A humble, dreamy lushness is crafted with acoustic guitars, keys, synths, layered voices and heart-swelling string sounds, all tied together by Cunningham's emotive, vivacious lead vocals, which have the kind of effortless elasticity that only truly great singers can pull off...lilting, falsetto melodies, acoustic lushness and an emotional vibe that'll send tingles up your goosebumps. Chilled-out Arcade Fire, Promenade, Bright Eyes on helium. (MikeBreen, CityBeat)
A year and a half after the debut release, Woe Is Meat, Wake the Bear released If We Survive This Rapture in June 2007. From aliens, chickens and surviving the 80s – to a dog, a god, and a good many drinks – Rapture wears its heart on its sleeve – without the cheese. Up-beat poppers. Low-key stoppers. Frailly held together with stuck-in-your-head glue.
• Best New Artist Nomination, 2006 CEAs
• Showcase Slot, MidPoint Music Festival 2008, 2006, 2005
• Supporting slots for VHS or BETA, Bob Mould, Andrew Bird, Adrian Belew
Experience with former project, Promenade
• Winner of Cincinnati Entertainment Award for Best Indie/Alternative Band
• Shared the stage with SUPERDRAG, TAHITI 80, NADA SURF, SPONGE, GIN BLOSSOMS and more
• Showcases in Canada’s celebrated NXNE & MidPoint Music Fest
• Music heard in MTV’s “Undressed” and independent film, Dream Catcher
• Part One: Album of the Year nomination, Cincinnati Entertainment Awards 2004
• Save the Radio: Album of the Year nomination, Cincinnati Entertainment Awards 2000
• Radio-favored “Nervous Wreck” was a year end TOP FIVE SELECTION with influential WOXY 97X station DJ
Under the influence of Happy Chichester, Flaming Lips, U2, Pixies, Ryan Adams, Stevie Wonder, Prince
Keys, Guitars, Voices, Machines
Player Piano (2009)
If We Survive This Rapture (2007)
Woe Is Meat (2005)
Love Is Not In Love
They Don't Make Them Like They Used To
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Blissful Solitude With new CD, Wake the Bear gets more comfortable in his solo skin By Mike Breen ...Blissful Solitude
With new CD, Wake the Bear gets more comfortable in his solo skin
By Mike Breen
Years ago, when I would meet up with Scott Cunningham, then lead singer and bassist for the local Pop/Rock trio Promenade, it was usually at a bar. Or maybe we'd hook up at his swank downtown bachelor pad, which he shared with a couple of college buddies.
But on the eve of the release of his second solo album — under the moniker Wake the Bear — we arrange to meet at his new house in Pleasant Ridge. As I approach the home, his new bride is fussing with some flowers out front on the porch (her mom is there to help plant some new ones). The house is a pleasant two-story, nicely decorated, immaculately clean and perfect for young newlyweds. And, though Cunningham has never been the messy type (and this isn't quite "white-picket fence" Suburbicana), it’s a far cry from all those times I remember doing shots in his kitchen or worshiping at his apartment's porcelain altar.
Cunningham and his wife Amanda seem to have one of those “easy” relationships, where they appear to fit together perfectly. Obviously, as a songwriter who writes songs about relationships (among other things), Amanda’s spirit and inspiration loom pretty large over the new Wake the Bear CD, If We Survive This Rapture. Fitting, as their wedding took place directly in the middle of the Rapture creation process.
That’s the “ghost” of her, holding a cup of coffee, on the back of the CD. She even contributes some backing vocals to the choral atmospherics of “Holy Moses.” Chances are, she checked in on Cunningham more than a few times while he was recording the new album, since Cunningham no longer spends thousands of dollars recording in a big-time studio, opting instead for a small upstairs bedroom in his new home, loaded with instruments (a synth, a drum kit, a guitar, a few old Casio keyboards) and a Mac computer, on which he does all of the recording. And, of course, you can feel Amanda’s presence in many of the album’s songs, be it the lush, warm, peaceful feel of the music or the lyrics, some directly related to their relationship.
When we adjourn to Mapletape Studios (as he calls the room) to chat, I ask Cunningham if Amanda is his “muse.”
“She’s a muse,” he clarifies, with an embarrassed, sly smirk.
“As far as relationship songs, yeah, I’m sort of focused on a person,” he says with a laugh, “which probably influenced (the music). In the time between the first one and this one, there’s more positive light, just figuring things out.”
After 13 years with Promenade, which included heavy industry pushes and some regional touring, he and his longtime partner, guitarist Steve Sauer, made the decision to end the band a couple of years ago due to a variety of reasons. One was the departure of drummer Jason DeBruer, who’d been an integral part of the band’s sound, but mainly, Cunningham and Sauer just felt Promenade had run its course.
They did decide to do one last album, Part 2, which turned out to be a stepping-stone to Wake the Bear’s emergence. The decision was made to record the last Promenade album on Cunningham’s new recording gear. As his band recorded their swan song, Cunningham also began making his solo debut and got deeper into the recording software operations.
