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INTERVIEW: Adam Wills from Bear In Heaven

INTERVIEW: Adam Wills from Bear In Heaven

By: Alex Ramirez
April 30, 2012

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"To be honest, I guess I just have a problem with virtuosity. I just have more of a tendency to respect someone who has taste over skill. Like my friends and I can easily go off on a guitar solo but it’s all about balance and effect and serving a song. It shouldn’t be like “Oh, it’s my turn to show off my musical talent.” It should be about what the song needs."

  The psychedelic Brooklyn- based trio, Bear In Heaven, have rocked the New York music scene since 2003;

incorporating sounds reminiscent of synth-driven 80’s music and experimental drum-heavy accents of King Crimson. With the release of their recent album, I Love You It’s Cool, they have reached to new musical heights as they produce lo-fi sounds of ambient nature filled with authentic teenage-ridden angst. Spacelab recently had the opportunity to talk with Adam Wills, Bear In Heaven’s guitarist, and discuss their musical progression as artists, his hate for guitar solos, and his timidity at playing the guitar.


Spacelab: So I know Bear in Heaven is a huge fan of Prince. I was curious as to what is your favorite album and how does he inspire you?

Adam: Actually, my favorite is not particularly an album but a Youtube video. Everyone should go on Youtube and look up Prince at George Harrison on VH1 tribute to George Harrison, which happened a couple of years after George Harrison died. The last song of the show is a huge ensemble of really famous guitar players like Tom Petty and Prince. But Prince has the final guitar solo and it is the most incredible thing you will ever see in your life. It’s sad though because not many people see him as a virtuoso andjust see him mostly for his big hits. It’s not showcasing much of his guitar playing.

Spacelab: Also I heard you are a fan of R&B. Any particular groups you’re a fan of?

Adam: I wouldn’t necessarily say I have ultimate favorite groups. But I would say that mostly came up from my upbringing in the south as I grew up around hop hop and R&B. In Atlanta, there were some really great hiphop radio stations that were, in my opinion, much more consistent than any rock station. It’s also because of my mom having old Motown records when I was growing up. But my heart belongs to 90’s music like Bobby Womack. I like it all.

Check out a review of the Bear In Heaven song "Reflection of You" and listen to the song

Spacelab: The album, Red Bloom of the Boom, was made just as a way to get music out of your system. In retrospect, do you guys regret doing it that way?

Adam: No, we were just a different band then. We had different goals and different musicians we had three other members. Yeah and times were definitely different as well. But no way, I don’t regret anything about the record. In fact, I think we reprint it on vinyl in the future, which would be really cool to have but it’s a cool little time capsule for us.

Spacelab: What do you think about the vinyl resurgence that is occurring as many bands are producing their albums on vinyl?

Adam: Well, the vinyl resurgence is just going back to the roots of buying records. The people that are still buying records or CD’s also want vinyl. I feel like younger generations are also learning how cool vinyl is. You can’t compare to that textile opening up of a record and putting it on a record player. It’s a much more enjoyable experience, it really forces you to pay attention and to listen to the whole record rather than just certain songs.

Spacelab: I know with the emergence of social networking, there is a focus on singles rather than albums. Do you think social networking takes away the power and the popularity of the album?

Adam: I mean people can do whatever they want -- I’m not preaching to make whole records and that everyone should buy them either. As for us we are just really concerned about writing music that’s digestible. I recognize the power of a single though, because sometimes it speaks for the whole record. But, I prefer when I’m able to just listen to a record and appreciate all the tracks instead.

Spacelab: Your albums have always been rated on Pitchfork and other websites. And even though your albums have high ratings, do you feel that giving an album a numbered rating is a double edge sword?

Adam: I definitely think it’s a black and white thing. Scoring a record is definitely an odd way of criticizing an album. But I guess I understand because most people listening to music just want to know what’s good and what’s accessible. Like with rating on social media website like SPIN, it’s easy because a person can just know what to listen to by its high score rather than reading the whole article about the album. But then sometimes it’s weird to because I see some albums trumped up or some of my favorite records get horrible scores. It’s definitely odd being on the other side and seeing our records get high review than knowing other bands that didn’t fare so well. Like High Places recent album received a pretty low score but that was literally hands down, my favorite record for the last six months.

