Sometimes things happen in life that are not okay and probably will never become okay. It takes courage, strength and trust to accept this. Andrew Davie from Bear’s Den describes that vulnerable and intimate process on their third album So That You Might Hear Me which will be released tomorrow.
In a candid interview, he explains who he’s trying to start a conversation with and he gives away proper clues about the meaning of the (often abstract) lyrics of every song on So That You Might Hear Me. Discover the inspiring message if this album track by track.
Before we’re going to discuss So That You Might Hear Me track by track; what role does music play in your life?
Andrew: “That’s a big one. Music started out as a hobby, it then became a passion and now it’s even more than that. It’s everything really.
Music is just so powerful and marks so many moments in your life, doesn’t it? There’s a reason why music is so important in film. If you took the music away from a movie, you would change your relationship with it massively. Music is a big deal for me, it’s fair to say.”
What is the new album So That You Might Hear Me about?
“It was inspired by a poem. I read that poem and I thought it perfectly encapsulated what I wanted to talk about. It discusses the idea of wanting to reach someone, but finding that very hard or impossible.”
Did you write it about someone in particular?
“It’s about a bunch of different situations, but my relationship with my mother in particular. My mother, unfortunately, is an alcoholic. It’s very hard to talk to her, to really reach her.
The album is a way of talking about that for the first time.”
So is it fully autobiographical?
Can you tell me what all the songs of So That You Might Hear are about?
1. Hiding Bottles
“At the beginning of the song, I’m at ‘Devoe and Humboldt’, it’s a crossing in New York. This part of the song is talking about trying to escape some difficult stuff that’s going on and trying to, basically, get drunk and not think about it too much.”
Out on Devoe and Humboldt,
I escape myself,
Been flying all night,
A legend or a fool?
Can’t I be both?
Your voice is breaking up. Manslaughter to the vibe
I think I hear what you’re saying think I need a drink
I’m keeping it together but you don’t know the half of it
It’s starting to show, no I’m not on top of this
This whole first half is a phone conversation, and then it flips when it hits the chorus. It starts to become about my mom’s situation which I was speaking about earlier.
No you can’t run away from this hell you’re in
There’s no place you can go now and start again
Hiding bottles in the cold blue light
As you wander around your apartment
You’re wondering where your forevers went
Hiding bottles in the cold blue light
The lyrics follow the structure of the music. At the beginning, it’s almost dreamy and then suddenly it goes a different way. It’s two extremes, almost bipolar.
Neither devout nor humble
Just a solipsistic kind
You’re choking on a principle
I don’t share all you mythologise
“These extremes are also in the play on words. I’m having a go at myself, saying I’m neither this nor that by playing on the whole ‘Devoe and Humboldt’ thing. It’s neither devout nor humble, but shows different sides of you. You’re just solipsistic and you think you live on an island because you think you’re on your own.”
So this is about you?
“Yes, the second half, that verse in particular, is quite self-accusatory.”
“When writing Fossils, I had lots of memories of being a kid. It’s about being afraid of doing things that aren’t actually that scary but at the time felt very scary.”
I feel your fingers on my spine
And the rocks that I was too afraid to climb
And the fossils that we found back then,
Reveal themselves through my whole life
“I like the idea of this tiny situation where you’re a child and you’re afraid of doing something, like climbing the rocks, and you decide not to do it. That little moment in time can become something that keeps happening throughout your life.”
Hell I don’t know
It’s always the same thing
If I could
Take it back love
I’d take it back love
If I could
“In the chorus I say ‘If I could take it back, I would’. But you would have to go right back to this situation in your childhood to take it back. If that makes sense. It might be a weird song, but I like that one.”
That’s really nice. I got something completely different out of it though, haha.
“Really? I’m much more interested in what you got from it.”
Well, I thought it was about a relationship that wasn’t going to make it.
“It’s definitely a little bit about that, too. The songs cover the theme of forgiveness as well. In a relationship, it’s not always about being forgiven by someone else.
Sometimes the question is: have you forgiven yourself for something you’ve done? This song is also about not being able to get past something that’s haunting you.”
3. Fuel On The Fire
“Do you know this TV show, Mr. Robot? It’s an awesome show and I got obsessed with this idea of a daemon that actor Rami Malek talks about in the series.
A daemon is a background system on the internet that stores everything that you do. It knows you better than you know yourself. I thought that was really scary, very real and absolutely horrifying.
Then I realised the daemon in the server is almost like your subconscious. You live your life, but all the time your subconscious is picking up on all these things. At one point, it starts to inform who you are.”
I can’t find you
I wouldn’t even know where to look
Said you meet me back here, some day
Was it all in my mind?
Was I lost in my own head?
Worrying about something I regret
Is there anything I don’t regret?
“This song is loosely about trying to connect with somebody, too.”
It’s not just the memory of you.