Cunningham professes a deep-seated love for writing and recording music (he’s much less enthusiastic about live performance, which, like his studio work, he does alone), something that stretches back to his childhood.
“I remember being in fourth grade and I set up this corner in my room with these old dressers and I had some Casio keyboards and I remember some Rap songs I did and there was a ballad, ‘Rose of November’,” he recalls, describing an Erector Set version of his current home studio set-up. “I guess I always liked creating music.”
Twenty years ago, if Cunningham were to end a band but decided to keep making music, his only option (besides being an acoustic singer/songwriter) would have been to start another band. With today’s cheaper and easier-to-use recording technology, all of that has changed. Working on music at his own pace, without a clock clicking away like a slow taxi meter, Cunningham now has the luxury of working when he wants to, on his own terms and without any pressure.
“If I couldn’t record at home — if I was paying for studio time — I don’t think I’d release anything,” he admits.
Cunningham says he misses some of the “checks and balances” of being in a band situation. But, at the same time, his newfound freedom (he calls it being “single”) has enabled him to find his own voice and take chances he wouldn’t have previously. That’s good and bad, he says.
“There’s no filter now,” he says of his musical bachelorhood. “Which is great because it means I can” — as if on cue, his two large dogs begin barking up a storm —“put a dog bark on the album if I want to.” As the dogs continue to yelp, he quickly adds with a grin, “but it also means I could put a dog bark on the album.”
Cunningham has a “boyish” quality to his looks and demeanor, and that’s not meant as a slam. He’s one of those people who doesn’t seem to have a negative bone in his body. And his humbleness comes through in the self-depreciating comments he makes throughout our conversation. When I ask about the one piece of art on the recording room’s walls — a framed poster of Prince — he quips, “It’s my little shrine. It’s inspiration.”
When I mention that what he is doing is similar to what Prince does, recording everything himself and playing all the instruments, he kind of rolls his eyes without actually rolling his eyes.
“I’m exactly like Prince,” he jokes, straight-faced. “Except he knows how to play all the instruments.”
Unlike Prince, Cunningham doesn’t have a giant backing band when he plays shows. Playing live is something he says he wants to do more of, but the process of putting together a live show has been an evolutionary one. He’s played gigs in front of a handful of people at The Comet, but he has also worked in front of larger audiences, opening for people like Bob Mould and Andrew Bird. After the release of his debut a couple of years ago, the splendid Woe Is Meat, Cunningham played some shows with just an acoustic and a keyboard. Gradually, he has worked to add loops and backing samples. Supporting this new album, he says he’ll incorporate more backing tracks via an iPod, though he says he is leery of making it “sound like karaoke — I don’t want it to be too much of a cheat.” But even with the expansion and the cushion of backing tracks, he still somewhat dreads live appearances.
“(With a band) you totally lean on the other guys on stage,” he says. “There’s a little more sense of security when there’s other people out there with you. And there’s a little more room for error when you have other people out there.
“I don’t look forward to it,” he reiterates about live appearances. “Which sounds terrible! I just get nervous! I don’t hate doing it, it’s nerves and I worry about my skills and worry about catching a cold beforehand and all that dumb stuff.”
While Promenade worked hard to attract some record company attention and gain wider exposure, Cunningham says he’s taken a more relaxed approach to Wake the Bear.
“It is more fun now because I’m not worried about trying to be the next U2,” he says. “It’s nice, because you make it for yourself — I mean you want people to hear it. If somebody in the industry likes it, great; if they don’t, fine.”
In lieu of going on the road for prolonged treks, Cunningham says he’s discovered the wonderful world of song licensing. He’s already sold one song from his first record to a company that will shop it to TV and film.
“That totally interests me right now, the whole licensing thing,” he says. “It’s a convenient way to get music out there. You don’t have to hit the road hard. I’d rather have recording success than have to hit the road hard.”
The new album contains songs about aliens, a chicken-boy, religion and love, all back-dropped by Cunningham’s velvet curtain of sound, which uses ’80s synth sounds, full orchestral backing and simple drum machine beats. Cunningham’s deft ability to make the emotion of a song more palpable has grown over the years, but Rapture features his most “soulful” songs yet, as his elastic voice (from a low-toned almost-whisper to his trademark sterling, natural falsetto) and luxurious melodies give each track its heartbeat, fleshed out by the appropriate, matching backing. On “Wine” (the song his wife walked down the aisle to at his wedding), Cunningham sings a dreamy, gorgeous ode to lasting love over simple piano chords; as the song builds, loud tympanies and sweeping cymbals seem to enhance and react to his exuberant mood. Meanwhile, tracks like “80s Babies” and “Chicken” are more upbeat and playful, recalling the more “instantly catchy” Pop aspects of the songs he wrote for his old band.
