Spirit of the Bear
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Spirit of the Bear

Youngstown, Ohio, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

Youngstown, Ohio, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Alternative Indie




"Spirit of the Bear Triumphs With Cutting-Edge Album "Fade Into Blue""

Tucked away in an oft-forgotten corner of the middle of the country, Ohio has been the home of quite a few quality bands, including big names like Twenty One Pilots and Walk the Moon. As the Ohio independent music scene quickly rises to national prominence, one band in particular has been working immensely hard to make a place for themselves. Spirit of the Bear, in a follow up of 2016’s Remains, is easily closing 2017 out on a high note, with their sophomore effort Fade Into Blue. A thorough album, the 10-track epic features something for fans of almost every genre and style, showing a cutting-edge versatility and unique sound that can quickly bring Spirit of the Bear to the forefront of the public eye.

The album’s first title, “Dying/Lying,” could fit in easily among underground mainstays such as LA-based Finish Ticket or Night Riots. The cool vocals croon a brooding story, one that flows easily over rough-cut guitar riffs. The beat can be felt at the core of the song, which one can imagine could translate beautifully into a live set. The frayed-edge rock vibe starkly sits along a spectrum, the other end of which is marked by album highlight “Folded.” In this piece, Spirit of the Bear show off their ability to make a shiny, rounded song; their production chops are on full display, as vocal distortions and icy synth make their place within the album. The roughly four-and-a-half-minute-long track is a win for music lovers everywhere, and is enough to move listeners to tears without having to say much of anything at all. If you listen to just one song off of Fade Into Blue, let it be this one.

Other gems embedded within the album include “Lacuna,” a montage-worthy piece that rises and falls with grace; “Run My Mouth,” which has immense potential among fans of groovy synth-rock a la Hippo Campus; and “White Flag,” an anthem for the aching that swells into a cathartic release worthy of any rooftop yell session.

But for all of these beautifully written, well-produced bursts of music euphoria, there’s one song that resonates the strongest. Closing track “Life Like Paper” very much brings the album back down to reality, giving Fade Into Blue an eminent humanity and vulnerability. The brutal honesty contained within the lyrics proclaiming that “we’re still alive” is introspective. It’s reflective, but above all, it’s vulnerable. As has been seen time after time, it’s a band’s ability to be emotionally raw within their music that can make or break an album. Though the album is stellar on its own, it’s “Life Like Paper” that is the icing on the cake- it’s the bittersweet end of an era and the conclusion to a complicated, lifelong story. In its totality, Fade Into Blue is a triumph for music, and highlights the overwhelmingly bright future for Spirit of the Bear. - Loveless Magazine

"Third Time's The Charm for Spirit of the Bear"

Some bands put out a debut album that’s considered a classic. Other acts take a little longer to develop their creative vision. Spirit of the Bear consider their musical output in the latter category.

The band members are understandably enthusiastic about their upcoming third album, “Fade Into Blue.” They’ll celebrate that with a record release show on Friday at B&O Station Banquet Hall. The Vindys, Labra Brothers and Leo D’Angelo round out the bill.

The satisfaction with “Fade Into Blue” can be attributed to a process that encouraged input from all the members as well as taking the time to flesh out the material.

To reach that end, SOTB rented a house in Columbiana to work on songs as a band, rather than the past approach that saw a couple members completing a number while rushing to meet strict deadlines.

“For four weeks, every day, we would get together and write,” said guitarist / vocalist James Harker. “Everyone had much more creative input, which shines through distinctly on this album in a way that didn’t on the last one. Everyone is on all the songs and everyone has input on every song.”

Whereas the group’s previous album, “Remains,” contained a poppy danceable sound, the new album displays a wider scope of the group’s writing and playing abilities that’s aided by a textured production.

“We didn’t actively avoid (making danceable music) but this is what was coming out of us at the time of writing,” said Danny Svenson, who’s on keys and electronics.

Harker added, “This time we went in and said, ‘This album is going to be about a theme, the experiences of the first time of being on our own’ and wrote to that. The songs may not be as poppy but they’re definitely accessible.”

