Black Bear/Brown Bear
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Black Bear/Brown Bear

Chicago, Illinois, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

Chicago, Illinois, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Rock Indie




"MusicVox Vocalo Interview"

Click the link to listen to our interview -


Click the link to listen to our interview! - WONC - LOCAL CHAOS

"Black Bear/Brown Bear Open For July Talk"

Before July Talk took the stage, local band Black Bear Brown Bear warmed up the crowd with their fun dance driven indie-pop. These Chicago guys are becoming known as much for their entertaining and dynamic shows as they are for their humor. This recently turned six piece consists of Art Arredondo, Anthony Baier, Nick Blaul, Paul Munda, Sergio Santillan, and the band’s newest addition of Timi Walsh. The band has been riding high since releasing their self-produced debut album Good Luck, which the boys recorded in Munda’s basement slash rehearsal space slash studio. Black Bear Brown Bear create impressive beats with two drummers, wonderful melodies with multiple guitars, and a dance explosion with their use of syths and keys. The band has been compared to a mix of Vampire Weekend, Modest Mouse, and The Talking Heads, but that said, their sound is unique and hard to pigeonhole. Songs like “Muscles,” “Sitcoms,” and “I Don’t Know” showcase their enticing sound and feature witty lyrics that astutely analyze growing up blue-collar, what it means to be a twenty-something navigating your way in a shitty economy, and the search for happiness while examining the bigger picture.

Leah and Peter have truly made music an art form. Keep an eye out on Facebook for a July Talk show near you. They’ll soon be headed to Europe to promote their self-titled debut album, but Peter hinted that they’ll be back for another North American tour. Black Bear Brown Bear are in the process of scheduling some Midwest tour dates for late Spring and early Summer, but in the mean time, if you like what you hear, Good Luck is available for purchase on iTunes.

Written by Sarah Hess Published in Live Reviews Thursday, 27 March 2014 09:40
(All photos by Sarah Hess: -

"Hypertext Interview with Black Bear/Brown bear"

By Jessie Foley

By day, Sergio Santillan is an English teacher at Taft High School in Chicago. By night, he is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist in Black Bear/Brown Bear [formerly known as Rememberwhens], a band whose sound has been compared to Modest Mouse, and “the best parts of My Morning Jacket, Talking Heads, and Architecture in Helsinki.” The band is comprised of native Chicagoans Santillan, Art Arredondo, Anthony Baier, Nick Blaul, and Paul Munda. All of its members are graduates of either Lane Tech or St. Patrick High School, and their danceable beats and percussive, collaborative sound feels like it was born in the garages of the Northwest Side alleys and is poised now to hit it big. An upcoming submission to the South by Southwest music festival may very well make Mr. Santillan Taft High School’s first rock star teacher.

Recently, I sat down with the band before their show at the Burlington Bar in Logan Square and talked music, CPS politics, and Pitbull.

HT: Sergio, in addition to playing in Black Bear/Brown Bear, you’re also a CPS [Chicago Public Schools] English teacher. How do you navigate those two very different jobs and worlds? How does your life outside of school inform your teaching?

Sergio: Luckily, I have a smart board so I can look up clips and YouTube [videos], so I do incorporate a lot of music in the classroom. Sometimes I put on Pandora while they work on projects and I like to put on stuff they haven’t heard of. My students listen to Chief Keef and 2 Chainz, or A Day to Remember—those two extremes. So I put on Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Paul Simon’s Graceland, Talking Heads. They make fun of it at first…but eventually they start digging it. I’ve done projects where they have to make a soundtrack for a novel. The first thing I have them do each year is make a semi-autobiographical mixed tape that represents what song would play in the background in seven key moments of their life. That helps me gauge their writing and they don’t even realize it.

HT: What music do they put on those semi-autobiographical mixed tapes?

Sergio: Sometimes, it’s a lot of Pitbull.

HT: Do your students know you’re in a band?

Sergio: No. They found my Facebook at one point, which had a cover photo of my band. They asked me if I was in a band, but I still said no. Those are two separate worlds to me. In one job, I’m a teacher and I’m a professional, and that’s an atmosphere I want to create for them. Some teachers don’t mind [if their kids see stuff about them online], but I try to create a firm stance. Plus, it’s my personal life. It’s something I want to hold onto and it’s my stress reliever. My favorite class of kids, they’ll be juniors next year, and once they graduate I can’t wait to tell them about the band. There’s one student who has really good taste in music. She’s going to Riot Fest—we talk about music. A couple of those kinds of kids, I’ll tell them when they graduate and ask them to go to the show.

HT: How does your teaching inform your music?

