Jon Philpot is a cool guy. Speaking over the phone from his apartment in Brooklyn, his easy and excited manner is obvious, despite his hangover. His band, Bear In Heaven, are a cool band, now on their third album. First premiered as a four-month long online stream, I Love You, It’s Cool displays a more tightly wound aesthetic than its predecessor, the indie-world-conquering Beast Rest Fort Mouth and its hit single, ‘Lovesick Teenagers’. Having lost bassist Sadek Bazarra after the recording of Beast Rest.. , the band carried on refining their artful pop sound even further and the evidence of that is clear on their third album with each member contributing more than ever before, and more efficiently too.
So, you’ve been living in New York a long time now, but why did you originally move there?
I think all of us came up here for work. I came up here because there was an opportunity to move into a place with cheap rent. I got up here and started working in the film industry and then for some crazy reason, we decided to start a band.
Finding a cheap apartment in New York is no mean feat.
Yeah, I guess. It was cheap by New York standards, but not by any other standards.
What part of the film industry were you in?
Editing. Then it sprawled into compositing and then shooting and then making entire things all by myself. A little bit of directing. I still do editing and Adam still does editing. We tried to get Joe into it but he didn’t really take to it too well. It’s not easy work. It’s very, very difficult work actually and I think that he just couldn’t handle the people or the work or something, I don’t know. Maybe one day he’ll give it another shot.
You could all work on films together then.
Maybe we’ll just stick to being in a band. We seem to have that thing down. We’ll leave the film stuff to collaborations with other people.
Have you been happy with the reaction to the new record so far?
It’s been really well received over here. I have no idea what’s going on over there! Is this weird to say, that I’m a little wary of coming over there and no one knowing who we are or what we’ve done? I don’t know, it’s kind of weird. I feel like nobody knows we made a new record over there. It could just be that I haven’t been paying attention, you know? This is one the very few interviews for anybody over on that side of the pond. It’s sort of weird like, I don’t know what happened!
But it’s been all good over there?
The reaction over here has been fantastic, really, really cool. We played in Brooklyn last night and it was so fun! We’ve had so many fun shows on this tour, a couple of bad ones but that just goes with the game, but yeah, some really cool shows.
Is playing a home town show different for you guys? Is there still something special about it?
Yeah, it’s different. Basically people are like, with you. I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s just this particular town or what but it’s really cool to come home and have this cathartic show where you just let it all out. You know you’ll have a couple of days off to recuperate. I’m actually speaking to you through a fog of tequila and stuff right now. Hopefully what I’m saying to you is making sense. I think it is. I can’t quite tell if I’m still drunk or what…
Have you slept yet?
I have slept, I just took a shower. I feel pretty ok but pretty weird.
A lot of bands, after they first start touring and playing big shows, write songs on their second album to fill those bigger spaces that they’ve been playing. They become bigger and louder and more danceable. You seem to have gone the opposite direction with the new album though.
That’s the funny thing about us because this is our third album so we’re in a different place where we’re thinking about our music in a different way. A lot of people started paying attention to us on our second record but yeah, I guess I can see how playing festivals and big rock things would make you want to ramp it up and do that but we don’t want to cater to that. We just want to make music that we like.
Did losing your fourth member affect the way you played?
We became a three piece and we had to tour as a three-piece. Basically when we toured as a three-piece we had to figure out how to play music that sounded like a four-piece. Through doing that we figured out a lot of stuff and basically used those ideas and that way of playing to write this record. It’s like Adam and I switch off playing guitar or we switch off playing bass. At once point Adam is now playing synthesizers. But during the entire show, we’re interconnected. Adam is playing synth stuff with his feet and then I’ve got my synths set up and Joe has his synth set up in the back. So we’re all multi-instrumental. It gives us a bit of a bigger sound rather than just guitar, drum and bass.
So you worked with a producer on I Love You It’s Cool. What was that like? Was it much of a change from recording and producing yourselves?
Yes, there’s a definitely a learning curve. It wasn’t so much the lack of control but more being able to communicate what it is you want, musically, sonically. You have to do it really quickly and it’s not a very easy thing to do, it’s very challenging. That was a big life lesson I think we all learned during the recording of this record. It was cool though, I’m very into it. I think the studio will push you into making a better record. Or at least a better sounding record! It might not make you write better songs but it whatever crap you’re putting down on tape, it’ll make it sound cool!
Was it a conscious decision to make a really cohesive record rather than more of the standout singles that were on Beast Rest Forth Mouth.
We always hope to make a record first and then singles are very secondary to us, that’s like a logistics type thing that have to do, you know? It’s more like we were able to just sit down and write a great bunch of songs and have them make sense together and also sound like that thing that we’re doing at that time, with those instruments. It was cool, it was really cool. It’s maybe a stupid mentality to be going against the trend but that’s just sort of what we do. We have deep roots in songs that are long. Long song records, that’s the thing. When you’re into that kind of thing it doesn’t feel right to just be cranking out singles, you know?
Well you do have the longest album stream in history.
Yeah, we have the longest record!
Until some younger band goes and stretches their out even further. You know someone’s going to do it!
Bring it on, motherfuckers! We’ll stretch out the stretch out so it’ll be even longer! We’ll stretch the stretch, it’ll be fucking crazy.
You’ve talked about the album stream in interviews recently and how it’s linked to drone music. How aware are you of that kind of outsider music? For instance, it seems like that’s one area in which the full-length album experience is still key.
To me, that music is for me, connected to planet earth you know? We’re all into drone music but it’s like, drone music is frequencies. When you’re listening to it and you’re making it, it’s almost like tapping into electricity, the aether or something like that. You get to hit that vibration and feel overtones. I don’t know, that’s like the essence of music you know? It’s really good, it feels good.
You’re just hitting upon something that’s already there.
You’re just tapping into it. It’s like opening a door and looking into a white light or something like that.
Rhys Chatham seems to be very much in tune with that kind of thing too. What’s it like to play with him?
Yeah, he’s a cool dude, I like that guy. Adam and Joe, they both played with him. Adam actually plays with Rhys a fair amount, like doing Guitar Trio around the city. Rhys does that piece a fair amount. I’ve only got the chance to play Guitar Trio once, it’s awesome! It’s really, really something else. Talk about being connected to the aether, that is weird! It is far out! It is something else. I wish everyone would just pick a day, grab six of your buddies and a drummer, you can have a bass player too, and just play an E chord man! It feels awesome!