“Lacuna” bridges the gap between the past and present, while the new album’s first single, “Run My Mouth” shows that the band hasn’t lost its attention to melodic hooks but develops them differently.

Svenson stated, “Since we’ve done this a few years together, we’ve matured a little bit more in thinking about different directions, and we all push each other to try new stuff.”

As far as SOTB’s debut, which featured the members’ earliest attempts at songwriting, Svenson said, “That album we took offline recently because…”

“…it was bad,” Harker said.

Only “Forests” and “The Well” passed quality control and are available to listen on SOTB’s website, www.spiritofthebearband.com.

Svenson said, “Every time we got together, we were happier with the newest thing than we were with the last. Being in a situation like that, it’s not something that people always find. We’re really happy about that with each other because we’re continuously growing and helping each other out.”

Formed three years ago by Harker and Svenson while they attended Boardman High School, SOTB then added drummer Jamie Vitullo, bassist Mike Perorazio and keyboardist Ethan Schwendeman.

The quintet quickly gained fans through a combination of live shows, recordings, videos and a social media presence. While some of the members now live in Columbus and Cleveland, they remain connected to the Youngstown area.

“The bulk of the new album — guitars, bass and electronics — was recorded in Youngstown but vocals and drums were done in Columbus,” Vitullo said.

The band also founded the Fiction Forest music festival, which took place last summer at B&O Station. Plans are underway for its return next year.

A well-received set at last April’s Federal Frenzy multi-band event in downtown Youngstown resulted in SOTB winning the Listener Choice Award. With that, the group was invited to play a Studio C Session at The Summit (90.7 / 91.3 FM). Past Studio C artists included Graham Nash, Steve Martin, Squeeze, Pixies, Avett Brothers and the Zombies. According to Summit program director Brad Savage, the band should be recording its performance and interview session on Dec. 20.

As part of its commitment to giving Ohio artists airplay, the listener-supported radio station has regularly had SOTB on regular rotation.

“We are seeing great response to their new song ‘Run My Mouth,'” Savage said. “They are a great new band with so much potential beyond just local hometown stars. I think they have national breakout potential. Absolutely worth keeping an eye on them.” - Warren Tribune

"Spirit of the Bear - Fade Into Blue Review"

For a while now we’ve been easing into a new era – one of that of a Twitter famous band. Such groups usually gravitate more toward the pop spectrum, and through savvy tags and tweeting amass a small but dedicated group of followers that endorses the band’s every move.

One such group is Youngstown, Ohio based Spirit of the Bear.

What makes Spirit of the Bear standout from many of their counterparts is the sheer spectrum of their sound, along with the vibe falling generally closer to a funk epicenter than one of pop, though the pop vibe remains very strong. Album opener “Dying/Lying” eases into things with some ambient sounds, before assertively announcing their presence with a distinct bass groove.

The entirety of the record carries a mood that is decidedly easygoing, with subtle moments of aggression punching through. But they never really sound mad. Those moments just seem to exist to say “Hey bro, you should take us seriously. But now that we have your attention, relax and have a good time.” This is evident in “Why Don’t We Talk About It?” with the band’s driving drums and dreamy guitar and synth overlaid. Also in “White Flag,” the song has perhaps the most marked ebb and flow of the album thus far, with floating melodies jolting into an urgent ending.

“Lucana” is an album favorite. Any time there’s complex rhythms contrasted with a “vibey” sound effect it hits my ears’ sweet spot. The guitar hook here is the song’s trademark, and sounds familiar, somehow. The earworm of a tune is more of a jam than anything else. I’m not gonna lie, I’m writing this in 2018 and I’m now thinking I screwed up in not including this song in my top 100 of last year.

The band also shows their mastery of quiet moments in songs like “In Smoke” and “Like Life Paper”, which close out the record. The musicality isn’t that similar, but the feeling I get listening to these songs isn’t unlike listening to some early Bon Iver.

