After their fantastic performance on the main stage at Y Not Festival last week, we caught up with Eliza and The Bear’s James Kellegher and Martin Dukelow to chat about Viola Beach, crazy videos and bromances. Since their self-titled debut album dropped earlier this year, the five piece have been drawing huge crowds to a string of gigs and festival sets. Despite being exhausted from such an energetic set, they greet us like friends and are absolutely lovely to chat to.
Hey Eliza and the Bear! We’ve just watched you perform, how was it? Terrifying?
To be fair, it’s easier when it’s busier like that. It’s cool, there’s like a crowd mentality. When you’ve got like five people in front of you it’s harder to get them to stick their hands in the air because they’ll just be like, meh. If you’ve got thousands of people in front of you, they’ll do whatever you say. We loved it!
You were here in 2014, when it was only a small festival. Is it daunting to come back to a much bigger event?
This is probably our first big outdoor festival on the main stage, we’re used to tents and being put in little caves and stuff! When we came before that was one of the biggest shows we had played, that was huge for us. This time when it got booked we were like ‘yeah that one’s gonna be sick’ we just knew considering the last one was so good, we had a good vibe leading up to playing main stage.
You restarted your first song, did the mistake throw you off at all?
Actually, it settled us in more. It was happening and I was like ‘right, fuck it, start again!’. Our drummer didn’t count us in, I just heard the start of the song thinking that was it then came in a bar late. I think it’s better just to be like ‘sod it, we’ve screwed up’, rather than carrying on wrong. We’re not some polished brand, we’re just lads that practise in a dirty, sweaty, studio – that probably looks a bit like this shed! You’ve just gotta take it on the chin. Maybe we should have walked off and come back on again!
So, neither of you are Eliza… or the bear?
Well, we’re trying, with the beard. (James is sporting a rather large, furry looking beard)
I hear the name is from a book of poems? Does it have any meaning or did it just sound cool?
When we started this band we didn’t think we’d be playing shows or anything. We didn’t put any pressure on it because we’d done it for so long – we were like twenty-two when we formed so we’d toured the country trying to be famous… didn’t work. We just enjoyed writing music, needed a name for our Facebook page and thought that fitted. We asked Eleanor Reese (the poet) and she said yes!
Did you see the guy in the crowd wearing the bear costume?
Yeah, I was trying to get his attention… but he couldn’t see because he had a bear mask over his eyes! He must have been so hot. We had one just like that in Nottingham and threw it into the crowd, so maybe he held on to it?
You should recruit him to tour with you, he could be the bear!
Yeah, we should do that! Although a bird in Edinburgh had one, maybe they make them somewhere? Should be our merch!
So, your videos are all quite theatrical and… strange. Are they fun to film?
Erm, yeah! The latest video, ‘Friends’, looks amazing, there’s cool scenery filmed in Argentina. But we just filmed for about half an hour in Shoreditch in a sweaty studio haha. We didn’t get to see any of that but that’s my favourite video. My favourite to film was ‘Kids In Love’. ‘Lion’s Heart‘ was shit because we stayed there until 4:30am in the morning. We had this maze to film in all night and waited until 4:30am until someone said ‘actually, you’re done!’, we literally just sat there watching for hours in the freezing cold in the middle of a field in Northern Ireland. I watch a lot of band music videos and I think a lot can get a bit samey so we’re consciously trying to make an effort to make our videos unique and memorable, so you can tell the song just from the video because of the style.
It’s more interesting to watch when it’s not just the band standing around. You’re trying to figure out the story as well while you’re watching it.
Yeah we did want it to be… like you’re trying to figure out the little details of it.
Did you have anything to do with the planning or did you just get told what to do?
We send out the song and budget then the directors kind of pitch ideas. Suddenly we had to film all these videos and we’d randomly be performing in this place or that place. The director, Lee, comes up with the bulk of the idea. We try to chip in little bits that we think might work but we’re not very good at that, we write songs and play them live, that’s what we do best.
Do you all get on well spending all your time together? Any arguments?
Yes, we get on well. But we know how to keep out of each other’s way if someone needs it, do you know what I mean? Some of us went to school together, it’s just like being in a band with your mates that you’ve known for ages. You sort of know each other’s ticks. You get to do cool stuff like play shows every day so it’s worth it and you’re never really in a bad mood.
Do you hang out in your spare time too?
James: Yeah, we see each other almost every day, unfortunately, I’m fucking sick of it. I see Martin more than my own girlfriend. Martin: I think you want me to be your girlfriend, I think that’s what he’s saying. James: Well we can arrange that, a sexual partnership. No, don’t write that, they might start shipping us! Is that what you call it? His surname is Dukelow and mine’s Kellegher so I said our ship name should be ‘Dukellegher’.
Shall I add that in to your Wikipedia page?
Martin: No! It’s terrible!
Today you dedicated ‘It Gets Cold’ to Viola Beach. You were quite close to them, was that emotional?
Yeah. I mean, every so often you kind of come to terms with it but then it comes back. We toured with them for like three weeks so we were heavily involved with them… and then we never saw them again. They died and it’s really weird but it peaks and flows. The Coldplay thing at Glastonbury set me back. The weirdest part was when we got the news that they died we had a day off tour so none of us were together, so it was two days later when we came back together and talked about it and it was weird. When we played Brighton they all jumped on stage when we played that song, they were properly fucked! Today I just thought, their album’s out, people need to go and buy it and we need to get it to number one. It just came out so we need to do them a bit of justice. One of their crew, Mark, was side stage so it seemed like the right thing to do for him too.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers, maybe to those who aren’t familiar with you?
Just go check out all our crazy videos! Buy the album! Come to a show! Let’s be friends!
Is there anything coming up soon for you guys?
Well we’re touring the debut album (which came out this year), so we’re still doing all the work off the back of that. It’s been amazing, we were so nervous about releasing it because a lot of people have been waiting so long since the singles came out but the response was really good, the shows have been even better than ever. Every festival has been a step up in atmosphere and crowd reaction so that’s a great sign. We’ve got a headline tour and we’ve written so much material but album two seems so far away. We spent so much time preparing then as soon as we released it we were like ‘well what do we do now?’.
Thank you for chatting to us, good luck with the tour!
Check out Eliza and the Bear here: Elizaandthebear.com
By Anna Barnard Wright (@)