Spring 2012 marked the second time I interviewed Brooklyn indie/electronic cross-over musicians Bear In Heaven. Though two years had passed, the main underlying tendency of the interview was the same: staying on topic was damn near impossible. Stand in a room with them for ten minutes, and you'll realize that the trio, consisting of vocalist Jon Philpot, bassist Adam Wills, and drummer Joe Stickney, have some sort of superhuman attention-diverting capability that can suck all journalistic integrity into a black hole of joking and bantering. Humor seeps into all that they do, though it may not be evident by listening to their music in isolation. Instead, it is found in their tangential actions. Take, for instance, their latest record, I Love You, It's Cool. Its ridiculous title was taken in jest from a break-up letter written by the band's former fourth member, Sadek Bazarra. They also marketed the album with an ingenious tactic that involved stretching their entire record into an ambient drone track lasting a duration of three months, and their music video for "The Reflection Of You", directed by the force behind Wonder Showzen, John Lee of the PFFR art collective, can be unbearably nauseating with its incessant zooms. To sum it up: reactions to Bear In Heaven's sense of humor are polarized, and Stickney jokes that one person's comment on last.fm ("Fuck your ultra slowed-down hipster stream") summarizes many of the reactions to their experiments. It seems easy for some to write off Bear In Heaven's conceptually-minded artistic approach as pretentious and disingenuous, but I'd argue that would be misunderstanding the band members themselves. Their approach to music is hard to understand because they take themselves very seriously when they need to, but swing to the other extreme when they don't. In the interviews below, we're talking ideas; some good, some bad, many completely unrelated to the original intentions. But the point remains that you will either like Bear In Heaven's ideas, or you won't. If only it mattered, though.
Interview by Vivian Hua

 

"All three of us have kind of been in bands for as long as we can remember, and always kind of, you know, as much as writing the music was important, have all tinkered in figuring out what to do with the cassette recorder to...

A week-and-a-half after returning from SxSW 2010 should be enough time to blend back into mainstream society, recover from strep throat, and map out my SxSW favorites. Yet unlike some of the other REDEFINE writers, who rambled down the West Coast and into the heart of Texas via a leisurely road trip, my trip is best summed up as three-day dance party fueled by free Red Bull and the knowledge that my trip was much too short, ultimately leaving me disheveled and confused. So here they are at their most honest: my Top Five SxSW Picks.

 

5. Polly Mackey & The Pleasure Principle

www.pollymackey.com
Meandering through downtown Austin, Polly Mackey & The Pleasure Principle were rocking out loudly and early, easily luring myself and a slew of other hungover weirdos into a random bar. Once inside, I realized that the band happened to be SxSW showcase openers getting in one last show, so I made myself comfortable between two heavily bearded men. Tip for the solo traveler: sitting between two largish, fully bearded men at a bar is, I've come to learn, the equivalent of going out with eight friends. I assure you: things will get cozy and familiar quickly. Meanwhile, the band was cranking out classic rock riffs with some kind of emo punk sliced in. Their high energy, combined with the multiple pitchers of Bloody Mary's making their way around, equated to an early morning crowd ready to party. What sold the show for me though, was their intriguing vocalist Polly Mackey. A tiny woman wearing the most unimpressed expression stood center stage, strumming her guitar with this huge voice that I overwhelmingly got the feeling she was holding back. Maybe the show was a fluke, or maybe it was all the facial hair in my way, but someone needs to tell Mackey to stop holding back and let that voice rip.

 

Circa Survive @ Stubb's Scissor Sisters @ Stubb's Liars @ Club de Ville Nice Nice @ The Phoenix The Vivian Girls @ Club de Ville The Tenant @ The Side Bar Lovvers @ The Mohawk Aa (Big A Little a) @ The Bingo Hall Scissor Sisters @ Stubb's Circa Survive @ Stubb's Ω...

This SxSW, FIVE REDEFINE staff members were on hand, rendering it the biggest SxSW for REDEFINE yet. And because three of us definitely attended many a show together, my top five list definitely shares some commonalities with Tim Vordtriede's. Nonetheless, different takes by different folks, so duplicates be damned, man.
 

5. Flying Lotus

www.flying-lotus.com My first night at SxSW, I was facing some hardcore health discomforts and was essentially forced to root myself at the Warp Records SxSW showcase for hours. Luckily, the lineup was full of talented musicians; Born Ruffians and Eskmo gave notable performances, and Flying Lotus was a highly anticipated headliner. Let's just say that he not only packed the house, but was probably the only musician who could have roused me from my death throes and uncontrollable desire to pass out in the middle of the venue. His history of being a hardcore videogame lover is quite obvious when you're listening to his music, and his love for technology is unbridled; he even brilliantly told the crowd to Twitter that Flying Lotus was killing it at SxSW. And the tech-savvy SxSW crowd did, of course. With a blend of projected visuals, straight-up DJ know-how, and an engaging personality, Flying Lotus really did kill it at SxSW. He'd probably be higher up in my list if I hadn't been dying, but since I was, I wasn't able to fully enjoy his set. Nonetheless... respect.  

So, despite my whirlwind Americana tour of the Southwest (courtesy of the Cash Only: Diners, Dive Bars, and Yardsales Road Trip), I still managed to enjoy a healthy dose of sonic debauchery in Austin, Texas. Below are my TOP FIVER PICKS from this year's SxSW Festivus Maximus!
 

5. The fold-out couch I drooled and snored on from approximately 5:00am to 10:00am every day.

Just kidding. That's actually number one.  

5. Bear In Heaven

www.bearinheaven.com We annoyed the shit out of these guys by following them around all of Wednesday. Then we kept running into them the next three days, as if we were stalker ex-girlfriends. Then I made the always classy move of calling guitarist Adam Wills by the name Joe, all weekend. In turn, I called drummer Joe Stickney, Adam to keep the playing field even. In any case, Bear In Heaven's music is huge, brilliant, heavy, and fun all in one. The only reason they are number five is because I knew what I was getting into with these guys. I've been listening to them for about four months, and I would love to dance around an apartment during a party, listening to their tunes on fat can headphones, and having people wonder: a) who the shit is that guy?; and b) what's he listening to that makes him dance like that? SEE ALSO: BEAR IN HEAVEN VIDEO INTERVIEWS