IDFA14: "Austin to Boston" on tour with Bear's Den

"I guess I'm trying to make something that is honest"

Mandy Sharabani ,

The Music Documentary "Austin to Boston" is a film by Marcus Haney that will be screened this month at IDFA: International Documentary Festival Amsterdam. Bear's Den is a three piece group from London that was invited by SXSW to go on a two week tour with three other bands traveling from Austin to Boston back in 2012. Lead singer Andrew Davie shared more about being on the road with Ben Howard, swimming pools and their new record "Islands".

Skype Location: Friend's Livingroom in Austin Texas
Last record you've listened to: 
The War On Drugs - Lost In The Dream 
Genre: Alternative folkrock

Maybe one of the Greek islands would be best to listen to our "Islands" record, like Skiathos or Skopelos. Islay is a really cool island of the north coast of Scotland. I went on tour to Orkney which is amazing, as well as the island Stornoway.

We were invited by SXSW to go on this tour from Austin to Boston. It's partly true we formed our band on that tour, however we decided to start the band right before that. It's me, Joey Haynes and Kev Jones. We are with five now: other guys that joined our current US tour are Marcus and Neil. On our tour from Austin to Boston we were accompanied by Ben Howard, The Staves and Nathaniel Rateliff. We learned so much from playing shows with them every night. It was amazing overall and we feel very lucky to have been on that tour.

Ben Howard
What surprised us on the tour is that we made so many new friends within music. Before that, we only knew Ben Howard. I met him once at a gig and already I was a fan of his music. It was nice to get to know him a bit and realize he's a really great guy. The girls of The Staves were just the funniest people you ever meet. And all the people filming Marcus Havey, Ty Johnson, Kelly Teacher, they were so nice to us. We were basically the baby of the group and trying to be a good band amongst really good bands.

One of the guys driving our Volkswagen campervan called Gill Landry plays in the band Old Crow Medicine Show and is the narrator in the film. He has been on the road for like decades. He's like a touring veteran and really knows what he's doing. Talking to him about it all really opened my eyes. Being away and traveling is not as easy as it perhaps looks. It can be quite difficult spending a lot of time away from home. That's one lesson I've learned. Everyone was giving us tips how to do things better and would help us with our sound. We got to know each other way better as a band, as well as just learning how to play our instruments.

'Guys, what was that?'
The band was born on that tour in the back of the Volkswagen van. That's where we wrote the song Above The Clouds Of Pompeii. I've been playing around with the lyrics for a while and that was the first time I played it to our guitarplayer Joey. It was actually the first time he picked up a banjo, that was all there was on the bus. We were just playing and we didn't realize it, but there was this bunk bed above us. The film director Marcus Haney was asleep up there and we woke him up with our tunes. He pulled out his camera and took a few shots. When we finished playing he was like 'Guys! What was that?'. We did that song while we were driving through New York and we played it live there for the first time. We got really good reactions, it was different from every other show we ever played. The audience seemed to connect with that song in a way they haven't connected with things we had done in the past.

I have been trying to work on that song with people when I was writing in the studio back in London. I used an electric guitar and it just didn't sound right. There's something about being on the road and being away from everything. We could just do it and not over think it all, like in a rehearsal studio where you need to pay for every second. So yeah, I think it would come out very different having done it elsewhere.

In terms of spirituality, a lot of the songs are quite sad and I don't want it to be like a massive downer to listen to and upset people for no reason. I want it to be something that has a release to playing it live. When we are playing live, it becomes something cathartic for everybody including us. I guess it's trying to make something that is honest.

Days Inn
I can't recall any sport activities shown in the trailer; maybe I was too drunk to remember what we were doing. I can only remember one time when we arrived at the last stop of the tour at a hotel named Days Inn. I think all of us were really tired, sad and happy that we have been on this amazing trip together. We got back to the hotel and it felt like a really lame way to end it and so we realized there was a swimming pool. Nobody had said anything to each other and everybody just jumped right in. It was absolutely amazing. There is something nice about swimming and getting into the sea on tour. When you're in a bus most of the time, you probably won't get much access to a shower then you would like. It would be awesome to have a swimming pool nearby while touring.