Even if you have not heard of Eliza and the Bear, you are likely to have listened to them due to the fact that their song ‘Friends’ has been gracing the Bulmers advert across commercial television over the past month or so. Their feel-good pop music vibe has been gathering them fans at a rapid pace, and the five boys look like they could be capturing a much bigger audience soon.
There was one key point to clear up straight away when I spoke to James (lead singer) and Callie (keyboardist) ahead of their Oxford show.
“None of us are called Eliza. None of us are bears either.”
“When we started we had no real plans to actually play properly so we were just looking for a name.”
“There’s a poet called Eleanor Rees from Liverpool and Paul (drums) randomly stumbled across this book and mentioned it as being a possible name.”
“I was up in San Francisco and walked past a shop and there this book was starting at me so I was like this is surely fate, this must happen.”
Fortunately, Rees allowed them to use the name and James adds: “She lives in Liverpool so every time we play Liverpool she comes down and say hi.”
Aside from the band name, Eliza and the Bear’s influences tend to be musical; although quite disparate.
“The grass roots of everyone in this band are really bizarre,” James says, “Callum and I used to be in what was essentially a grunge band. It was six minute songs, no choruses, just loud and dirty and…”
“Indulgent,” Callie adds in.
“I think the only person in this band who has roots similar to what we do now is Paul. Paul loves pop music, he has Katy Perry on his iphone all the time and did loads of covers of Lucy Rose and stuff.”
Callie says that they started to change their style because “we were bored of audiences staring at us blankly. We were having more fun at shows than the audience and I think that’s probably wrong if you’re asking people to pay money.”
Having been in a band before Eliza and the Bear, Callie and James have known each other for eight years.
“I met James, by pure coincidence at a show. He was playing in a really bad band at a local club in London.”
“Your band was worse,” James retorts.
Somehow they’re not quite entirely fed up with each other, but they joke that they are with James quipping: “if I could throw him out of a plane I would. That’s why it’s good being in a band with three other people. You can spend more time with them. I’ve finished with this guy.”
Callie replies, laughing, “Yeah we only talk at Christmas and on birthday’s”
The relationship is clearly working and it’s allowed the band to develop into the folksy pop that is attracting all the attention at the momemt. There is an album in the works.
“We finish off this tour in like three week’s time and then we have a week off. Then we are going to fly to Nashville to record the record and hopefully we’ll have something next year.”
“We’ve been writing since we started but there was a point where it was like now you are writing for an album.”
Callie suggests that really changed the way they thought about it: “an album is different from like a collection of singles. You don’t want to have 12 songs that are all like happy clappy, you want a bit of depth”
“We’re playing like five songs that are unreleased for this tour.”
The band basically have to given that they have an hour’s set planned and only six songs. They have considered playing their main hit again and again though.
“We did that in Germany one time actually.” Callie says, “we didn’t realise it was customary to do an encore and then we were like oh shit we have no more songs. So we were like look we’ll come out but we’re going to have to play some again.”
James says that the band enjoy touring most of the time though.
“It’s like there’s this weird thing. It’s like the grass is always greener. You tour for thirty days, you can’t wait to get to the studio and start writing. Then you’re in the studio for thirty days and you want to get the hell out of the room with no windows and no air con.”
“I even find myself missing travel lodges,” Callie jokes. “I go home to my own bed and I’m like “Where’s the neon lights?”
The band’s potential shows in the calibre of acts they have been supporting recently: Paramore and Imagine Dragons are just two of the names dropped by the band.
James and Callie are pretty unanimous that supporting Paramore was ‘terrifying’.
“Every single one of them is just so welcoming. We bumped into a couple of them at Reading and they came and said hi which was so nice of them because we’re only small fish.”
“They have a kind of reputation of taking new music out on the road. Charli XCX has gone on to have massive sales.”
Being chosen by Bulmers to soundtrack their advert has certainly opened doors for the band, and opened ears to them.
“We barely got approached. We received an email on the Monday. You get asked to do loads of stuff but a lot of it doesn’t actually happen so we were just like cool, and didn’t think much about it.”
“Then four days later, we got an email with the video attached! It’s still weird seeing it on tv.”
James adds: “I’ll be sitting watching tv with my mum and she’ll get really excited and I don’t know whether I should be excited like she is.”
Callie quips: “You’ve got to be blasé about it.”
It’s clear that Eliza and the Bear don’t take themselves to seriously.