Bearcubs’ rise to success over the last two years has been fairly consistent. The steady flow of originals, collaborations and remixes of household names have given his brand of electronica a good reputation. But tonight he delivers his debut live show.
Playing at Birthdays in Dalston, the underground smoke filled venue is a suitable setting for the man behind the synth. The set is testament to Bearcubs’ commitment as a producer, delivering a sound that he completely owns. His latest EP, ‘Underwaterfall’ is a forward step in his production, bringing melancholic wonky synths together with playful drums and his soulful hushed voice.
He’s timid, but why wouldn’t you be. This is the type of music you lose yourself to; playing it live is a challenge. Taking each track in his stride, he shows all the signs of a performer going from strength to strength. Keep up to date with all his progress here.
We caught up with Bearcubs before the show to talk production, touring and more.
We’re big fans of the new EP. Tell us about the inspiration behind it and what you set out to achieve in its production.
Thanks, glad you guys like the EP! The whole project grew around Underwaterfall. I wanted to make songs that each created their own atmospheres, using soundscapes as the means to do so. Especially with Underwaterfall, I wanted to make a song that creates the sensation of being underwater – there’s a feeling of being in a completely different world. Each of the tracks represent different sensations, almost like different states of being while on a journey throughout the EP.
In addition to originals, you’ve built up quite a repertoire of collaborations and remixes. What do you look for in another music producer before working with them on a project?
The main thing I look for are people with a distinct style or sound, who don’t necessarily pick the easy way of making music. The whole purpose in collaborations, in my mind, is to find unusual combinations that you wouldn’t normally hear – people that can perhaps push my sound to different areas, or inspire me in some way. I do get a lot of inspiration from visuals arts as well, I’d love to work with a visual artist at some point in the future to create something immersive.
In terms of the different instruments and synths you’re using at the moment, which are you currently really into?
I’ve actually recently got my hands on a Prophet 08! It’s such an incredibly powerful synth, really fun to play with as well. It helps to work with synths and instruments that are ‘outside of the box’, especially as a solo producer. I feel it helps to use electronic instruments that you can be really hands-on with, to get a more organic feel to the music.
You’ve said before that your approach to music production is to try and create something that doesn’t exist yet. This obviously runs against what you see in a lot of mainstream production where producers try and take advantage of sounds that are ‘of the moment’. Do you ever feel this pressure to conform or have years of your own production and success meant you’ve become completely comfortable in your own skin?
I wouldn’t say I have achieved the point where I am fully comfortable and set with my ‘sound’ – and I hope I never do, as I believe it’s important and exciting to always feel a bit out of your depth, as you never know what you could come up with next. Predictability is really boring to me.
When I was starting to make electronic music, I was definitely a lot more conscious of the sounds of the moment, where I was emulating my favourite artists, but I’ve definitely managed to break from that and attempt to make my own path.
You’ve got this European tour, followed by festival season. What’s your favourite thing about performing live?
It’s just a great feeling to see the reaction of the crowds, and to feel the energy in the room. It brings the songs that I’ve written in the studio, to the real world where they can take their own form. Aside from that, it’s always awesome to hear your music on great systems, really loud!
As a final question, given we are an arts-based magazine of all mediums, if you could recommend something to us, (besides your music!) to either listen to, read or watch, what would it be?
I’ve just discovered the works of John Berger, who was an incredibly insightful writer. Definitely check out “Ways of Seeing” – his ideas about art appreciation are very interesting, and he breaks down the snobbery that surrounds the art world.
Words and interview by Tom McGivan