As the 27th year of the South By Southwest festival kicks off, the Internet is ablaze with hype about anticipated film screenings, interest in the innovative technology on display at SXSW Interactive. and speculation about which bands will make the leap into the national spotlight.
On the other end, there’s speculation that perhaps, for young bands not necessarily getting paid for their performances, SXSW isn't a great way to spend their time — see the article Consequence of Sound posted a few days ago: "South By Southwest: Is It Worth It?"
PolicyMic got on the phone with Ian Bevis, front-man of Bear Mountain, an emerging indie pop group from Vancouver, Canada, who will be making their way to Austin, Texas to participate in the festivities. We spoke with Bevis about if SXSW really is worth it, starting to make it as a band and music in the Internet age.
It seems like this year has been good for you and Bear Mountain: I was on your Facebook and I read that you played your first show in the U.S., in San Diego. Fast-forward to May and you’ll be opening for Bloc Party on their tour and playing [Sasquatch! Music Festival]. Then, in a few days, you’ll be in Texas for South By Southwest, so what has this ride been like for you guys?
Ian Bevis: It's been crazy, man. It's been a wild few months, you know? It kind of all happened [when] we self-released it [Bear Mountain's debut album “XO”] in the summer, then we just started getting attention. For so long, it was just me and [band member] Kyle [Statham] making music and it kind of ... It’s just been happening, like, fast, but also really slow. It’s super exciting for us.
What are your hopes for South By Southwest as a young band?
IB: I want to see a lot of bands that are playing there. There are so many bands we’re hoping to catch, but I just want to put it out in front of people, man. We just want to play our show for people and have people see it, have people hear it. We just want to get in front of people and have people see us live, you know? I think it’s been kind of a mystery up until now.
Consequence of Sound posted a story a day or two ago that broke down all the money involved in the festival and they were saying that for the bands, who aren't necessarily getting paid to perform, it’s not always worth it. But you guys must think it’s worth it because you’re going to be heading over in a few days, so what makes it worthwhile?
IB: It’s the dream, man. Hopefully one day, we can make money [laughs], but ... I've been to Sasquatch and playing Sasquatch was a dream of mine. I've been going to Sasquatch ... I've been there 11 times. It’s been a dream to get on stage and be part of it, so we’re just happy to play it. I know South By Southwest is one of those things where people say, "Maybe it’s not worth it, maybe there’s nobody there," but I think for us, if you can get the right shows, if you can play with the right people, it’s all what you make of it, you know? If the right people see you or people come see you live and want to hear the record, we’re happy about it.
When you’re not on stage, which bands and acts do you want to see most? What artists are you looking forward to seeing down there?
IB: I've never seen Youth Lagoon. I really want to see Youth Lagoon play live. He tried to come up to Vancouver and me and my buddies all had tickets, but the show was cancelled at the last minute. I think he’s playing the Hype Hotel, so I’m pretty stoked for that. Um, who else? Divine Fits, I want to see Divine Fits. I’m a huge fan of them. Are you going to Southwest?
Nah, I’m not. I’m in school right now and I’m all the way up in Maine, so that would be kind of a haul. But then again, you’re up in Canada, so it’s a haul for you, too.
IB: Yeah. Well, I’m definitely stoked to see those two. Twin Shadow, I've never seen Twin Shadow. I’d love to see that.
What other artists and bands have you been listening to recently?
IB: Ooh, good question. Right now, I’m listening to everything, dude. Everything that’s on the Internet. I’m a bit of a blog whore. Every day, I check to see what’s going on. All kinds of music, you know? I guess I’m kind of prone to the MP3 culture where I don’t really do albums anymore, as much as I hate to say it. I love listening to new sounds, new music that people are creating. I go through everything and take the best parts and try to recreate it in my own music or be influenced by it. I look on Hype Machine every day and see what people are listening to, and different blogs, see what’s going on.
It’s always hard to answer that question. There’s always a bunch of things out, so it’s hard to say what thing you've been listening to recently, so yeah, I hear you.
IB: I used to, when I was a kid, get a record, look at an album and put it on repeat for months and only listen to one album. I used to do that all the time. But I guess that’s kind of changed now.
So you've gotten more conscious about everything that’s going on?
IB: Yeah, maybe. Maybe. I think I have a short attention span with the Internet. You just want to listen to new stuff quicker and more of it. But sometimes, I’ll get nostalgic for albums. But I think it’s cool, there’s so much music, so much stuff you can listen to and I just want to hear all of it.
The last thing I want to talk about it your music and where that’s going next. "XO" is both easy to get up and dance to, but more often than not, I’m on the couch with headphones on, just quietly bobbing my head to it. So how were you able to pull that off and from there, what direction are you guys going to try to head in next?
IB: I know our next record is pretty experimental. You can hear my explorations through it, you know? I've been listening to so much different shit that there’s everything, dude. There’s some classic-style, almost Deadmau5 influence, but then it’s weird because we’re trying to bring it back to an old-school feel, whether that’s through my vocals and how I use my voice or otherwise. So it’s a mixture, but there’s a sound that’s like, "Oh, that sounds like Bear Mountain." That kind of an ongoing battle for a lot of artists, trying to create a sound. We know the sounds we want to create, but it’s a matter of working hard and finding them.
I always think of it as I want to take the best parts of the different genres of music that I love and put them all together. I’ll take the best parts of, like, traditional Mexican music or whatever ... traditional African music, and blend that. I think the cool stuff is when we blend that with dance music and old-school vocals. You put it together and you get something that’s super unique. It’s so hard to be musically different these days, but I think to create that uniqueness, I think that’s really, really cool.