For fans of Thursday, Alexisonfire, Taking Back Sunday and Funeral For a Friend, Bear Arms’ debut album “Strength & Conviction” is out October 20th 2014 via Struggletown Records. With Richard Wardrop and Keiran Hird on guitar and vocals, Dean Louden on drums/vocals and Lewis Mcgourty on bass, Bear Arms combine post hardcore music with alternative rock and elements of screamo. They are a band I would of loved to have had around in my teens. They remind me of earlier years listening to Silverstein, Taking Back Sunday, Three Days Grace and the works.
Bear Arms formed in the late part of 2010. Richard Wardrop and Lewis Mcgourty are old friends who played together in various school bands. The original group was Richard, Lewis and an old school friend who played drums. Kieran was then recruited as guitarist and later on, when their drummer left for college, Dean stepped in as replacement.
Bear Arms played their first show in February 2011 at 13th note. Thier debut EP “Directions” was released the month after to which Bear Arms sold out their EP launch at Captain’s Rest. The single titled “Towers”, recorded, mixed and mastered by Owen Waldron, came out nearing Christmas time of the same year.
2012 saw the arrival of a second EP and single. “New Skin” progressed from “Directions” and was released in June. “Vultures” is Bear Arms most popular song to date and was released in November 2012. At present the wait is almost over for the highly anticipated “Strength & Conviction” out in October.
“Strength & Conviction” opens with “Courage”. In true post hardcore style “Courage” introduces a plentiful amount of start/stop guitar and a heavy drum combo. Melodic lyrics excel and transform into a captivating chorus. The first chorus ends and not long after screamo is included. Screamo and smooth vocals feature back and forth to be replaced by a second chorus. A rhythmic tapping of beats stall the underlying sound for a short time. This is a deliberate build up to a lengthy period of screamo which concludes with the final chorus. All these aspects contribute to the overall essence of “Courage”.
“Double Crown” is slightly more energetic than “Courage” and relies heavily on electric guitar. The second installment is a song that begins fast paced and gradually increases in speed with harmonic vocals as a constant. Starting off, vocals are significantly lower in “Fools Gold” and evokes a mellowness within the listener. We are awoken from the trance by a sudden amplifying of sound. “Innate” is not dissimilar to “Fools Gold” which showcases a softer side to Bear Arms. “Empty Vessel PT 1” is a short track which really serves as an introductory note for “Empty Vessel PT 2”.
“Empty Vessel PT 2” offers a slick introductory guitar rhythm that sets the tone for what’s to come. The song remains at an even pace throughout, only amplifying somewhat with screaming vocals. The best thing about emotional sounding lyrics is the impact they have. If you are open enough you can really feel to some extent what the singer/songwriter is attempting to express. “A Call to Arms” brings diversity to “Strength & Conviction” with its melodic backing music and ever so soft vocals. “Bird in a Cage” electrifies us with another powerful drum and guitar combo showcasing Bear Arms musical ability.
“Strength & Conviction” closes with “To the Lost” providing a conclusive success to a debut album of universal appeal. A captivating listen overall, don’t allow “To the Lost” fool you into thinking this is a slow song with it’s gradual build up of a quiet and soulful guitar set combined with harmonic vocals in the beginning. It becomes louder. It then reverts back to how it was in the beginning which is quite fitting to finalise the song and the album in entirety.
Who makes up Bear Arms and where are you from?
“Bear Arms consists of Richard Wardrop (Guitar/Vocals), Keiran Hird (Guitar/Vocals), Dean Louden, (Drums/Vocals) and Lewis McGourty (Bass). Lewis and I (Rich) are from Kinross, Keiran is from Dundee and Dean is from East Kilbride however we all now stay in Glasgow where the band is based. ”
Can you tell us a bit about your backgrounds?
“We all grew up playing in different bands as kids in school. Lewis and I, along with our original drummer started jamming together after moving through to Glasgow and this is when Keiran joined the band. Two years ago when our original drummer moved away down south we started playing with Dean after having gigged with his old band around the Glasgow music scene.”
Describe to us your first gig performed in February of 2011?
“Our first gig was really nerve racking but just the best feeling ever. Probably one of those moments where we realised that playing music was something we had to do. It was in 13th Note in Glasgow with our friends in a band called Dweller. The original line up had fallen through and we got a phone call that day asking if we were ready to gig yet so we just went for it. ”
In 2012 the single “Vultures” was released. Was this your first single?
“We’d previously released 2 videos from our e.p New Skin earlier that year however it always feels like it was the first single as we had a big launch night for it and had it sent out for reviews whereas the previous releases were really just us beginning to make our mark on the local scene.”
How did you manage to come in contact with Struggletown Records?
“I first met Steven through a friend that I worked with when I first moved to Glasgow. I’d previously done some recording for a band he was in so when I showed him some of the music we were releasing he said he was interested in working with us. We’re probably not normally the type of band the label would put out but working with Struggletown has been great, it’s really nice to be part of an active element to the Glasgow underground scene along with some really amazing bands and friends of ours.”
What was it like playing at Wickerman Festival and Belladrum Festival? Ya’s must of been completely psyched to support Funeral For a Friend!
“Last summer was filled with the best experiences we’ve ever had as a band. The Wickerman Festival was a huge moment for us, we couldn’t have asked for a better turnout. Belladrum was great too, really cool to be part of festivals like that where people wander in just to hear some new music. Supporting Funeral for a Friend was another great experience for us, it was also one of Dean’s first shows with the band. we all grew up listening to that band so getting to share a stage with them felt amazing. ”
How does it feel to have been named “Best Metal Act” at the 2013 Scottish Alternative Music Awards?
“Winning an award at the Scottish Alternative Music Awards was great, it was also the messiest night out the 4 of us have ever had together! It was a good feeling to know how many people rallied together for us, fans, friends, family all helped by voting for us so it was a nice reminder of how much support we really have. What was really cool was that we got to open the awards night earlier this year at The Garage, which is a venue I’ve always wanted to play.”
“The Apple and the Tree” was featured in an online Lynx advert. Did this increase listenership for the band somewhat?
“I think so. It was cool for us as it put our music out to a wider audience and helped get some exposure for the e.p we’d released at that point. It was also cool when Lynx official Twitter page were tweeting us saying they were blasting our tunes in their offices!”
In 2013 the first single from Strength & Conviction, “Empty Vessel”, was released on December 17th via Struggletown Records. How far along was the new album at this stage?
“At this point the album was about 75% completed and we were a little overambitious. I think our aim was to have it out in the summer but it quickly became clear to us how much work we still had to do in terms of the release. I think we mostly just released it so early as we were anxious that we hadn’t put out new music in just over a year (Since vultures release). As a new band it’s quite easy to be forgotten about so we wanted to keep people interested whilst we finished the album.”
What can we expect from the upcoming “Strength & Conviction”?
“We’re all so proud of the record. There’s been a lot of hard work that’s gone into the writing and the recording and we just can’t wait for people to hear it. To us, it feels like a natural progression from our last releases so I’m hoping people really get behind it. If I was trying to explain the record to someone who’d never heard the band before I’d say it was heavy music with pop hooks. We like riffs but we love a good melody so that’s really what we tried to accomplish with the album.”
Words by Richard Wardrop.
“Brace yourself before the vultures they’re coming down for you. Face your faults before the vultures they’re begging for the truth. Brace yourself”- Bear Arms, Vultures.