Bear Hands at the Brooklyn Arts Center on Tuesday, May 24, with Black Mantis opening at 8 p.m. For more details and tickets, visit www.brooklynartsnc.com.