Spirit of the Bear seems to be poised to have a big 2018, based on murmurings that I’ve heard. Fade Into Blue is, fortunately, an album of substance that will back their momentum. - TunedUp Columbus

"Spirit of the Bear Shifts POV on Latest Album"

Spirit of the Bear took a different approach to its second LP "Fade Into Blue" than its last ("Remains" 2016). Released on Nov. 24, the band wrote the entire album from scratch in full collaboration with each other. In May 2017, the members of Spirit of the Bear moved all of their equipment from their respective homes into a 100-year-old house in a small neighborhood in the tiny town of Columbiana, Ohio.

Spirit of the Bear then sat down and started mapping out would become a collection of intimate stories about what the bandmates and shared friends have experienced. The tracks log their high school maturation into the responsibilities and situations of college and beyond.

Singer and guitarist James Harker had the chance to chat with In The Record Store prior to the record’s release.

ITRS: Tell me about the title of the album "Fade Into Blue." Where did it come from and how does it relate to the feel of the album?

James Harker: Yeah, we set out to tell a bunch of stories about things that have happened to us over the past year. Things that we've encountered when we've gone out to play or there's a couple songs on here about friends of ours and stuff they've gone through that we were there for. So we would talk to these people and ask them to tell us their story, then we wrote songs about them. The songs are from the perspective of how to deal with it rather than just talking about the problem or situation only.

ITRS: So it's a little more therapeutic in a sense then?

JH: Exactly. We released our last album not quite two years ago and we were all young. The oldest member was 18 or 19 at the time, and now we are all in college dealing with "real life kinda stuff," I guess. It's not as cliché as it sounds. "Fade Into Blue" is a line from "Run My Mouth." We didn't have a title at first, so when we thought about a title, that lyric kind of made sense when we thought about it. It's like your way of going into a state where you can deal with the problems that we talk about on the album.

ITRS: I totally understand that. What was the writing process like for this album then? Was it different from before?

JH: It was really different. We moved all of our equipment into this old house and for a month we wrote and recorded a lot of the album. Before, it would be one or two of us writing the core structure and then the other guys would fill in. This time we were together the whole time. So, Mike (Perorazio) would come up with a bass line and then we would spend the next six hours working on it.

ITRS: That's a beautiful thing, to be able to have that time together to really dig in. So does that same collaboration happen with the lyrics and melodies?

JH: That too was more so all of us unlike our previous album. The song "Why Can't We Talk About It," was written lyrically and melodically by Danny (Svenson) and I did "White Flag" and "Lacuna," but pretty much the rest of the songs were someone else's idea. Someone like Mike (bassist) would have an overall idea and we'd work it out.

ITRS: You said that there are stories being told throughout the album. What is the story behind the song "A Year Ago?”

JH: Sure, that song everyone thinks is a break-up song. My girlfriend thought it was about her when we had a fight. It's actually about a friend of ours that had planned to go live with his father and step mother for his first year of college. A year later when it was time for him to move in, they said it wasn't going to work out and he had no backup plan, so he took a year to work and get his own place so that he could go to the school he had planned to.

ITRS: I've actually had friends in similar situations. It's always rough, but they all made it our on the other end stronger and more ready for anything. It's intensive "adulting," in a way.

JH: It's stories like that and ones about relationships that we really wanted to talk about on this album, and I think we succeeded.

"Fade Into Blue" showcases the band's talent for songwriting, diving deeper and more conceptual than the previous "Remains," which was more pop and dance driven. Spirit of the Bear hasn’t lost the groove; you'll still dance, but the way the album moves, you'll hear many different influences at play.

"White Flag" has more hints of jazz and showcases Harker's smooth falsetto. "Lacuna" gives you a familiar pop vibe but chills with crispy keys. Then "Open Eyes" gets a little dirty with bluesy rock stylings allowing the album to breathe a bit. There's a song for every listener, and the execution from the boys of SOTB knocks it out of the park. - In The Record Store Magazine

"Fade Into Blue by Spirit of the Bear"

On November 24, Spirit of the Bear is gifting the world of music with their sophomore album, Fade Into Blue. What Spirit of the Bear presents to listeners is something entirely original, crafted with obvious passion and care. Again, the band finds a way to create something that doesn’t sound like anything you’ve heard before, immediately distinguishing themselves as something important and worth listening to. Each of their songs creates a mood and throws you into the narrative that frontman James Harker is singing about, making you feel like you’re flipping through pages of a story book.

