Introducing… Eliza and the Bear (Interview)

“We are actually a manufactured boy band. One of us is really called Eliza…”

Just to be clear, both of the above are untrue. Of course they are. First of all, while they may look like the suspiciously pitch perfect 2013 alternative-pop group they are in fact just five natty friends from London town. Secondly, they all have proper boys names.

Tiptoeing rather than bursting onto the scene last year with the release of their horn-assisted, thumping debut single ‘Brother’s Boat’ made available as a free download, their upcoming double A-side single ‘Upon The North/The Southern Wild’ will comfortably deliver them rather more attention. Showcasing ample pop-smarts, an epic finale and glorious harmonies ‘Upon the North’ is the more obvious single, while ‘The Southern Wild’ plays up to the tag of the more quirky, fidgity sibling.

With the group recently having played their first ever headlining show at the grandiose St Pancras Church, we caught up with singer and guitarist James Kellegher in jubilent mood to discuss their future plans, horns and digustingly hairy boyfriends…


“These songs represent us exactly how they should…”


elizaandthebear2Hello James from Eliza and the Bear. Let’s get to know each other a little bit. What’s your story up until this point?

Hello, WTGR. We have a lot of ground to cover, i’ll start with the basics. We are a group of friends from London who decided to sing some songs together, originally it was just something so we could all just vent our creativity – nothing too serious.

So there wasn’t a grand scheme?

We had never planned to play many gigs or write many songs at all. We recorded our first song in our drummers bedroom, put it online, people seemed to like it and wanted to hear more.But we had nothing else! We spent the following months writing and recording a few songs, releasing Brother’s Boat in mid-2012 and now here we are putting out Upon the North//The Southern Wild soon.

How do those two songs represent you as a group at the moment?

Even though these songs are over a year old to us, i still think they represent us exactly how they should. They have all of the ingredients of Eliza and the Bear.

You seem to have arrived fully-formed.

We hid away and rehearsed until we were any good. We had written lots of songs that got discarded along the way before we reached the point of the first three tracks we recorded. Theres not much point in releasing songs that you don’t love yourself.

Most bands wait until the tricky second, or even third album until they call in the horn section. You seem to have one on standby 24/7. Do you see that as an integral part of your sound?

The horn section seemed like the right thing for us, why wait until the third album to call upon the old brass? Start how you mean to go on. They seem to add that finishing touch to the tracks we have, I’d hope that it may set us apart somewhat.

You have a knack for incredibly sing-along melodies. You’re not afraid of pressing the ‘EPIC’ button every now and then?

That epic button is like that button in movies that says “DO NOT PRESS” but you do it anyway and it’s fun, so you do it again?


“We all wanted to hold our first headline show somewhere special and the church was perfect for it, the acoustics were phenomenal in there…”


eliza and the bear 3What influences you as writers?

There are so many bands that influence us all as individuals and as a collective. Lots gets thrown into the pot: Bombay Bicycle Club, Head & The Heart, We are Augustines, Arcade Fire… I could go on.

You’ve recently played your first headlining show at the St. Pancras Church. How was it? What a grand venue.

That was awesome!! We all wanted to hold our first headline show somewhere special and the church was perfect for it, the acoustics were phenomenal in there!

What are your plans for the rest of the year?

Writing, recording, gigging, writing, recording, gigging, rinse and repeat. We plan to play as many shows as we can and to continue writing new material.

Will there be an album?


Is it tough being a new band nowadays, in an age where people seem to expect music for free? Or is it still the best job in the world?

It can be hard to stand up and be noticed but sometimes giving a song away for free can be your entry into peoples iPods. It’s still the best job in the world, you just have to work differently.

You’re yet to have a Wikipedia page. What awful rumours would you like me to spread when I set it up tonight?

We are actually a manufactured boy band. One of us is really called Eliza and if you listen to our music backwards the secrets surrounding “the Bear” are revealed.

What are you listening to / watching / reading at the moment? Can we borrow it when you’re finished?

We spent a lot of time at the studio watching a lot of documentaries about Donkey Kong champions, Mac Nerds and Trekkies (all separate docs) they were great! I’m also diving head first into the new Frightened Rabbit album, which is bloody wonderful.

I loathe myself for asking the question, but the name. My friend Eliza has a really, disgustingly hairy boyfriend. It’s not about them two is it?

Maybe it is.. I feel sorry for Eliza.. and her bear boyfriend. Does she like it? (No) Does she help him trim it? (Yes) .Anyway, we got the name from a collection of poems by Elenor Rees. We asked her if we could use the name, she said yes.

In your video you get pelted with feathers. Was that fun or, as I imagine it would be, bloody annoying after a while?

I think I inhaled 50% of those feathers and the rest are still imbedded into my shirt. The worst part of it was that the rest of the band were throwing the feathers, they had a great time!!

And finally, are you eying up any festival slots this year?     

We have a few set up already, i don’t think they have been announced so I’m not saying anything! We definitely want to play as many festivals as we can this year and in 2014.

‘Upon The North/The Southern Wild’ is out on February 25th.

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