That’s what The Guardian had to say about them and they have a point. Starting out, songs like ‘Light It Up’ and ‘It Gets Cold’ quickly became festival-friendly anthems with all the right chant-a-long choruses and uplifting lyrics, so much so that it was actually hard to hear them without jumping up and down. Even without a drink inside you.
But artists move things along, which is how we get to the all-new, just-as-bouncy but much more poppy sound of Eliza and the Bear 2.0 with its jittery dance sound and parping horns thanks in part to producer Hight, who has worked with the likes of Rita Ora and The Tide. Quite a turnaround, to put it mildly. The joy is still there – in spades! – as the new single ‘Higher’ proves beyond any reasonable doubt (‘Let me take you high, let me take you high…’) but it is a total rebirth, a brave and wholly successful reinvention of the band as a pure pop phenomenon.
By going back to the drawing board (actually it was someone’s dad’s shed and someone else’s back bedroom), the folky vibe was replaced by a pure, bouncy, funky pop with flavours of DNCE Nile Rodgers, Jamiroquai, Maroon 5, even Justin Timberlake proving that real artists have to have the courage to take a risk if they’re going to have a risk that pays off. In this case, big-time!
They were originally given odds of 5000 to one of making it with this whole new vibe. ’We played some shows that made us realise that we were willing to take those odds,’ says guitarist, Martin. ‘We started over and went back to my dad’s fishing shed, manoeuvring around the boxes of bait and tackle, to write “Higher”, which came from nothing but feeling free and wanting to play the most fun music we could make!’
Originally named after a book of poetry and once talked about in sentences containing the words Flaming Lips and Arcade Fire and Mumford & Sons, Eliza and the Bear are five London-based mates who have slipped seamlessly from indie-folk-rock heroes to something altogether fresher. And have managed to take their fans with them.
It all started in 2011, having been in bands in their teens, when songwriter James Kellegher, who you’ll find on lead vocals and guitar, got together with fellow songsmith Callie Noakes, on keyboards. More mates – Martin Dukelow on guitar, Chris Brand on bass and Paul Kevin Jackson on drums – soon piled into the party and, with that strange name that had everyone asking which one was Eliza, started to pull things together. A few highly successful gigs later and a bidding war between the majors broke out.
But it wasn’t about record companies for Eliza and the Bears, it was seeing that people cared about them when they performed that mattered most, which is why they have kept true to their instincts and refreshed their whole sound in a way that’s nothing short of audacious.