The album Fade into Blue fades into your ears with the opening track, Dying / Lying (a very clever way to begin an album of such title). The song starts off distant, with guitar slides that make you feel like you’re in a dream, but slowly, the drum beat creeps into your ears. The soft beginning is calming, but as the music gets louder, you’re suddenly brought to an awareness of the things around you. Dying / Lying is a strong opening track to reel in a listener, preparing them for the rest of the journey of the album.

A Year Ago was the final pre-album release to excite listeners about the album, and it did just that. The groovy introduction carries that distinct Spirit of the Bear sound. This song is about getting over heartbreak in a manipulative situation, “You left me in the dark trusting my eyes / but still somehow the fault is always mine.” The song emulates its message through the structured chaos in the composition of notes and instruments.

Why Can’t We Talk About It, the third track, hits you right away with its unique sound. James’ soft vocals begin immediately, accompanied by dreamy keyboards and synth sounds. It’s hard not to bop your head along.

White Flag has so many interesting guitar licks and all the music shifts glide together very well. The song is really beautiful and intricate while discussing a failing relationship. It reaches a great emotional peak towards the end, and carries a cathartic feeling with it.

Lacuna is a soundtrack song. It shows off Spirit of the Bear’s impressive melody creating skills and James’ buttery falsetto. This is a track I distinctly remember hearing live. You know when you’re not paying much attention during a live show, listening but also slightly zoned out? You’re tired and your feet hurt, but suddenly you hear something so infatuating you stare in awe and forget your discomforts? That was this song for me, and one of my personal favorite off the album.

Open Eyes pairs a heavier instrumental with a smoother vocal performance, making for a dynamic track. It also includes a very interesting outro that smoothly winds down the groovy track.

Run My Mouth was the first released single of the album, which left me speechless. It’s such a good taste of what Spirit of the Bear is all about, with the unique melodies, synth, guitar, and bass composition. If you want to know more about how much I love this song, I wrote some words about it when it was released, which you can find here.

Folded pulls you in. The intro feels like waking up slowly as specks of sunlight shine through your curtains. The vocals in this song have an auto-tuned, electronic quality that took me by surprise. At first I wasn’t a fan of it, but I’m sure it will end up growing on me.

In Smoke begins with a soft and intricate acoustic guitar. The softness was unexpected, as many of the other songs contain intricate compositions of many different sounds as opposed to a simple guitar. However, the track fits in just right. The song feels heavy with the lyrics, “I want to go home / How could you do this to me? / Feels like it’s a dream / I’m praying it’s a dream.” It sounds like the narrative to a painful past experience. The ending especially feels haunting with the distorted sounds ringing through.

Interludes automatically add a new depth to an album, and this one does just that. It’s like the introduction into the final song on the album, preparing you for the ending of the journey.

Life Like Paper slyly jumps in as interlude fades out. The violin brings out more depth in the song, making it feel important and infinite in a way. At first, this song sounds quite down, but as it carries on the violins get louder and James’ voice gets more hopeful as he belts out “Our paper life, it won’t last long / But when you’re here I’m already gone." Maybe our paper lives aren’t such a bad thing. - Sunlight Magazine


Remains (2016) – Full-Length LP
Fade Into Blue (2017) – Full-Length LP
Hollow (2018) – Single



"Originally from Youngstown, Ohio, Spirit of the Bear launched themselves quickly into the local spotlight after forming in the summer of 2014. Their sound, a unique blend of indie rock and electronic influences, is prevalent throughout their recordings and live performances, and this element makes Spirit of the Bear one of the most exciting rock acts around today.

The band consists of James Harker (guitar, vocals), Danny Svenson (keys, electronics), Ethan Schwendeman (keys), Mike Perorazio (Bass) and Jamie Vitullo (drums, percussion). The group's versatility and wide breadth of musical background make for a sound that is original and complex, while still relatable to its audience.

Band Members