I was lucky enough to catch up with James Kellegher (lead vocals, guitar) and Martin Dukelow (vocals, guitar) from Eliza and the Bear before their performance at The Wardrobe on the 12th October. It was a pure pleasure to chat to them about the festival season and where they are going next.
How have the past few months been?
James: It feels like a step up this year, we have a lot of new fans coming to see us which is obviously good.
I first saw you at the Communion tour, how was this and did it help promote you?
James: It was quite a weird one. We did like a 16 day tour before and then the day after started the Communion tour, part of me was like get me home.
Martin: It felt like a family. Out of the three other acts we actually know really really well. We've seen Luke quite a lot, especially over festival season.
How has festival season been?
Martin: Amazing. A massive step up from last year. We didn't think that we would be able to beat the festival season last year but then we did a lot more
Martin: You notice more people coming to see us and more people singing along, a massive step up.
James: Last year festival season was curious people and this year it felt like people coming along and we could see people singing the words. Felt like we had solidified ourselves as a band this year.
What was your highlight from this year?
Martin: Y Not festival. So good, really good.
James: We had no expectations for it and normally when we play at a festival we stick our head out, see how many people are there. Are there going to be any more people coming or that's a lot of people, does anyone know who we are? This one we were like in, set our stuff up, chilled out for a little while, and walked out on stage to two and a half thousand people out there. Just one of those things, it was like 'oh crap hi'. Everyone loved it, everyone knew the songs so that was pretty mental for us.
What was your low point?
Martin: It wasn't a bad festival, but we played a festival Strawberry Fields and the weather was just awful. We had a good amount of people in the tent, obviously the rain helped but it was like....that festival atmosphere was... it was dark as well, pissing it down.
James: We had a festival in Inverness the next day and it was 12 hours until our set time and it was a ten hour drive so we just drove overnight and that was pretty grim.
That must be hard, going from one to the next, not really being able to stop properly? How do you cope?
Martin; It's just adrenaline. We love, genuinely adore playing live.
James; As soon as you step on stage
Martin; Yeah you forget
James: No matter how tired you are, how drunk you are, how sober you are as soon as you walk onstage it's just like that buzz and you get properly pumped for it. We were shattered in Inverness and I think half an hour before our stage time everyone was asleep.
Martin: It ended up being quite a highlight.
I hear an album is coming out next year. Will it be more of the same happy tunes or will there be a bit of variety?
James: When we started writing the album it was a conscious decision that we needed to be kind of a bit of up and down. There's a couple of slower songs, there's a couple of heavier darker songs.
Martin: I remember, I don't know what bad news we received but we was all in a really really bad mood one day and a couple of the songs have ended up - I can't remember what that was - we've written a couple that are a bit moody, which we're going to play tonight.
James: I don't think that we could do like twelve uplifting songs. You'd get tired by the end, it'd be too happy!
How did the Bulmers advert come about?
James: That was our publishing company. You get an email and it'll be like, don't get too excited it may not happen but we've been offered this advert.
Martin: We was in the last three wasn't we?
James: There were three people in the running and we've got a decent chance at it. In the early stages of getting emails like that we'd all be excited, But now we've got used to being 'cool that would be great if we get it but obviously if it doesn't come in, then ok'. Then it was like 2 hours later or something and got the email, you might get this, don't know the details but Bulmers advert could be pretty big. Cool, sweet, carried on practising. Got another email you've got the Bulmers advert lads, it's going out at this time and here's the video.
Martin: I don't think we practised after that!
What has been the impact of it?
Martin: People will know that song even without knowing that they know it.
James: We'd open with it and you could see people being like we know this from somewhere.
What do you prefer? Festivals or touring?
Martin: I prefer touring. Touring has more of like a routine so when we're on tour we know that we're getting here at 4, doing sound check, coming off then playing at 9. Festival can be a little bit like oh my equipment is in some shed somewhere with everyone else's.
James: And cos it's normally weekends Friday, Saturday festival day Sunday 5 days off whereas on tour you're in tour mode with shows all the time.
Martin: The only thing that I'd say at festivals though is that you meet loads of bands
James: There's a lot of bands that we played 75% of our festivals with. We played with the same bands so you made a lot of friends that are playing the same stage. It's quite nice to make friends who are doing the same thing.
How have you chosen the support for tonight? (Lisbon)
James: We played with Lisbon in Newcastle and we just really enjoyed them. It was just one of those things. We've also got Pixed Fix who we played with in Southampton. When we got the email saying think about support acts who are you kind of into, it was kind of like we couldn't give it to them both so we kind of split it. Pixel Fix have the South, Lisbon have the North and then the London show we have both. It's just one of those things, we played with them we liked them, get them out on the road with us and they wanted to come.
Where do you prefer playing? The South or the North?
Martin: London is our favourite place to play because it's almost like our home. If I can be honest with you I think the North
James: The north is more rounded
Martin: It's more hotspots in the North do you know what I mean, like in the South, especially the south coast like Bournemouth, Southampton, Portsmouth it's cool - we've not done much there. Brighton's cool. Up here you've got Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Middlesborough, Leeds there's a lot more places that we hit that we enjoy.