Despite the mix of humor and more serious topics, the whole album has a cozy vibe that, given the album title, seems to say, “The world is going to end, but we have each other so let’s just cling to that.” Cunningham says that he did pick If We Survive This Rapture as a title because it fit the mood, but he denies writing with that title in mind. When asked if he is worried about the state of the world, he shrugs and then thinks for a second.
““I’m cynical about some things,” he finally says, belying some of the clarity and optimism of the album. “I don’t think the world is ending, really … but it might.”
Cunningham hosts a CD release party Friday at the Northside Tavern for the new Wake the Bear CD. He's joined by special guests Wussy for the free show. Listen to the new track, "80s Babies," plus songs from Woe Is Meat at the Wake the Bear MySpace page here.
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Well, traditional radio stinks -- so here's our guide to the best websites that play cool music. by...Well, traditional radio stinks -- so here's our guide to the best websites that play cool music.
by Andy Horonzy
Now that Entertainment Weekly's Michael Endelman has explained the problems with traditional radio, it's time to consider the alternatives — and there are plenty. As Internet radio wins over the kiddies, how do you find the right station for you? Here are a handful that we think are worth a visit.
WOXY.com Free live streaming (Windows Media, MP3 formats) ?WHAT'S HOT Unsigned, a weekly podcast of undiscovered bands. This Ohio station — one of modern rock's first champions — went Web-only in 2004. Though WOXY specializes in up-and-coming bands with funny names like Wake the Bear and the Gingerbread Patriots, you'll still find some Death Cab for Cutie and Afghan Whigs in the mix. A simple interface shows you what's coming up next.
CityBeat Album Review
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For his debut, titled Woe Is Meat, Cunningham goes truly solo, recording and performing all the inst...For his debut, titled Woe Is Meat, Cunningham goes truly solo, recording and performing all the instrumentation himself. A humble, dreamy lushness is crafted with acoustic guitars, keys, synths, layered voices and heart-swelling string sounds, all tied together by Cunningham's emotive, vivacious lead vocals, which have the kind of effortless elasticity that only truly great singers can pull off. Like the Flaming Lips on downers, the disc has an orchestral tinge that is countered by a somewhat melancholic spirit. With its climbing melodies and sensual atmospherics, the album, while distinct, falls somewhere between Bright Eyes' Digital Ash in a Digital Urn and Arcade Fire's Funeral. Highlights include the Elliott Smith-ish "Soundtrack"; the sparse, poignant "Moving," with its stunning melodic build; the steamy, luxurious "Our Romantic Apocalypse," which is the dark equivalent of an Indie Pop Barry White slow jam ("In this bathtub/While we make love/As the water/That surrounds us/Slowly drowns us"); and "The Myth," on which Cunningham comes off like a less angsty, male version of Fiona Apple. Woe Is Meat is a luminous, textural bedroom magnum opus, as good as any one-man-band album you'll ever hear.
MidPoint Showcase Review
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The first artist I see Thursday is the polar opposite of the last band I'll witness. While Saturday'...The first artist I see Thursday is the polar opposite of the last band I'll witness. While Saturday's set by "Japunk" animals The Spunks shows the unhinged, outrageous and explosive side of music, local singer/songwriter Scott Cunningham's first set as Wake the Bear is a reminder of music's luminous beauty and tender-heartedness.
No Emo whiny-boy, Cunningham unspools lustrous nuggets of melodic splendor, armed only with an acoustic guitar and small keyboard. His effortless set is witnessed by about 30 people at the smallish Courtyard Café, but each seems appropriately spellbound.
While the rest of the fest would be filled with performances ranging from excellent to mediocre, with some bands doing their best to show off what they believe to be a rockin' live show, Cunningham's set is all about his amazing art and songcraft. Above marketing, schmoozing and promoting, that's really what any music festival should be about.
CiN Weekly writes...
...quietly complex and beautifully layered with guitar, keys and vocals.
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...lilting, falsetto melodies, acoustic lushness and an emotional vibe that'll send tingles up your ......lilting, falsetto melodies, acoustic lushness and an emotional vibe that'll send tingles up your goosebumps. Chilled-out Arcade Fire, Promenade, Bright Eyes on helium...
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After Promenade broke up, singer Scott Cunningham wasn’t content to rest on his laurels. This guy is...After Promenade broke up, singer Scott Cunningham wasn’t content to rest on his laurels. This guy is good. Really good. The city doesn’t have a lot of singer songwriters right now (or at least very few of any note), and Wake the Bear will fill that niche nicely. He plays well and he sings even better.
30-90 minutes of original material - vocals/acoustic guitar/keys/beats/samples...
Back of the Train Seat
Honey Grubbing Me
I Will Resurrect You
Just As Sweet As When Your Heart Was Beating
Love Is Not In Love
I Hear You
Monuments of Mars
Our Romantic Apocalypse
They Don't Make Them Like They Used To
You'll Be Sorry Then
There are no upcoming dates at this time.