Hunter and the Bear released their debut album just over a year ago, but the four-piece are already set for world domination.
After a crazy year touring and their first time playing TRNSMT fest in Glasgow, we caught up with lead singer Will Irvine to chat about their new single, what they do on tour and when to expect more new music.
Earlier this month you played the King Tut’s stage at TRNSMT, how was it?
It was awesome, it was our first festival of the summer. It was awesome being home in Scotland and it turned out to be a massive crowd in the end.
Living in London, it’s one of the worst places to play frequently because it’s such a mental mess of people and it’s such a hard nut to crack. We go home to Scotland and it’s the best part of it. There’s more festivals up there, the crowd always comes out for us, I think Scotland has taken ownership of our music.
How does it feel to release your latest single Electric?
It’s always scary. We haven’t done many singles but it’s a good feeling when people are pumped for it, this one is quite a big deal for us, we’ve taken a move forward in our song writing, it’s a bit of a weird day because we’re kind of releasing a child into the world, not that we have any children. We did try and get it out pre TRNSMT but it just didn’t work.
I was going to bed the night before, it got past midnight and I was just sort of like it’s out now so I went and played it on Spotify. It’s weird seeing something you’ve been working on and suddenly it’s out there for everyone to say what they want. We’ve just sort of got to crack on with shows, it’s a good live song for us, people will be singing it back to us hopefully.
It’s always awesome, we wear in ear protectors while on stage, it can stop you hearing the crowd so sometimes I take them out and you get this wall of sound, I’m happy to be deaf at 55 for it.
What festivals are you most excited for this summer?
One festival that sticks out for me is Belladrum. I’m from the Highlands so it was the one I used to go to when I was 13 and 14. That’s a massive one for me, that’s at the start of August so people will have time to get the song in their heads.
Our slot is massive this year, last year we closed the whole festival on the smallest stage, it was amazing, no one could get in on the tent. This year we’re doing the same in the second biggest tent, Frank Carter and the Rattle Snakes had it last year. I think it’s going to be a banger. We’ve got a bunch of other festivals too and we crack on with the tour after.
How do you find the balance of new and older songs for the set list?
Our TRNSMT set was so many new songs. It’s kind of like having a wee look at what people are saying on socials, people want to come and sing to what they know but at the same time they understand we’re a young band and have to play new stuff if we’re going to progress. It’s a thing that’s been received well, we play as much new stuff as we can, we’re just working out how best to release new songs.
What’s next after the tour?
There’re talks about the next album but nothing solid yet, it’s going to happen for sure. We are going to have loads of new stuff, it motivates us to have plans in place, we can’t just wait ‘til October is done and then see, that’s where people like managers come in.
It’s a really nice thing when people are pushing us to make new music, it’s all we want to do. If that’s what fans want as well we love it, we love doing it, we love touring, for us the main thing is putting on best live gig we can.
How do festivals compare to your own shows?
At festivals you lose something from a live show, if it’s your own gig can make it your own and set a vibe so that’s probably our favourite thing. The tour is selling crazy well, that’s the scariest thing, if you put music out and no one buys it you can’t see stats online, but if you put a tour on sale and then 20 people show up to each gig it looks rubbish. That could quite easily end the buzz of the band. It’s nerve racking but we’ve been lucky our fans want to see us, especially crowds in Glasgow, they’re crazy good.
For a crowd it’s more exciting if you can tell a band are buzzing to be there, then you can get way more into it immediately because there’s nothing worse than a band just going through the motions, I would quite music if that ever happened, if we’re pumped then very one else will be too, if the band is loving it so are the crowd.
You’re so on your own with festivals as well, people could go and buy a ticket just for you but at a festival our aim is to get the random dude who’s walking past to say ‘that sounds wicked that sounds sick’. That’s the added pressure, what we’re best at is putting on a show and bringing the energy to any live gig. It’s just practice, the more we do it the better we get, at the end of festival season we’ll be on fire.
You need to bring it on day one which was TRNSMT, it was a really nice reception. One of my pals who was there in Glasgow, he pretends he doesn’t know us and asks the crowd what they think to get an honest perspective. 99% of the time its ‘I’ve never heard of them but its great’, but you do get the occasional person that’s like ‘those guys are awful’, it’s like having secret PR ninjas in the crowd.
What’s next after festival season and the tour?
We’re thinking what are we going to drop and what new stuff are we going to bring in, what the right ratio to bring in, it’s a tough balance. There’s lots of stuff going on with new songs and Electric has just come out but we may well have something else out pre-tour.
I think we’ve turned the corner in terms of our approach to writing, all of the new stuff is by far the best we’ve written. I feel like we’ve heard it all the time but its only us so it’s like an annoying secret at the moment, it’s awesome playing to people who haven’t heard it. It’s way more experimental. You can see how crowds react, you always know when you start a gig if the crowd is good.
As soon as you go into something new if the crowd goes flat maybe the song won’t have been received that well, for Electric people start bouncing, the aim is to make people do that more. We just enjoy writing that’s the main thing and if other people like it that’s great.
Do you think your writing has matured since the first album?
When we first got together we released an album pretty quickly and at the time we were like this is awesome we’re awesome. I’m super proud of it still but if we were to release our first album now the majority of songs wouldn’t make it on.
We’re definitely maturing as writers and I guess that’s what you want really. It’s like sportsmen, the more they practice the better they get. We’re just trying to write stuff we think is cool and want to listen to, if people are on the same wavelength then they’ll like it too.
