London’s 1883 Magazine Interview Be The Bear:
Scandinavian indiepop duo Be The Bear have recently released their debut EP Fireships into the global arena, creating a musical landscape full of indiefolk, dance and electropop. Topping the Swedish iTunes charts with single Bad Things and enjoying airplay in the US, Singapore and Japan, the pair are helping Scandinavian pop gain worldwide status.
Read the interview here.
Made up of Danish-English Christina Wehage and Swedish music producer Mattias Bolin, Be the Bear talk to 1883 about their surprising success for an unsigned band, wishing they knew all of their fans on a personal level, and being scared of bears…..
How has growing up in Gothenburg influenced your music? What artists have influenced you?
Neither Mattias or me are from Gothenburg originally, but we have both lived here for many years now. I was born and raised in Roskilde, Denmark, and Mattias is from Skåne in the South of Sweden. Living in Gothenburg means you are surrounded by music. It’s a great city for seeing lots of new, small acts from all over. Compared to other countries I’ve been to, we do have a certain flavour and style, when it comes to music and fashion, and Gothenburg is quite proud of it I think. There is so much talent here, always something new brewing. I really love this city.
How did you feel about releasing your EP into the world? Are you happy about the reception it has received? You have topped the iTunes charts in Sweden, that’s a very big feat…
We are really happy yes, it has sold really well all over the world – I wish we knew who all of the people who are buying our music are so we could thank them, it really is an amazing feeling to have your hard work valued, and by so many people whom you have never even met. It’s a strange feeling, to share something personal like that with someone on the other side of the world, maybe sat on a bus on the way home or in a club, dancing. Because when you get into music that’s your biggest dream. In a band you only meet your fans at gigs, and we’ve been happy at the response there but we had no idea so many people were listening to us that we would top the charts, it’s completely surreal! Especially since we are unsigned.
Where did the name ‘Be the Bear’ come from?
I used to be scared of bears. I used to dream about them every night, often a big black one screaming and chasing me up old wooden staircases that were falling apart behind me. When dreams come back again and again I think it’s because you are trying to deal with something. Eventually I realised I wasn’t really doing what I wanted to do, what would really make me happy, I wasn’t facing my fears and challenging myself. I had always wanted to do music, and had always been writing songs but never showing it to anyone. So I put a song up on Myspace, just vocals in layers, and after a while Mattias contacted me. We started Be The Bear, and I haven’t had one nightmare about bears since.
Most bands don’t like to place themselves into a genre, but what would you describe your music as?
Alternative pop maybe? Haha, I don’t know, we haven’t really found a good one yet. Bad Things is electropop I suppose, but the songs from Fireships, the EP, are all quite different and we didn’t play around as much with the electronic. Howl is quite folky, Exploceans a little heavier and quite moody. As usual we try and let the music write itself. It all depends on where you are emotionally and what you are experiencing. At the moment we are quite colorful, jumpy and happy, so that is where the music is.
How do you feel about it being called “Scandinavian pop”?
That’s fine, we are quite Scandinavian after all. Scandic pop, someone called us once. I thought that was quite cute.
Do you think with the likes of Gotye and Fun, Scandinavian pop is gaining a new, worldwide reputation?
Actually, I think neither Gotye or Fun. are Scandinavian, Gotye is Dutch I think? But Scandinavian pop is gaining a lot of worldwide creds at the moment, with amazing bands like iamamiwhoami and Niki and the Dove, for instance. Both are Swedish, I think they’re fantastic. Since Björk and The Cardigans in the 90s, Scandinavian music has become a bit of a trademark. But there’s still a lot of amazing bands that aren’t really getting the full attention they deserve internationally. Norway has some amazing acts, like Susanne Sundför and Thomas Dybdahl, both Mattias and I love their music. And then there’s all of the great Danish acts too, like Mew (we love them), Efterklang etc. Because there’s a lot of competition in these countries, it really forces up the quality level.
What is your favourite thing about being in ‘Be the Bear’?
I was on the bus home from my sisters today, and for the first time in quite a long time I listened to our EP. When I listened to Howl I remembered every little detail of sitting in Mattias’ old house in Skåne, in the evening, knee-deep with snow outside, drinking coffee and laughing, the dog asleep. Mattias picked up the guitar and started playing, I started to sing along, and we improvised what would become Howl. We kept playing and playing all evening. We haven’t been able to do that for a while now, and I just really miss it, we really have had so much fun writing music together. We’re just so busy at the moment with gigs, recording and press – which is nice but you sometimes lose sight of the basic bit of being in a band which is being creative.
What would you have done had you not gone into music? Was there a cut off point to playing music, in case you didn’t make it?
We’ve never thought like that, it wasn’t ever like a business plan or anything – we just wrote music because we wanted to, because we had to, and we knew we were always going to write music. We were writing music before we started the band, but weren’t ever really satisfied. Writing music together just happened to be twice as fun, much more inspired and playful, and we are lucky that we click and the songs just write themselves. It’s really hard finding someone who works that well with you artistically.
How are you handling your recent success? Has a lot changed?
Honestly, we are just having so much fun and we can hardly keep up. I keep thinking I have to get some time to sit down and write it all down, everything that has happened, and just take a moment to catch up, but there are new things popping up constantly. We are learning a lot though, and this is really what we always dreamed of. I hope it keeps going well, so we can keep doing this for a long long time.
What does the rest of this year have in store for you? Will you be touring- if so where?
We are releasing a couple of new songs this summer (can’t wait to show you!) and doing some more gigs in Scandinavia. We have been approached to do a UK tour, and possibly the US further down the line this year, if we can get all the pieces to fit. We have been offered a lot of gigs, and we are so looking forward to getting out there! And to the readers: if you listen to our music and you like it, please, let us know – send us an email or chat with us on Facebook or something – it means so much to us and it’s great to get feedback.
Words by Elspeth Merry