How do you come up with the songs? Is it a joint effort with the whole band?
James: It normally starts with one person will come in with, like Martin might have a guitar, Callie might be the piano then it will kind of evolve and delivered to the practise room. Then it will be kind of ripped apart at first and then made into a song. We're quite critical of ourselves when we come to writing, it's a long process and we're quite slow at writing.
Is that why the album has taken so long?
James: Yeah - it will be like we will finish a song as in we've reached the end of the song but then we'll demo it. There's like a little studio at the back of our rehearsal place. We'll demo it like DIY just ourselves and then we'll listen to it and be like right that's crap get rid of it, that needs to be longer, that needs to be shorter, this lyric doesn't work, this melody doesn't work and we'll really hack away at it.
Is it hard to be really self-critical?
James: At first it was especially when it was coming from something that you had written yourself like lyrically wise at first I was a bit like no I like that but now we have a process where I'll write something and I'll sit down with Martin. One of the most important things for us is that the kind of meaning of the song needs to be evident or at least you need to be able to take something away from it. So I'll write the lyric and show it to Martin and if he can't kind of come away with something from it then we're not doing it right. Then we kind of tweak it a bit to make it more obvious to figure out what the song is trying to say. At first that was kind of a bit weird for me I was like why is someone else looking at my lyrics.
Martin: We've learnt the way to kind of talk to each other. So if I come in with the guitar and I love and you can tell I'm into it but it's crap. The guys won't be like that's shit, maybe we should try this. At the end of the day you have to let any personal things go because it's like I'm bringing this to the table
James: It's for the greater good
Martin: Yeah as long as you're not rude about and shoot someone down it's just that it's a process that I've got something here how can we make this sound amazing basically.
So are there arguments?
James: Sometimes you know when you need to stand your ground with something and be like that's right.
Martin: Argue the toss as such.
James: If we didn't have discussions and disagreements...like we were in the studio 5 days a week ten hours a day for a year pretty much solid it was going to get kind of tense and intense. It's natural and healthy to argue.
If you could talk to yourselves a year ago what advice would you give yourselves? Would you change things?
James: I don't think I'd change anything because even though we've gone through like when we first started writing the album it was like you need to write this many tracks and then we gave it to our management label and they were kind of like they're not good enough but we thought they were great. Now we've come to realise they weren't as good as they could have been but then that in turn spurred us on to write better songs. We went through this period like why are we writing crap and nothing's coming out good. That period got us to where we are now and I think the one thing that we made a conscious decision about with this band rather than other bands that we've been in was when we started the main idea was to never push this. It was literally five lads writing music having a laugh, it was for ourselves and for ourselves only we had no intention of playing shows - that went wrong. The fundamental fact was we were writing music that we enjoyed, it wasn't like I wonder if this would get the crowds bouncing. We were writing for us and that must have helped us in some way, kind of being natural and writing tunes. When we're in the studio it's like do we like the song, right carry on.
What advice do you have for other bands that might be in the position you were a year ago?
Martin: Literally like get ready to work. At the end of the day perfect your songs and work hard on writing at the same time be prepared to do some work. At the end of the day in a band you get out what you put in. We've constantly toured, we've constantly put ourselves out there.
James: We've never settled for mediocre, we want to be the best at what we do so we'll try our hardest to be it.
Martin: Playing live is what is perfecting us. We're getting better and better. If you looked at us like 6 months ago we're constantly trying to make ourselves better. I think that's what a band needs to do. Get your head down!
How did you find Bingley festival?
James: That was another one where we stepped out on stage and went oh crap!
Martin: That was like technically the end of the festival season, it felt like a closer.
James: When we came off the guy that runs the venue told us that it was the biggest show that he had the whole festival and we felt it when we were playing.
Martin: Shed Seven were playing the main stage so we were crapping ourselves thinking that we're up against a big band, but we was over the moon with the crowd.
James: That was one of the festivals that we actively sort of headlined so it was kind of a bit like new ground for us. It was kind of like are we big enough to do this?!
Martin: We was buzzing after it. Next year we hope to push on with the festivals. We hope to maybe play the main stage and with some of the smaller festivals. That's what's been amazing this year we've played these small festivals, been really well looked after and it's been like every one feels like a step up. Hopefully next year we'll push up from that.
What are the plans for after you have released the album?
Martin: More headline touring, couple of support tours to promote the album. Doing a lot of press, probably more videos.
James: Hoping to push out into different festivals and into Europe.
Martin: We've got to a point over here where we're doing ok and we're ok with going back to square one in a different country.
James: You have to really start again.
Martin: Even Germany 100 people turned up in Berlin but at the same time that's amazing that in a different country that many people come.
It is clear that the band is going places but they are still incredibly grounded. A pure pleasure to have a chat with them and I can't wait for the album to come out.