Bears In Trees like to cultivate their own space
Taking over Camden’s PowerHaus (formally Dingwalls), the band hung flowers, vines, brick-a-brack, and enough fairy lights across the stage to cause general concern over causing a blackout in North London. Even in our interview a few months ago, the band dedicated time to placing vines on chairs and building a setting in which to share their world. Bears In Trees also like to cultivate their space with the way they speak, the stories they tell between songs, and through who they have enticed into their audience. They speak honestly and openly in a way that you can connect with, but with a tone that has helped to solidify a crowd of sanguine LGBTQ+ youth clinging to the venue barrier.
Either way, they are very particular about the experience they want to share, and do a good job at convincing you that it’s a natural occurrence, and not something they worry about or work at.
This means that at a Bears In Trees gig you are not just there for their music, but for the atmosphere they’ve impressively cultivated. It took some time for me to realise this, and led to a conclusion that dawned on me as they took to the stage.
Bears In Trees, first and foremost, are a live band.
Nick’s guitar was loud enough that his parts became integral in moulding the sonic space, now a stand out aspect, Iain’s bass was felt more viscerally in the belly of each song, and there was suddenly a musical depth and complexity in their music that I had sometimes struggled to find before. Suddenly every time Bears In Trees had compared themselves to “folk-punk One Direction”, “Fall Out Boy singing about dirt”, “Waterparks having a crisis”, or even “a band that looks like a bunch of losers” made sense- you understand because what they have been trying to tell you has been true this entire time.
The band were natural and confident live, playing a well-balanced set and connecting with the audience in a really reassuring way. On drums, George didn’t seem to sweat once, nonchalantly fixing his kit during songs and keeping time like a well-oiled machine. Live, Bears In Trees are extremely competent… but I don’t know why this was a surprise to me.
No band member took too much of a central role, and you could genuinely feel that they are just friends sharing their music-making intense eye contact to signify a “holy shit we are doing really well, look at the crowd!”. Never before have I seen a band so overwhelmed with joy at a 500-strong crowd singing their songs, and this tender joy reflected to the audience and back again, filling the room with an enthusiastic, wild energy. I guess that’s the joy in watching a band that is up and coming- the combination of a dedicated fanbase and a humble band that is shocked to see their work paying off.
I suppose we talk about the trope of bands writing sad lyrics with happy music often, but none of them have quite perfected the reality of it like Bears In Trees. Bears In Trees’ songs are (lyrically) really, honestly, and openly sad, which is bizarre considering the upbeat and joyous celebration that happened during their set…
There is a very specific difference to the bands that they compare themselves to- the emo bands like Fall Out Boy- where talking about depression was only about extremes and being romantic and unrealistic. It was extremely refreshing to see Nick, someone who I could comfortably see on a poster in someone’s bedroom, talking so honestly about being on Sertraline and realising his friends were too. Iain also shared a story that other bands have touched on before, losing a close friend, but the way that Iain spoke about it was raw. They didn’t make it something romantic or enviable, like many emo bands have, and when they subsequently played Ramblings Of A Lunatic the line “all my friends are dying, some faster than the others” held so much more power. It was refreshing to realise that this band of majority male songwriters were singing about experiencing real things and not falling into the comforting trap of cliche.
Performing the songs they were warning us, not just singing the lyrics and going through the motions. Maybe because their social media presence can feel like they’re “uwu-ifying” everything they fall victim to underselling. But live? Everything made a bit more sense.
Standing there, in the crowd, it struck me. Bears in Trees are so not cool. They’re young and they’re going through things. They’re lost, confused and nostalgic. They’re so 24. As 24 as someone can get. But so am I, and that’s what is so comforting.
So it’s true, I guess, you can’t say that you have listened to Bears In Trees if you haven’t seen them live.