There’s definitely been some funky stuff in the studio, normally we don’t do much experimenting but our producer and us have been like we can’t move on from a certain sound without trying something really weird. The majority of time its rubbish but sometimes you hit magic and set a whole vibe for a song, having an open mind means getting better at our stuff.
Do you think being on tour together so much has brought you closer as a band?
We’re more like brothers than friends because we live together and tour together. There are moments where you fall out of course, you spend every moment together. It’s like we’re all married in this one big mess, it’s amazing.
I would be lying if I said we didn’t have the odd dust up, if someone is upset about something then they say it. We have funny moments too. We were jamming yesterday in the living room and someone brought up the set list for the next few festivals, we normally decide there and then because it’s about to happen.
If you say weeks before it’s like OH I think we could do this I think we could do that. Everyone has a different opinion and then someone tackles someone though a window or something. It’s the same for everyone but we’re very close all the time, best pals.
We’re actually quite hard to hang out with, we have so many stupid in jokes and just ridiculous chat. No one could understand what we’re on about. I like that it shows we’re tight, but it means we have no new friends, especially because we’re just on tour mainly.
It’s amazing how routine it all is, I miss it when we’re off tour. You wake up and think last night was mad, someone was hanging from the ceiling and then three hours later you’re in soundcheck and it all comes back round. There’s crazy amounts of deja vu so we get obsessed with making the show better every night.
Tour is awesome and it’s what we live for really, awesome mix of carnage and reaping rewards of hard work, nice way to connect with genuine fans, were all fans of other bands, we are the crowd a lot of the time, to be on other side its great
Does constantly being on tour keep you motivated?
We’re at a stage where we’re not selling out arenas yet, the venues are getting bigger. You get used to it so when you take a step up it doesn’t feel that crazy, but then you take a step back now and again and think wow how has it happened. We can only hope it continues, we feel lucky and humble that people like what we’re doing.
How do you decide when the singles get released?
It’s a hard balance, we’re still learning. It seems to me like the way people take music on board has totally changed, I think releasing music regularly seems to be a good way to keep up momentum without constantly being on the road. The momentum isn’t tiring to keep up, it’s a ride for us, the energy is massive.
It doesn’t feel like work or like oh I wish we didn’t have to do this social media post right now that people will enjoy. I think I’m really into new music and bands and I look at loads of the people I’m fans of who still don’t have any fan base and its mental to me that someone I think is class is still building it at a smaller level than us.
I just feel pretty lucky to play with that momentum. When we meet our agent, they’re saying you could play here or sell that out and that’s the best thing, it’s music to our ears. Two years ago, we were just trying to get pub gigs. We just want to try and keep it moving, just keep going. If you look at history of mystic you become huge or it’s a flash and that’s you done, there’s only one way we want that to go.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
It’s normally pretty chilled until about an hour before then we all have individual ways to get pumped up. Clarky listens to death metal, Gareth just gets nervously awkward and chatty, which is nice cause you feel his excitement, Jimmy does a million press ups, I’m going to count them next time, to keep energy at bay. I just sort of try to do mixture of all of the above, I’ve always just eaten. Depending on where we are we could be in cupboard or a fancy room with fruit and drinks.
I normally just have a beer and look at the set list, I always have a sing with an acoustic guitar. We blast our covers of stupid songs and then before we go on stage do like 20 – 25 massive group hugs. All the love just starts to pour out, any of the squabbles that may have gone on are gone, we’re all best pals saying let’s go and kill it, all high fives and fist bumps.
What do you like to see in every place you go?
Wave got our tour manager Elspeth who susses out new places and what they have, we’re not big monuments and museums people, if somewhere has an amazing thing like the oldest pub in the world we go and see that, every town has something they’re proud of. We like to have a look around, we normally stay after in the town that we’ve just played in and drive in morning so the next morning we can kind of look around. Normally we rock up and straight into sound check.
We’ve started getting ridiculous with rider requests, it would be rude not to, we’ve got a really modest rider that’s like water and food so we’ve started putting in like local beers selected by the venue, we see what each place has. Sometimes a person is a hero at the venue that wants us to know it’s amazing. We just try and make the most of where we go, every place has a story to tell. A lot of places we’ve been a few items now, sometimes we like going back to where we played last time, it’s quite a nice way to put things into perspective.
Do you think you’ll live in London forever?
We were talking about moving to Glasgow the other day, it feels weird being a Scottish band living in London. We’ll definitely be coming home at some point, broadcast, we played there as one of our first grow shows and he works there now (Adam wee brother) he sometime swings us a pint or two for free, last Glasgow show was Oran Mor and King Tuts. Jimmy is from Prestwick way so he marches us around to different places. There’s so many awesome little places there, we were rehearsing pre-transmit in Berkley Suite with Lewis Capaldi next door, Twin Atlantic were kicking about. Getting more involved in the Glasgow scene is definitely something we want.
It feels like we’re a Glasgow band and we come home and we’re like ‘why have we travelled we should live here?’ There’s so much more of a scene of artists fighting for each other rather than dog eat dog like it is in London. We moved here because it seemed like the best place to get gigs and back then no one cared what we were doing. We were staying on friends’ sofas and stuff down here, we would gig every night in a different part of the city. We did that for ages, now we can’t play every night in London, our next show in London is on the tour, it’s pointless to be here, we like it but it’s no Glasgow.