I first heard Bear’s Den on a lazy Sunday, the second day of Mumford & Sons’ Gentlemen of the Road stopover in Lewes, England. Each member bearded, shy, and somewhat overwhelmed by the size of the crowd, the band meekly thanked everyone for “coming down and saying hi… it’s scary, but really awesome”. Their set, however, reflected an entirely different personality. It was enthusiastic and passionate, floating rich harmonies and vaguely twangy banjo solos to the crowd without a hint of nervousness.
The trio, comprised of Andrew Davies (guitar, vocals), Joey Haynes (banjo, vocals), and Kevin Jones (drums, vocals), was conceived two years ago in London. The Den, as they call themselves, have always had a strong personal connection with fans, from their natural stage banter to the acoustic sets they often do in concert, standing in the middle of the audience, rather than on stage. Their eponymous EP, released in 2012, features a bear paw stamp on the cover of each CD case — hand stamped by the band and their friends, using ink and carved potatoes. Jones figured, “People seem to like the idea of it, and we quite like potatoes, and paws, don’t we guys?”
The Den’s debut full-length, Islands, was released on October 21. With all the authenticity and warmth of their past EPs, Islands takes on a smoother, more polished sheen. A few of its tracks are rereleases, but with new spins: “Agape” is less acoustic, with thicker harmonies and a wispy, wind-like track in the background and “Above the Clouds of Pompeii” pushes brass solos and cleaner vocals than the previously released “Pompeii,” to name a couple.
The entire album is a love letter written with a fountain pen, an emotional and heartfelt narrative written straight from personal experience. Perhaps most lyrically striking is “Think of England”, which weighs lost loves, buried emotions and deep sacrifice.
Islands is in character with the band’s incomparable sound, embodying a modern Americana spin on British folk music of a bygone age, and sung with gentle English lilts. Each track shares a common blend of a driving, almost bluesy, folk rhythm and complex vocal harmonies, perfect for a pensive, rainy Saturday.
Article by Kavitha George