For Bear’s Den, the experience of playing music is inseparable from driving. The London-hailing band has spent much of the past twelve months on tour, chewing up miles across America and Europe in support of Red Earth & Pouring Rain – the 2016 album that sounds like what it feels to be on the road.
A shimmering departure from the more acoustic Islands (2014), Red Earth came in the wake of long spells touring and a major line up change, channeling that displaced energy into a reignited sound. Progressing from Islands’ purer folk rock, they steered into electronic territory, painting signature nostalgic lyrics with future-facing intent. Themes of family, love, loss, home and the traps of memory – fragments of the human experience traced with disarming frankness. Like the tensions of driving, looking forwards while the past plays out in the rear vision mirror.
Tonight, Bear’s Den play Hammersmith before embarking on a full summer of festivals and solo dates across Europe and the US. To mark it, they took the time to share their ultimate driving playlist. From Tom Waits to Fleetwood Mac, and with some on-point reflections from Andrew Davie (“A road trip without Jackson Browne is like going for a walk with no shoes”), it’s an insight into the band’s influences, and of what will be rattling the car stereo in the weeks to come. Two hands on the wheel, now turn it up.
The Way It Is by Bruce Hornsby
“Turbo tune from a complete icon,” says Davie. “Bruce Horsnby has genuinely been an enormous influence on us as a band. Quite a few of the songs on Red Earth & Pouring Rain started their lives as Hornsby-esque piano jams. His style is so unique and beautiful and this song is just a classic.”
Fountain of Sorrow by Jackson Browne
“From one of the best records in the game Late For the Sky. A road trip without Jackson Browne is like going for a walk with no shoes. He’s a fantastic songwriter and the lyrics of this song still haunt me: “Fountain of Sorrow/fountain of light/You’ve known that hollow sound of your own steps in flight“.”
The Boys of Summer by Don Henley
“I remember a few years ago, Kev was playing this tune on this beat-up harmonium, my flatmate and I had bought on eBay for £11 and I remember both of us both just belting out that chorus: “I CAN SEE YOU….” It’s perhaps the ultimate driving tune and a massive inspiration on Red Earth & Pouring Rain.”
Everybody Wants to Rule The World by Tears For Fears
“A favourite of mine and Kev’s for years. Our songs Sahara Pts 1 & 2, Writing on the Wall and Red Earth & Pouring Rain were all massively influenced by this gem. We had the privilege of seeing them live at Bonaroo a couple of years ago and it was the best show I saw at the festival. Just an incredible song by a brilliant band.”
Ol’ 55 by Tom Waits
“A masterful slow jam from one of the greats. Back in the day when Kev and I first started chatting about starting a band, he said his favourite songwriter of all time was Tom Waits and I was only really aware of a few tunes. Pretty quickly Kev gave me pretty much the entire Tom Waits catalogue of records and this tune is a song I always go back to and always will. Undoubtedly best listened to while driving across America. Some of my best memories of touring have had this song as the soundtrack.”
Crawling Back to You by Tom Petty
“Perhaps my favourite Tom Petty song. Just a classic off one of my favourite albums: Wildflowers. The lyric: “I’m so tired of being tired/As sure as night will follow day/Most things I worry about/Never happen anyway” is one of my favourite lyrics ever written.”
Your Love by The Outfield
“SUCH A BRILLIANT DRIVING TUNE! Whenever this tune comes on I go a bit mental and have to sing the chorus as loud as I can. Such amazing harmonies and just a total tune!”
The Whole of the Moon by The Waterboys
“”I saw the crescent/you saw the whole of the moon“. Magic. I’m a massive fan of The Waterboys and think Mike Scott is one of the best lyricists of all time. Fisherman’s Blues and This Is The Sea are incredible albums. Its just such a beautiful song with a beautiful sentiment and it really lends itself to a road trip.”
Unknown Legend by Neil Young
“Hard to pick one song from Neil Young but this one captures that night driving spirit really beautifully. Joey Haynes –who used to be in Bear’s Den and is still like a brother to Kev and I – introduced me to this track and I have the fondest memories of us all singing the chorus to this song while chewing up the miles across America and whenever I hear it I’m just filled with the best memories of touring.”
Edge of Seventeen by Stevie Nicks
“Stevie Nicks is just the best and her albums Bella Donna and Wild Heart are just flawless for me. Not to mention all the amazing songs she wrote for Fleetwood Mac. One of my favourite voices to listen to. If Beyonce is sampling your tunes, you must be pretty badass.”
Red Earth & Pouring Rain is out now on Communion Records. Bear’s Den play tonight, 5th April at the Hammersmith Eventim Apollo. For more info on upcoming live dates head here.