message-to-bears-shk-feature-music

Message to Bears is a wintery breath of fresh air — sweet and optimistic.

The new album from English Composer and multi-instrumentalist Jerome Alexander’s musical alias Message To Bears opens with a swell of scattered sound fractals, not unlike the digital dewdrops and muffled white noise found in the “Intro/Tokyo” track that begins the Lost in Translation soundtrack. Like the Sofia Coppola film itself, “Sun Breaking Through” the first song off Maps (2013), demands a certain sense of introspection, and like the first breath of a new day, eventually ushers in a sweet sense of optimism. The album as a whole continually touches on that particular reverb soaked Kevin Shields brand of audio-isolation and rainy day melancholy but happily opens up into something ultimately more accessible and decidedly more modern. Alexander’s history as a guitar and piano playing singer songwriter grounds his new appreciation for electronic intonations. In “You Are a Memory” a string heavy ethereal ballad that escalates to a fever pitch, never overshadows Jerome’s hushed and often impressive vocals. This track dissolves into one of Map’s strongest offerings, the ghostly “Two Finds Two” featuring a haunting Saw and Bow, creating a unique palette not often explored in folk ambient territory. In fact, it is this unorthodox layering of digital effects, tasteful soul soaring auto-tuned vocals pared with classical instrumentations that truly sets Alexander apart from his contemporaries. In “Almost Faded” Jerome’s cascading voice blends peacefully with a heavy synth organ to create a surging tidal bore of ambient sound. Like Shields himself, Jerome may hear Coppola calling sooner than later — Kurt McVey

“Sun Breaking Through”

YOUR MUSIC HAS A CERTAIN FOLK AMBIENT ENERGY, A SORT OF BON IVER MEETS ENO. WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR MUSICAL INFLUENCES? 

Other acts that I think have been very influential are The Album Leaf, Helios/Keith Kenniff, Explosions in The Sky, Max Richter, Olafur Arnalds, Peter Broderick. Anything I deem cinematic and quietly beautiful.

YOUR NEW ALBUM, MAPS, SEEMS TO INCORPORATE MORE ELECTRONIC ELEMENTS THAN YOUR PREVIOUS ALBUMS, FOLDING LEAVES (2012) AND DEPARTURES (2009). IS THIS A NATURAL PROGRESSION FOR YOU, OR IS THIS MORE OF A RESPONSE TO PRESSURE FROM THE CURRENT MUSICAL LANDSCAPE?

I would say this is a natural progression for the most part, I love exploring new sounds and feel I have maybe exhausted my acoustic possibilities for this particular moment in time and have a lot more to explore electronically. I try not to be ‘pressured’ by current musical trends but it probably wouldn’t be fair to say it hasn’t contributed as an influence at all.

WHAT INSTRUMENT DID YOU FEEL A PERSONAL CONNECTION TO? WHICH INSTRUMENT TOUCHES YOU AND SPEAKS FOR YOU THE MOST SPIRITUALLY?

Piano, my parents had a beautiful grand whilst growing up. I don’t often have access to one nowadays and I don’t know much music theory nor had any proper training on the instrument but I really enjoy just sitting at one and feeling my way around the notes without concentrating much. I find it easy to lose myself in, playing and listening to others.

ARE YOU FAMILIAR WITH YOANN LEMOINE OF WOOKID? WE SEE SOME SIMALARITIES THERE.

Yes, I like his music very much and his videos are nothing short of stunning.

BEING THAT MANY OF SONGS BORDER ON BEING INSTRUMENTALS, HOW CONSCIOUS ARE YOU OF YOUR MUSIC BEING “BACKGROUND MUSIC?” WHAT DO YOU IMAGINE YOUR HOME AUDIENCE IS DOING WHILE YOUR MUSIC IS PLAYING?

It’s not something I’ve ever really thought about to be honest, I make music for the process of creation in a particular moment and don’t think too much about how it is consumed, though I would definitely consider it more apt to private headphone occasions rather than background music at a party. I’ve been told many times it has been good to revise/work to though.

HOW IMPORTANT ARE LYRICS TO YOU? HOW IMPORTANT DO YOU THINK THEY ARE IN THE CURRENT MUSICAL MARKET?

I approach lyrics in the same way as melody/harmony really, I absorb them more viscerally rather than analysing what they mean, my favourite lyrics are those that provide rich imagery. I’m afraid don’t feel particularly knowledgable about the current music market really!  

WHAT ARE YOUR VICES? WHAT PARTICULAR VICE HELPS OR HINDERS YOU THE MOST CREATIVELY?

Red wine, but not when I’m trying to be creative generally. I’ve tried writing or mixing whilst intoxicated occasionally, seems good at the time but when I’ve listened back the next day it’s generally not worked out very well. Actually one track on the new album I pretty much wrote whilst wasted on rum but I cleaned the track up and re-recorded parts over the next few days when sober.

message-to-bears-maps-new-album-shk-interview

WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS ON NYC? WHERE IS ENGLAND AT RIGHT NOW MUSICALLY? HOW DOES THE MUSIC INDUSTRY COMPARE OR CONTRAST ACROSS THE PONG? HOW DO OUR MUSICAL TASTE DIFFER?

I haven’t been to NYC since I was 18 for an art trip, I liked it though! Would be good to go back. Where is NYC at musically at the moment? I don’t think I’m qualified to speak for my entire country, nor how it compares to yours but I can happily say I have a lot of support across the pond, at least as much as I get in the UK.

ARE YOU COLLABORATING WITH ANY OTHER ARTISTS? WHO IS HELPING YOU EXPAND YOUR HORIZONS?

I’m in the beginning stages of collaborating with the wonderful Will Samson, which is likely to explore very ambient, organic textures and also with producer Debian Blak, which I imagine will venture towards more electronic territories. I pretty much rely on friends to show me new music.

message-to-bears-shk-interview-music

WHAT DOES A “MUSIC VIDEO” HELP YOU EXPRESS ARTISTICALLY OUTSIDE OF THE MUSIC ITSELF?

I love combining artforms such as film and music, working together they can occasionally create an effect greater and/or different than the individual components. It’s also really fun and exciting seeing how your own music influences creative choices of a filmmaker.

BONUS: IF YOU WERE A BEAR, WHAT TYPE OF BEAR WOULD YOU BE? 

Panda bear, because they’re vegetarian.

[images credited to Message to Bears facebook & Luke Doyle Photography]

Comments

comments