YOUTH Radio: Interview with Bear Hands' Dylan Rau

by Amy Karp

From left: Dylan, Ted, Val, TJ
Dylan Rau, lead singer of Bear Hands, the always incredible indie-rock/post-punk band from Brooklyn, graciously accepted my plea for an interview and exceeded all expectations and preconceptions I had about how our interview conducted over Facebook messenger, yes, Facebook messenger, would turn out. And here you thought messenger was only used so that people who don't know you well enough to have your number could bother you 24/7. Actually, on second thought, that is exactly what I used it for. But back to Bear Hands--here are some essential facts about the band that I took straight off their brief but informative Wikipedia page.
The band consists of Dylan Rau, Val Loper, Ted Feldman, and TJ Orscher, and they have been together since 2006. The band has released one EP, Golden, and two LPs, Burning Bush Supper Club and Distraction. They have opened up for Cage the Elephant on tour and played a myriad of festivals, the likes of Coachella, Lollapalooza, and South by Southwest included. Also, I am quite familliar with Bear Hands as I have seen them three times in concert and met them twice, so I truly hope they do not think I am a stalker after all this.

Here are the Qs and As(:

Q: Have you all always wanted to be in a band or did you always know you were gonna do something awesome with your lives or anything like that?  
A: I fantasized about being in a band since fifth grade so yes I think it's been swirling around in my brain for a long time. Had a band in high school and spent more time at college writing songs than doing homework so pretty one track mind-y.

Q: I am really interested in the creative process. The making of a song is something I have never really been able to really wrap my head around. Do you normally have lyrics first and then work out the instrumentals? And who does what during the creation of a song?  

A: About half the time I come up with a lyric before any music exists and then I'll try to match it to instrumental loops that I make on my computer or sometimes something that Ted has come up with. We both write songs in Bear Hands and we always bounce stuff off each other, send MP3s back and forth etc. After the song gets closer to completion we'll bring in Val and TJ and get the drums/bass going and figure out how the song will work within the live band context.

Q: Also, are all of your songs really personal to you or do you ever make a song playing a character or just out of something random that you end up liking?  
A: Depends on the song. Some are pretty close and some are about other people real or imagined. Take stuff out of the newspaper, TV, Youtube comments that kind of thing.
Q: What is next for you all? Are you playing any festivals this year, touring, or working on a new album perhaps?  
A: We're close to completing the writing process on our third LP. Hopefully, we'll get it out in 2015 but no promises. We have a couple of one off dates book. I know we're doing Firefly in Delaware but that might be the only festival on the books right now.

Q: In Giants, you reference Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and I follow your Rad Genetics playlist on Spotify that is mostly gangster rap. Do you guys all really like rap and does your love of the genre have any influence over your music?  
A: Yeah I think we all enjoy rap, probably Val and me especially. I try to let all kinds of music influence my writing while maintaining authenticity where possible.

Q: Who else is a big influence to you / artists you look up to a lot?  
A: Obama, Howard Stern, Bob Dylan, Mark Ronson, Larry Bird.
Q: In what ways do you feel you have evolved from the Golden EP? If you listen to the EP and then Distraction, there are definitely a lot of major differences.  
A: Well the music is pretty significantly different I think. We were way more guitar centric then, didn't have a keyboard in the live set up etc. Also I was really the only songwriter back then whereas the band has grown into a more collaborative entity these days.  

Q: Dylan, my whole family (especially my mom) is dying to know if you do yoga and in general about those awesome poses you always break out on stage. (*FYI Dylan tends to do poses somewhere between yoga and breakdancing at least once during a concert*)  
A: Ha, I've done yoga prolly five times in my entire life. Mostly at some sports camps I went to when I was like 14. It's not a part of my daily life but I kinda like it I guess.

Q: How do you get ready and excited before you go on stage? Do you have any rituals that you have to do or something like that?  
A: Warm up my voice and drink whiskey. Try not to talk too much.

Q: Do you have any songs that you get bored of playing but feel like you have to because the audience wants to hear it or, conversely, a favorite song to perform? And do you ever really want to play an old random song that you can’t or do just always play all the songs you want to?  

A: Songs perpetually feel old to the people that wrote them/play them every night just due to overexposure but if it's a good show and people are having fun those feelings really melt away and it's easy to have a good time playing what people want to hear.  

Follow Bear Hands on Spotify here; the Golden EP was recently released on there and they have a lot of interesting playlists on their page

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