Interview: Bearhug

Bearhug drummer Nick Mabbit talks tours and the power of the Brendan Canning seal of approval upon the release of their debut EP To Anything.


Sydney band Bearhug are just plain lucky. In July this year they released their debut EP, To Anything, and got to air tracks off of it to a rapt crowd at the Metro Theatre as support band to Canadian indie stars Broken Social Scene at their Splendour sideshow.

Drummer Nick Mabbitt and his fellow bandmates were all in awe of their heroes turn touring buddies, and it was thanks to their new label that they ended up on the same stage.

“We got the support through Spunk, who just recently signed us. Aaron, who’s the head of Spunk, showed them our EP and we actually found out while touring with them and talking to them that it was Brendan Canning that listened to it and chose us, so it was pretty cool to hear that.”

If it’s not enough to be on the road with a much admired band, Bearhug also experienced their first show outside of Sydney, playing two nights in Melbourne at The Corner Hotel. Not that everything went to plan.

“It was awesome. There was some chaos on the first day that we went down to Melbourne, we almost didn’t end up playing that night cause all their [BSS’s] stuff got delayed, they were coming down from Splendour so we had to cut the set short on that first night but other than that it all went pretty smoothly. I mean we were obviously really nervous, they’re huge for us, we’ve been into them for many years, so it was a great experience and a really fun time.”

Bearhug have been making music on and off since 2006, with the current lineup coming together a year later once Mabbitt returned from an overseas trip.

“We all went to school together, I was a year above the other guys but I knew Ryan (Phelan, singer) throughout school and it was about a year after we all left school that we finally got together and then Jesse (Bayley, guitar) joined about a year after that.”

Since then the band have slowly built a reputation locally for their post-rock infused songs that hold a burning candle for Jim James and 90s American indie rock. Just a glimpse at their influences is a clear indication of their sound and direction.

“We all listen to similar stuff but at the same time we all have our particular interests, I guess our biggest influences would be My Morning Jacket, and probably Broken Social Scene obviously, Pavement, Wilco, Dinosaur Jr, a bit of Tom Waits, I know Ryan is into Tom Waits, some folk Bob Dylan-y stuff. We’ve been listening to the new Real Estate album, so that’s been influencing us recently.”

Their EP, To Anything, was released via Spunk, a fitting label considering their clientele matches considerably with the aforementioned influences. The EP itself didn’t take long to put together and has been a long time coming.

“The four songs that were recorded, two of them are actually old songs that we’d previously recorded on demos. There were two newer songs that came together pretty easily. As for the recording process, it was pretty quick, it was really good, we did everything live and got down all the tracks in about three days.”

With the songs in the bag, Bearhug will be hitting the road, first for a couple of solo shows, then heading out on their longest tour to date that will put the band dynamic to test.

“Aside from the launches, we’re going on tour with Philadelphia Grand Jury which begins in November I believe. That’s pretty hectic, they’ve got 21 dates in about two and a half months, so that’ll be pretty crazy. It’s definitely the biggest tour we’ve ever done, so it’ll be pretty testing I’d say.”

As for ambitions, the Bearhug ethos is simple. “Just get by, record albums and tour and get by on that. That’s all we can ask for really.”

Bearhug are currently on tour with Philadelphia Grand Jury.

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