Sergio: One of the songs I wrote is called “Catacombz.” That one I wrote right after we [permanently assigned CPS teachers] had to reapply for our jobs. I don’t sing anything specific about [the reapplication process], but it’s still very much about working and not getting respect for it, or at least working so hard and not having anything to show for it.

HT: Can you share a funny story about your students?

Sergio: One of my students once, right when the bell rang to start class, raised his hand and then asked, grinning, “Were you ever in a band called Kung Fu Fetus?” And I, poker-faced, said no. But he had just uttered the name of my first band. Apparently, he Googled me and…there’s this one music site that I can’t delete. I didn’t know I was gonna be a teacher at the time, obviously, and we had a metal band called Kung Fu Fetus. I was kinda James Hetfield sounding. It was really good music considering we were 16, but kind of embarrassing now that I’m 26.

HT: Yeah, one time I had a kid show me my own house on Google Earth.

Sergio: Another time I got White-Paged. The kid asked, “Who’s Sandra Santillan?” He saw that I was living at home with my parents.

HT: What do you identify yourself as more: a teacher or a musician?

Sergio: I think teaching is my passion just as much as music is. Since I was 18, I knew I wanted to be a teacher, but also since I was 9 or 10, I’ve wanted to be this ridiculous rock star, so they share the spotlight for me. There’s a way for me to manage doing both.

HT: As a student of CPS yourself, was it important for you to teach in CPS?

Sergio: I always wanted to teach in CPS. The diversity is super important to me. I had a lot of strong female teachers in school and only a small number of male ones, so that was important to me to do that for CPS kids.

HT: How long has the band been together?

Sergio: Since 2008. Five years ago, Art [drums], Anthony [bass], and I started it. In 2010, we added Nick, a guitarist and co-songwriter—this is when the band changed. Paul joined as the second drummer in 2011.

Anthony: Me, Paul, and Art were friends in high school and met Sergio at a backyard show freshman year.

Sergio: Yeah. Anthony was a man-groupie of my first band.

HT: Recently, I had a discussion with my brother about how bands choose their names. He was adamant that as long as the band name sounds cool, it doesn’t have to mean anything. Do you subscribe to that belief? Last April, you guys changed the band name from the Rememberwhens to Black Bear/ Brown Bear. Where did that name come from?

Sergio: Basically, after playing a sold-out show with a Talking Heads cover band, people thought we were also a cover band because of our name. Plus, it’s hard to say Rememberwhens when you’re at a bar and you’re drunk.

HT: I guess as an English teacher I read into things. I was thinking, brown bears are scary, claws. Black bears eat berries. I thought that might have been the two sides of the band.

Art, Anthony, Paul, and Sergio [stare blankly at one another and then respond in unison]: Yeah….no.

HT: What do the rest of you guys do outside the band?

Anthony: Line cook DMK burger bar.

Paul: I work at a desk.

Art: Desk job, too.

HT: What are some memorable shows you’ve done? Where do you enjoy playing most?

Art: One memorable show was when we opened for Walrus at Beat Kitchen. It was an all-ages show and when we came down from stage, these two younger kids said, “You’re the drummer in Rememberwhens! Can we can take a picture with you?” I find out a couple days later that the kid’s MySpace was me and her as if I was a legitimate person.

HT: What are your thoughts about the Chicago music scene? What would be your dream venue for a show?

Paul: The Empty Bottle.

Anthony: The Metro.

Art: I just want to play.

Sergio: We’re submitting to South by Southwest in October.

HT: Would that be life changing for the band?

Sergio: I hope so. The whole point is to get exposure. It’s a showcase for record companies and talent agencies, as well as exposure to new fans. A lot of bands that come from there—like Kids These Days—they went to South by Southwest and ended up paying Lolla [Lollapalooza].

HT: Sergio, do the hipster /punk/ artsy kids gravitate towards you?

Sergio: No. I try to keep both those things separate. I like to surprise them, because I always say jokingly that I sing. Then, I play and sing for them at the end of the year. - Hypertext


Still working on that hot first release.



Black Bear/Brown Bear create an infectious brand of indie-rock led by two drummers whose danceable rhythms create the foundation of the bands powerful sound. Drawing comparisons to that of Talking Heads, Modest Mouse, and Vampire Weekend, their energetic live set of organized chaos has been turning heads since 2012. An interview with Hypertextmag, stated that their danceable beats and percussive, collaborative sound feels like it was born in the garages of the Northwest Side alleys and is poised now to hit it big; and BB/BB have been putting in the muscle to prove themselves.

BB/BB are looking to branch out of Chicago an on to more extraordinary things in 2014. They believe in their music, love it, and love to perform. 

Band Members