Spacelab: Do you feel that Red Bloom of the Boom was kind of as a way to wet your feet and get musically acquainted with one another?

Adam: Yeah definitely, that even carries through with this new record as well. Like we grew together as people, a band, and a business relationship. Our goals changed, instrumentations, and members changed. I think things are naturally going to feel more focused and cohesive. With every record we’re working a little bit harder or focused with a little bit more attention and we don’t just teach it as a creative outlet. It’s just a natural process.

Spacelab: How did the making of Beast Rest Forth Mouth differ from Red Bloom of the Boom?

Adam: The first album, Red Bloom of the Boom, was really all over the place. Like a hand full of songs we quickly recorded them while with some we went to a studio. We had no sense of deadline and we just made the record and when we sold up 45 minutes of time and were happy with each minute; we had the CD’s made. The next album was just a collection of tracks after playing the songs live for so long. We have been playing in New York since 2003, so pretty much all the songs were work-shopped. It felt like there were different amount of versions. Now, we started with this new one, which has kind of taken over our lives. We even have the luxury and the money to go to real studios. And at the studio we feel much more focused to write music everyday as opposed to only a couple of days.

Spacelab: Would you guys ever consider building your own studio and making it DIY?

Adam: Yeah, I have thought about that, and heard a lot of bands who have done it. Like, I’ve seen more bands just put their funds toward buying equipment for a studio, but it is harder in New York. If we lived in Austin, we would feel much more comfortable to buy one but we still have to pay rent which is costly.

Spacelab: To me, it seems that the guitar serves more as a rhythmic instrument and not at the forefront. How do you feel the guitar shapes Bear In Heaven’s sound?

Adam: Usually there is not a lot of guitar on the record because I play bass in most of the songs. There are three songs on guitar. And since Jon is such a strong drum player and the music is really synth driven, I feel that if I were to play to my full ability on the guitar, we would be a different band. The guitar is constrained but if I were to play solos over the song, we would be playing different music.

Spacelab: Is it your choice to not have the guitar at the forefront in your music?

Adam: It’s more of my choice. The band even pushes me to be more up-front guitar player than I am. There is one song on the album that the guitar is more up-front, but I would say I’m shy in that aspect of playing and I don’t know why. I like to jump around and act a fool. Maybe it’s some weird perverse thing that I have for playing after twenty years. I hate guitar solos.

Spacelab: That’s funny. Most people can’t get enough of guitar solos. Why do you hate them?

Adam: To be honest, I guess I just have a problem with virtuosity. I just have more of a tendency to respect someone who has taste over skill. Like, my friends and I can easily go off on a guitar solo but it’s all about balance and effect and serving a song. It shouldn’t be like “Oh, it’s my turn to show off my musical talent.” It should be about what the song needs.

Spacelab: I feel that Beast Rest Forth Mouth has a darker sound than, I Love You It’s Cool. Would you agree and is there any reason behind that?

Adam: To be honest, it was just where our heads were at, at that time. I feel like it was just more a natural progression. We definitely did want to be a little less eerie though. We still wanted to be true to ourselves as people and musicians but still also be accessible to the fans

Spacelab: You once stated in an interview that you like a balance of accessibility and artistic integrity. I think many artists face that problem today and have you guys ever suffered from that?

Adam: Not yet. Like I said, it’s a balancing act. We want to push boundaries, but we also want our audience to grow as well. It’s also an awareness thing, like you don’t want to think about it but you still need to take into account that we need to make a living off of it as well. But once you kind of get there to where you can experiment with sounds, it’s also like experimenting with success to see what does and doesn’t work. It’s like pushing the boundaries to what we can get away with, and to what we can make. We want to give an opportunity to open the door to people who normally wouldn’t listen to us, to give us a chance.

Spacelab: Thank you for your time!

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