Checking In On Bear In Heaven: Beast Rest Forth Mouth Remixed

Gray Hurlburt :: Wednesday, July 21st, 2010 3:00 pm

Just like good times, time flies when you’re listening to good music. As testament to this, nine months have already whirred by since Bear in Heaven revealed its cloud-breaking album, Beast Rest Forth Mouth, at a release party in Brooklyn last October. This body of ten songs wed their prior psych-rock sound with the electronic instrumentation of krautrock, landing it, oddly, somewhere between Neu! and Jane’s Addiction. The resulting album has since delighted audiences with a physically engrossing, brightly textured listening experience . And from when the songs first went up online, they garnered the interest of other musicians, who subsequently tried their hand at re-visioning and crafted numerous remixes.

Bear in Heaven were flattered and impressed by the creative feedback they were receiving for BRFM, so it made sense for Jon Philpot, Adam Wills and Joe Stickney to put together a proper remix album of the album, then release it through their label Hometapes. They reached out to a number of groups they admired in the US and the UK, including Twin Shadow, The Hundred in The Hands and Deru. In all, ten groups each added personal flourishes to one of the songs on the album, turning the them inside out and rekindling a listener’s connection to the original music.

To talk about this remix album, Bear in Heaven met with me at Alligator Lounge in Brooklyn for a drink. Since our last interview, they appear more confident in their musical careers and full of gusto for what lies ahead for the band.

How did this remix project come about?
Jon Philpot: It was planned.
Joe Stickney: It’s all part of the master plan.

It’s certainly a dance album. Is this a sign of where Bear in Heaven is headed?
JP: A hint, I guess… A subtle hint of what’s to come. I wish we could play all the songs like some of the remixes. That would be awesome. Vary it. Be like, “We’re going to play like that tonight.”
JS: Maybe we should do that. We’re going to need to learn the High Place’s way they did ["Drug a Wheel"].
Adam Willis: I think we’ll just bring her on tour, Mary Pearson.

Between touring and the remix project, has there been downtime to get back into the studio?
JS: No downtime. We’ve been rehearsing; we’ve had to figure out this cover that we’re doing of a Lindstrom & Christabelle song, and get that written and recorded—we knocked that out and tried to work on another new song; we had a short run of four shows.

What’s behind artists remixing songs for each other? Is it a method of “I’ll scratch your back, if you scratch mine” for publicity, or is it more for the fun of it?
JP: Sometimes it’s a swap, but sometimes it’s just what drags you in, really. It’s a good way to experiment with something, without too many repercussions.
JS: Sometimes people just want to pay Jon hundreds of thousands of dollars to do a remix of their song.
JP: Yeah, it’s amazing the amount of money that people want to pay. They just want to do it. I mean, they are that good, so it’s worth it. Let’s just say there’s a long list. You’ve gotta have the right amount of money to get on the list.

Tell me about the new song you’re working on.
JP: Yeah, we have a new song. We’re working on another song. We actually took one of our old songs and made that into a new song.

Like how you did with “Casual Goodbye” to make “Lovesick Teenagers”?
JP: It’s more traditional in that we just made a new thing out of an old thing.
AW: We came in, took the same notes, the same lyrics, the same melody.
JP: The same beats, different instrumentation. It’s fun to listen to. it’s got a fun vibe, so it’s fun to play, too.

Isn’t that a lazy form of creativity?
JP: It is!
AW: I don’t know, we worked really fucking hard on that. It was like a lot of traditional Bear in Heaven songwriting: two people liking it, one person not liking it; and then one person liking it, then no one liking it.

What song is this?
AW: “Bag of Bags.”

Are you looking to come out with a 7″ for the new song?
JP: Yeah. Actually, I want it to be a 12″, just because the cut’s nicer.
JS: For what, for “Lindstrom”?
JP: Right, for “Lindstrom.”

Getting back to the remix album, did you approach these bands and ask them to specific tracks?
AW: It was different for each one. What really put it into action was, as soon as we put the record out, our friends or colleagues wanted to remix songs. Jon made stems for “Lovesick,” “You Do You”, “Deafening Love”, then, all of a sudden, we have about twenty remixes. And a lot were fucking awesome, so we thought, “Why not get the other six tracks remixed?” Then our label asked us who we wanted for remixes, and I would compare it to record shopping or clothes shopping. You’re like, “I need new shirts,” and then you go into the record store or the clothes store and your mind just goes blank. So when they asked, I couldn’t think of anything!
JP: Sara [of Hometapes Records] came up with some good ideas, though, like with Jesu.
AW: That was mine!
JP: Well, that was a good idea.
AW: Well, thanks. But what was cool about it was that we just came up with some names in an afternoon discussion, and we dropped some names: Jesu, Studio, High Places. Of the seven or ten people we asked, everyone said yes.

Which of the remixes really flipped the song over for you?
AW: Almost all of them were like that, were that good. Jesu, to me, is the most similar to the original, because it’s the same idea. It’s really meditative, the same basic structure, and instead of a looping base line it’s a looping guitar and piano line. Instead of Joe’s drum beat, it’s another looping and meditative drum beat. And the same vocals. So its got the exact same kind of power that the original has, but in its own way.
What’s cool about it, too, is that everyone who did a remix is an established artist, so [the remixes] sound like the artists. Like the High Places song: it sounds like a High Places song; the Studio song: it sounds like a Studio song.
JS: I think that our buddy Roberto’s remix is the most “flipped” version. I really love that remix, and it sounds crazy.
JP: It’s Epstein, he did the last one [“Casual Goodbye”]. When it first came on and I heard it for the first time, I thought that I was singing in another language. It didn’t even process. I was like, “What is this?” I loved it.
AW: I like the ones, like ["Lovesick Teenagers"] by Twin Shadow, that broke out their own instruments and wrote new guitar parts or bass lines, just outside of the computer a little bit. I know that those people went home, went into their studio and worked on it.
JP: I like what the other people did too.
AW: They wouldn’t be on the disc if we didn’t like it. The hardest part was deciding what remixes went on there.
JP: Yeah, we got the remix of “You Do You” by this guy who goes under “Tropics,” Chris Ward. He’s in the UK. It’s so good. It’s amazing. It was a real battle to see weather the studio went along with it. We’re going to make sure that we put it out there, it’s great.

Last of all, I need to ask when you think we’ll start to hear some new work by the three of you?
JP: We’ll probably start pushing some stuff out on this next tour, and then, you know, little by little. We are trying. It just seems that we’re a little busy.
JS: Right now we’re trying to tour our asses off before we get to take a break. We’re really anxious to record a ton of new stuff, but people are telling us that the best thing to do right now is keep touring.

The Beast Rest Forth Mouth Remix album will be made available mid-September by Hometapes, and it will come in a bi-fold with the original BRFM.