Brooklyn’s Bear In Heaven have been carefully carving out their post-everything sound since forming in 2004. Electronic music has been an underlying element of the triumvirate’s evolving sound, with vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Jon Philpot and guitarist Adam Wills often moonlighting as DJs. What’s more is that over the years they’ve had a select few BIH tracks masterfully reinterpreted for the dance floor by masters Matthew Dear (“Autumn”) and Lindstrøm (“Lovesick Teenagers”).
While on their just concluded international trek supporting their acclaimed fourth album, Time Is Over One Day Old, featuring kick-ass singles “Time Between” and “Autumn,” we connected with Jon Philpot over e-mail and found out more about Bear In Heaven’s passion for DJing.
Bear In Heaven’s Time Is Over One Day Old is out now on Dead Oceans.
The role and perception of the DJ has changed a lot in recent years. What does DJing mean to you at this point and time? How has your approach evolved as you’ve both grown as artists?
Jon Philpot: DJing forces you to actively hunt for new jams. No more sitting around, twisting synth knobs or doing tons of drum takes. You’re out there, among the records, mp3s or YouTube clips, taking in the world of sound. It changes how you hear things and what order you want to hear them in. When you find these songs, you’re instantly able to see what falls flat. It’s a much quicker turnaround than making new songs, releasing a record, rehearsing them and then going on tour for a year.
Who were your earliest DJ influences and when did you both start DJing?
For me, high school rave culture was a big influence. Going to a parking lot, finding the guy who knew where the party was, going to another parking lot, not finding the party but finding another guy who knows where the party was and then, eventually finding the party. After which you head into a warehouse, do some whippets and dance till you puke. For a long time, I was embarrassed about loving raves. Now I feel pretty good about it. I started DJing in 2008. I had a weekly at a bar in Williamsburg with my friend, Dan Donahue.
“The simple truth is, it’s easier to be a DJ than it is to be in a band. When people come to see us DJ they know the deal, have fun.”
After a DJ makes a name as a producer, there’s always a learning curve when they move into playing with a live band. Have there been similar challenges for Bear In Heaven? For example, do people turn up at your DJ gigs and expect to hear nothing but BIH tracks?
No. The simple truth is, it’s easier to be a DJ than it is to be in a band. When people come to see us DJ they know the deal, have fun. I feel like people would laugh at us if we played our songs.
Speaking of DJ sets, how do you prepare? Are there any must-play tracks in ever set?
We just fill our laptops up with good shit. Adam [Wills] uses DJay and I use Ableton. If we’re feeling extra lazy, we’ll just use one laptop and pass off a jump drive with our songs of the night. It’s a great way to have fun and and freak each other out with what we found. We always play Friendly Fires’ “Paris” (Aeroplane remix featuring Au Revoir Simone).
I’ve seen BIH perform but haven’t had the pleasure of catching one of your DJ sets. How would you describe a typical set?
I play a lot of spaced out house and heavy dance-rock. Adam plays rap.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention your amazing new album. What’s the most DJ-friendly track on the album? Will there be any remixes?
I’d say “If I Were To Lie” would be a friendly DJ song. No remixes have been planned. If the right person wants to do it, we’re all about it. We did get a Matthew Dear remix of “Autumn.” He made a super sweet version of it. I love that guy.
Bear In Heaven has worked hard to establish its sound and make a name for itself in the U.S. and beyond. What’s your collective DJ fantasy gig?
Being paid $100k to play a gig anywhere on this planet. Preferably somewhere tropical.
And with that we must ask the final question: When is the last time a DJ saved your life?
Never, but I’m writing a screenplay about a DJ superhero.
Image by Dusdin Condren