Spirit of the Bear shifts POV on latest album

Writer: Alex D.

Spirit of the Bear took a different approach to its second LP "Fade Into Blue" than its last ("Remains" 2016). Released on Nov. 24, the band wrote the entire album from scratch in full collaboration with each other. In May 2017, the members of Spirit of the Bear moved all of their equipment from their respective homes into a 100-year-old house in a small neighborhood in the tiny town of Columbiana, Ohio.

 Album Artwork by Benjamin Toomey

Album Artwork by Benjamin Toomey

Spirit of the Bear then sat down and started mapping out would become a collection of intimate stories about what the bandmates and shared friends have experienced. The tracks log their high school maturation into the responsibilities and situations of college and beyond.

Singer and guitarist James Harker had the chance to chat with In The Record Store prior to the record’s release.

ITRS: Tell me about the title of the album "Fade Into Blue." Where did it come from and how does it relate to the feel of the album?

James Harker: Yeah, we set out to tell a bunch of stories about things that have happened to us over the past year. Things that we've encountered when we've gone out to play or there's a couple songs on here about friends of ours and stuff they've gone through that we were there for. So we would talk to these people and ask them to tell us their story, then we wrote songs about them. The songs are from the perspective of how to deal with it rather than just talking about the problem or situation only.

ITRS: So it's a little more therapeutic in a sense then?

JH: Exactly. We released our last album not quite two years ago and we were all young. The oldest member was 18 or 19 at the time, and now we are all in college dealing with "real life kinda stuff," I guess. It's not as cliché as it sounds. "Fade Into Blue" is a line from "Run My Mouth." We didn't have a title at first, so when we thought about a title, that lyric kind of made sense when we thought about it. It's like your way of going into a state where you can deal with the problems that we talk about on the album.

ITRS: I totally understand that. What was the writing process like for this album then? Was it different from before?

JH: It was really different. We moved all of our equipment into this old house and for a month we wrote and recorded a lot of the album. Before, it would be one or two of us writing the core structure and then the other guys would fill in. This time we were together the whole time. So, Mike (Perorazio) would come up with a bass line and then we would spend the next six hours working on it.

ITRS: That's a beautiful thing, to be able to have that time together to really dig in. So does that same collaboration happen with the lyrics and melodies?

JH: That too was more so all of us unlike our previous album. The song "Why Can't We Talk About It," was written lyrically and melodically by Danny (Svenson) and I did "White Flag" and "Lacuna," but pretty much the rest of the songs were someone else's idea. Someone like Mike (bassist) would have an overall idea and we'd work it out.

ITRS: You said that there are stories being told throughout the album. What is the story behind the  song "A Year Ago?”

JH: Sure, that song everyone thinks is a break-up song. My girlfriend thought it was about her when we had a fight. It's actually about a friend of ours that had planned to go live with his father and step mother for his first year of college. A year later when it was time for him to move in, they said it wasn't going to work out and he had no backup plan, so he took a year to work and get his own place so that he could go to the school he had planned to.

ITRS: I've actually had friends in similar situations. It's always rough, but they all made it our on the other end stronger and more ready for anything. It's intensive "adulting," in a way.

JH: It's stories like that and ones about relationships that we really wanted to talk about on this album, and I think we succeeded.

"Fade Into Blue" showcases the band's talent for songwriting, diving deeper and more conceptual than the previous "Remains," which was more pop and dance driven. Spirit of the Bear hasn’t lost the groove; you'll still dance, but the way the album moves, you'll hear many different influences at play.

"White Flag" has more hints of jazz and showcases Harker's smooth falsetto. "Lacuna" gives you a familiar pop vibe but chills with crispy keys. Then "Open Eyes" gets a little dirty with bluesy rock stylings allowing the album to breathe a bit. There's a song for every listener, and the execution from the boys of SOTB knocks it out of the park.

"Fade Into Blue" is out now and available to stream on iTunes and Spotify. You can also catch them December 9th at Rumba Café with locals Captain Kidd and The Raquels. The show starts at 9 p.m. and tickets can be bought online for $10.