It’s all that comes with you
As the images start to stutter and skip
Disintegrating into sparks that glitch
There’s a daemon in the server
And histories we cannot erase
You’re so close and so far away
You’re so close now
“Also, it’s quite a self-destructive song. In the chorus you can read the fuel on the fire idea. You’re making a bad situation worse.”
Fuel on the fire, I can’t get enough
Fuel on the fire, now I’m burning up
Fuel on the fire, I won’t ever stop
Fuel on the fire, remembering how to love
Remembering how to love
Fuel On The Fire
“In that process of self-destructiveness, you learn who you are as well. By doing things that you don’t normally do, it reminds you of who you are.
The most important message of this song is remembering how to love. If you couldn’t do that before, then you had to go down a self-destructive path to learn how to do it again.”
4. Breaker Keeper
“I got quite interested in the idea of ‘This is my breaker, my keeper’. It’s quite a strange line in itself, but I was trying to describe a relationship with someone who both protects you, but also breaks you to some extent. They want to help you but they’re maybe not able to.”
Red on the carpet floor
Is all forgiven or forever stored
In each lie we tell
And each silence that we choose not to fill
Truth is a part of me died
When you said I don’t really want to be alive
Time stood still
And it hasn’t really moved since
As the torrents bend the tired pines
I cave in to what I can’t make right
My shield, my shroud
Does it clear or does it cloud?
My breaker, my keeper
“The line ‘When you said I don’t really want to be alive’, describes a moment with my mum. She said it to me once when she was very sad. I was quite young and it left a big impression on me.
I remember thinking that it’s really difficult when you can see all the good in somebody and they can’t see it in themselves. I think one of the hardest things about life.”
I was a shoe horn, I was a crowbar
I was your Ohio Blue Tip
I was your old man
I was a best friend
That was then and that is all
“The ending is a bit weird. All of these things are tools; if I were a shoe horn, I’d help you put your shoes on. Or if I was a crowbar, I’d help you break in to places. If I was your Ohio Blue Tip match, I’d light your cigarette. What it said is that if I was your old man, I’d be bad. I was your best friend, but actually, I was just there and couldn’t help you.”
5. Not Every River
“The lyrics to Not Every River are about the fact that not everyone figures out what their problems are and solves them.”
Not every river is gonna make it
Is gonna make it back to the sea
And I have followed, you to the delta
Down every branch and tributary
And in the cracked earth of all my hoping
We’re gonna get there eventually
But not every river is gonna make it
Is gonna make it back to the sea
Will you wait for me
In the dry river cemetery
Not Every River
“A big part of the album for me was trying to be okay with things that aren’t okay, which I think is a hard part of life. I remembered reading a line in the Bible when I was really young. I’m not very religious, but I went to church as a kid. It said something like: ‘Just as all the rivers lead back to the sea, everyone will come home and it will end happily ever after.’
Not everything does and it’s important to acknowledge that. It’s almost unhelpful to tell people that everything is going to work out because when it doesn’t, it leads you into a space where you can’t process it. I think that makes people feel worse and worse.”
6. Laurel Wreath
“I became a bit obsessed with a playwright called Tennessee Williams. He was a very big inspiration on writing the album. In one of his poems, he talks about a laurel wreath with its leaves withering and falling. I just thought it was beautiful.
A laurel wreath to me is a symbol that stands for victory and success. The song is about young men being afraid to be vulnerable, because they think it makes them weak. I think that’s just not true.
When I hear anyone talking about their own issues articulately, I just have so much respect. Being quiet is not that brave, it’s just not really knowing how to communicate.”
Is it the withering of tired leaves
All so neatly woven round that Laurel Wreath?
Or the collapsing of a history
Of victories getting lapped now
By all my towering defeats.
To be a champion in your eyes
Someone that you might be proud to stand beside
But I bribed the judge and poisoned the field
Medals and the trophies are
only all that I could steal
As all my statues start crumbling
I don’t really know what it is that I’m offering
All I’ve got here is raining leaves
All once so neatly woven round that Laurel Wreath
“The definition of strength is changing. The idea of strength is crumbling statues, falling leaves and rewritten histories. However successful you may be, you will still be defeated and that’s just part of life.”
“This song hopefully will make my dad happy. He is a Greek teacher and translates Greek plays. It references to some mythology that hopefully, he’ll like.
Crow is inspired by a book called Grief Is The Thing With Feathers, by Max Porter. It’s a story of this crow that visits a family where the mother has just passed away. The crow comes in as the symbol of grief but, weirdly, also of hope. Once you’ve grieved, the crow will eventually leave you alone.”
I remember the night that you arrived
December maybe ’95
Your hair and your breath smelled
Of John Player Specials
A stranger who I learned to love
A friend when really no one was
My Daedalus, my wings to fly
Why’d you leave me behind?
My beautiful crow
And all those black feathers
Perched deep in my soul
Won’t let me, let you go
“This song is also about one of my mom’s boyfriends growing up who I was very close to. He left when I was very young but was a really important person in my life.”
