IF THE PAST IS indeed doomed to repeat itself then it is surely worth noting the similar paths of Bear Hands and MGMT. Both have members who attended Wesleyan University before moving to Brooklyn, and both released a single on Cantora Records that brought their buzz to bubbling heights.
Now, we know what happened to MGMT—they signed to a major label, called in a terrific producer (Dave Fridmann) to lay down a thick glossy lacquer over Oracular Spectacular, and then got huge. The question for Bear Hands, whose Cantora single "What a Drag" came out last week, is what's next? Is it time to pretend, or will Bear Hands continue tramping down MGMT's path to glossy modern rockstardom?
While Bear Hands' percussive bent mirrors part of the sound du jour, their overall aesthetic is a bit of a throwback to a heavier indie rock of days past—when the only thing digital was the delay. There are hints of Modest Mouse in the group's tightly tethered rhythm and bass, over which warbly vocals are barked and blurted, and guitars poke and shimmer. Guitarist Dylan Rau acknowledges the seminal Northwest band's influence.
"I like Modest Mouse," he says. "That guy [Isaac Brock] made a lot of records that I really deeply enjoy." Like so many, Rau is fond of the band's early years, when Modest Mouse was a really big, devastating three-piece—in many ways similar to his own band.
All that remains to be seen is how the rest of America feels about Bear Hands' upbeat, danceable rock. This tour—a 10-week monster—will be their first time out West, but Bear Hands will be ready. To date they've played over 150 shows and translate their recordings to stage tightly.
Whatever happens, one thing is for sure: If Bear Hands do gain newfound popularity it won't feel sudden to them. "I've been in the band for three years," explains Rau. "So I don't feel like I could ever possibly achieve overnight success at this point." He continues, "I've kind of stopped looking for the moment. I don't expect someone to pull up in a limousine with champagne." Indeed, those are rewards of a bygone era: Today rock and roll success arrives through message boards and RSS feeds.