Interview: James Falck and Dries Verhaert of BEAR Talk ‘Vanta’

“I could’ve murdered our booking agent! That would’ve been terrible!” laughs BEAR guitarist, James Falck, recalling when he once slammed his guitar on stage. “It kinda bounced and launched directly at our booking agent, narrowly missing his head and impaled the wall.”

Welcome to the post-progressive-hardcore outfit’s violent live show, which has garnered them an intrigued following since 2010. “The thing with us is, you don’t really know what to expect. You know there’ll be a certain level of insanity, but how insane it will be, you have to see how it goes,” says Falck. Bassist Dries Verhaert adds, “both Marrten (Albrechts, vocals) and I got multiple stitches just from doing a live show. I’ve been hit by my own bass somehow.”

Since their inception, Belgium’s BEAR have been reckless with their gear on stage, communicating further the story behind their music. “We’re not angry or aggressive people, at least I don’t think so,” says Falck, “this is a way of expressing our frustrations.” Verhaert reassures that “it’s coming from a nice place.”

The material for their latest release, Vanta, out now on Pelagic Records, comes from severe personal hardship, tapping multiple emotions. “Back in 2019 I was diagnosed with cancer and it was a pretty rough year—a bunch of surgeries, chemotherapy, radiotherapy—a lot of sadness as well, and I think that reflects in the music,” Falck shares. “It’s not necessarily—”

“Not just anger, there’s desperation,” Verhaert politely interrupts. “BEAR has always been a fury-driven band, and this is a bit more,” finishes Falck. The guest saxophone solo by Vincent Breys on the track “Defeatist” speaks to this, as he concludes, “We had a little more time to experiment with this record, and we wanted to try some really weird shit.”

How the powerful new songs will be portrayed in BEAR’s already chaotic live show is unclear. “We did a release show recently, and it ended with a fan of ours coming on stage, removing his prosthetic leg and smashing everything with it. I feel, now, we have to bring him along for every show because it adds another element of insanity,” laughs Falck. Verhaert notes another nugget from the show: “We burned a hole in the stage.” And it wasn’t the first time that’s happened.

With all this destruction, you wonder how the hardcore band maintains their functionality. “Dries and our drummer Serch (Carriere) are really good at fixing shit, so the guitars and basses we smash are pretty much working, still,” the guitarist divulges.  Verhaert adds, “on tour, we need to stop at a hardware store every now and then, and if there’s still sound coming (from the instruments), we can play.”

Vanta is available now on Pelagic Records. Follow BEAR on Facebook and Instagram for future updates.

Photo courtesy of VLAD VDK

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