THIS WEEK: STRAW BEAR
Straw Bear are a 5-piece band working, living, breathing and making fine music all over the South East of England. Yet again it was the melody, the tone and the delivery that pulled me in when Straw Bear first came jumping out my speakers via Shell Zenner’s wonderful radio show on Amazing Radio. I cooed, I swooned, I did a short but extremely well executed soft shoe shuffle and then I smiled…..broadly.
The song in question was the excellent new single ‘Snobbery’ which is available now on iTunes & Bandcamp. It wowed a packed room at BBC Introducing’s Great Escape showcase in May after Straw Bear were handpicked by FOTN’S head honcho Tom Robinson to perform on the back of a terrific BBC 6 Music session. Live tracks from their set featured on Jen Long and Ally McCrae’s Radio 1 show; the pair joining an illustrious list of BBC DJs to back the band, including Bob Harris, Dermot O’Leary and Gary Crowley.
Echoes of Belle & Sebastian and Neil Young are there in the make up of their DNA but they take a unique and delightful path all of their own making and produce something very special indeed. I love their lyrics (check out ‘Snobbery’ below for some truly priceless lyrics-its chock full of them). It’s great to see a new band list as an influence one of my personal favourites – those masters of the hook and line, Squeeze.
It is no surprise at all that there’s already a list of prominent figures queuing up to sing the band’s praises. I fully expect them to go on to great things – melodists and lyricists of this calibre do not come along every day.
So who are this Straw Bear then?: Singer/lyricist Ian Ray and guitarist Chris Gray met at school in a “dull market town in Cambridgeshire”. Over time, Tom Shipp (bass), Pas Struthers (drums) and Catie Wicks (guitar) joined the fold and they are now spread out all over the south-east.
Their charming album Black Bank is out now on Oil Bug Records
It is well worth checking out Straw Bear further and spreading the word on their goodness.Good luck guys.
2. Favourite childhood memory?
There were some older girls who lived over the road when I was about two, and I have a very vivid memory of them taking turns to slide down their stairs with me on their lap.
A bit obvious, but probably Neil Young, just for the way he conducts himself. I’ve just read his memoir and it only confirmed what a great man he is.
I’ve had some landlords over the years who may have some questions to answer in purgatory.
My wife makes me laugh most often, and Larry David makes me laugh hardest.
I play guitar, sing and write the first draft of the songs for Straw Bear. We’re a five-piece based all over the South-east, and people say we’re a combination of folky stuff and jangle-pop. Our influences are overwhelmingly American, but people say we sound very English, which is nice.
7. Whose hair would you like to have for just one day?
I think maybe a big Dusty Springfield beehive would turn some heads in the pub.
We were picked by the BBC to play their Introducing stage at The Great Escape, and the gig itself – amazingly – didn’t feel pressured at all … it was just enormous fun. Halfway through, a young woman shouted: “I love this band!” at the top of her voice, and we all laughed … probably not very moody and cool of us, but it was very sweet.
David Byrne. He’s written some amazing songs about some pretty mundane things, which has been a big influence on me. I really admire the knack he has for making a big intellectual conceit very fun and accessible.
I think anything that helps independent artists navigate their way through the minefield of publishing, PRS and promotion is an extremely good thing. The creative side of making music can be hard to perpetuate if you don’t get your head around the management of the whole enterprise … we’re only just starting to understand that. It’s like going into business with your friends, except nobody bothered to write a plan … and you never argue about money because there isn’t any.