I never really thanked you for
All of the light you brought
Into my mother’s eyes
So many others tried
“I was writing this song, as a way of talking to him. I’m probably proudest of this song. Maybe of any song I’ve ever written. I really like the journey of the story of it.”
Are you still in touch with him?
“Unfortunately not. He left when I was 12 and passed away when I was 15. The next song is called Conversations With Ghosts, which is me talking to someone who’s no longer here. It’s no coincidence.”
8. Conversations With Ghosts
“This one is supposed to be more a tong-in-cheek song, given the nature of the previous song, but also due to the fact that the whole album is about talking with people who aren’t open for communication.
In Conversations With Ghosts I’m almost saying to myself, ‘If you ever get tired of having all these conversations with people that aren’t there, we’ll be here.’”
You needn’t be a chamber to house all the echoes and voices of those that have left you
Are you talking to me or somebody that you once knew
Do we talk anymore or do our voices
Dance around themselves in circles till we can’t hear a damn thing?
We’re still as stone but our shadows are dancing
Upon the wall
Oh if ever get tired of your conversations with ghosts
And all those that you let too close
I’ll be waiting
Conversations With Ghosts
“I wrote this while I was in Mexico. I was surrounded by Mexican culture and became fascinated in their perception of death with, for example, the Day of the Dead.
I wanted to know more about it and read the book Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo. The story is about a guy who goes back to his family’s town which had turned into a ghost town. In the story, you don’t know who’s alive and who’s dead because they’re all communicating with each other.
Coincidentally, I’d read another book just before that one called Lincoln in the Bardo, which is set in a graveyard and follows ghosts who talk to each other.
All these stories were going around in my head in Mexico came together in this one song.”
“Evangeline is about a conversation I had with one of my best friends, Susie. We were talking about life and she said: ‘It’s not who you are, it’s what you’ve done. There’s a difference between what you do and who you are’. I thought it was really powerful and amazing.
I guess this song is about acceptance. It’s directed at the women in my life who have supported me. It is me saying thank you to all of them for being so awesome and putting up with me.
The lyrics contain direct quotes from what they’ve said.”
With your mother’s milk still spilling from your mouth
You can go alone, go alone
But how long can you go without
If you wanna go alone then go
Where no one can ever let you down
No one can ever steal your crown.
No one can ever let you down.
If you wanna go alone then go alone
No one could ever hurt you now
It’s not who you are it’s what you did
There’s a difference but you let it stick
It’s in your bloodline and it’s running thick
I won’t forget it Evangeline
“Whenever I think of that song, I just think of them. Which is really nice as well.”
10. Blankets Of Sorrow
“Blankets Of Sorrow talks about depression and the idea of not being able to see past it. It began with the thought of an ice-floe out in the water that’s starting to melt. I liked the idea of being on and ice-floe and feeling the cracks are coming in. The moment you’re beginning to realize that things are going to change.”
Hailing all of your virtues as flaws
While the ice on the floe starts to thaw
And the cracks and the veins start to form
All I can’t deny
Paralysed, you’re stubborn mind
Can’t see the woods behind
The blankets of sorrow
No one could ever reach or pull you out
You’re sleeping as the sleet just falls
To crystallise your crimson thoughts
No more I’m sorry’s
No I’m not sorry anymore
The frozen lake or raging storm
The same damn thing in different forms
I can’t make you see it
The water only reflects what its been shown
And I know I should not stay
There you go, you push me away
“The whole song is a conversation about trying to reach someone who can’t be reached. And how difficult that can be.
The frozen lake or raging storm, it’s the same damn thing in different forms. Sometimes it’s aggression, sometimes it’s just saying nothing. It’s the same sadness in different ways.”
I dreamt I saw a careless child
My thistle amongst the lavender flowers
Crying as the snow started falling
A love you said I’d never know until the day I have my own
But I beg to differ
More than I know how to let it show
Not letting in or letting go
Just saying what I’ve always known
That I only speak
So that you might hear me
Blankets Of Sorrow
“The album’s title give the closing words. The main talking point is that I just say what I know and hope that you’ll be able to hear me that way, though I’m also aware that this might not happen.
It’s about ‘being okay with not being okay’.
Wow, that was a journey. That was quite heavy.”
Thank you so much for sharing all this. I think this will help people to enjoy the songs even more. What do you hope people get out of your music?
“The main thing is that we try to move people in whatever way we can. Musically and lyrically. We try to create things that have layers, meaning, texture, etcetera. Something, that if you want to engage with it, you can. On any level.
Lyrically, I hope that it means whatever it needs to mean to someone else.
If they could feel: ‘I’ve got that line stuck in my head and I just can’t seem to shake it’. If they would then want to dig into it, that’s the dream.”
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* Update 06-05-2019: in a previous version for this interview was referenced to a poem. On further consideration the band decided to distance themselves from it and for that reason it has been removed. Do you have a question about this? Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
: Sequoia Ziff