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The Great Coming Kerfuffle

Bear Hands

107.7 Alternative Buffalo’s Music Festival hits Canalside, Saturday

If you’ve switched on your radio in the past six months you’ve probably noticed a new rock music station at the end of dial: 107.7 Alternative Buffalo. If you’ve spent any time at all listening to that station recently, you’ve probably heard DJs Chelsea O or Nik Rivers plug their major summer music festival, Kerfuffle, featuring Cage The Elephant, Kongos, Bleachers, The Crystal Method, Bear Hands and more this Saturday, July 26 at Canalside. And if you stayed tuned for even a few more seconds you likely heard either Cage The Elephant’s summer anthem, “Come A Little Closer;” Kongos’ folky banger “Come With Me Now;” or Bear Hands’ stuck-in-your-brain-for-hours hit, “Giants.” The latter, a post-punk dance-along that evokes both 1990s influences like Beck and Cake through lead singer Dylan Rau’s staggered speak/sing refrains, and 1980s influences through guitarist Ted Feldman’s poppy and rhythmic guitar ringing; has been on repeat over radio airwaves all summer.

But for Bear Hands, a four-piece indie rock band from New York City, it’s been a long ride at an uneven trajectory that has ultimately lead them to summer-hit status. “It took us a while to make a record,” Feldman says over the phone from Boston. He’s on a tour that will bring his band to Buffalo on Saturday for Kerfuffle.

Bear Hands formed in 2006 and quickly released an EP, Golden in 2007. They didn’t release their first proper LP, Burning Bush Supper Club, until 2010, though. The album caught on with fans of the band with songs like “What A Drag”—a crunchy post-punk-inflicted indie rock tune with a video directed by Feldman who moonlights in film production—but the album didn’t blast Bear Hands into the world’s musical collective consciousness the way the band hoped it would. They toured relentlessly anyhow, but wouldn’t release another album for four years. “There were a lot of things that we had to deal with and do before we could actually get down to making the music and the record,” says Feldman. The distractions that kept them from making music—money, emotions, relationships, neurosis—actually became the inspiration for the band’s follow-up record, Distraction, released earlier this year on Brooklyn indie-rock record label Cantora Records. “We all got older. We learned to deal with our lives and our happiness and our depression,” says Feldman. The record shows the band’s maturity with hookier hooks and more interesting, electronic-tinged production that calls to mind groups like Passion Pit, MGMT, and Foster the People, especially on tracks like “Agora,” the band’s second single.

Feldman tried his hand once again at directing and editing for the video for “Agora,” in which singer Dylan Rau struggles with depression and an inability to leave his house. For Feldman it was tough directing his band mates at first. “It’s more difficult than directing actors. We [he and his band mates] have an established relationship that is not a director/actor relationship.” But after directing several of the band’s videos, creating “Agora” was a breeze and the result is a video that compliments the song’s bouncy pop rock by juxtaposing it with images of melancholic loneliness. Luckily, the band’s video shoots rarely ended in a physical confrontation, or a kerfuffle, if you will. “I have been in physical confrontations with each one of my band mates, but it wasn’t related to the shoots, [laughs]” says Feldman. “In third grade I had a brawl on the basketball court. It was between the third graders and the fourth graders; I gave a kid a bloody nose. It was a rough basketball game, it was just class on class rivalry,” he says, remembering a past kerfuffle. Bear Hands will take the stage alongside Cage The Elephant, Big Data, Bleachers, Brick + Mortar, Kongos, Semi Precious Weapons, and the Crystal Method for Kerfuffle, 107.7 Alternative Buffalo’s all-day, all ages music festival, which will begin at 3pm this Saturday.

• • •

Interview: Tyler Westcott

Five Questions with Tyler Westcott of roots-rock band FolkFaces. You can catch FolkFaces as the opening act at Kerfuffle and at various venues during the Infringement Festival next week.

Artvoice: FolkFaces won the Artvoice Battle of Original Music in June. The prize was $5,000 and the opportunity to play at 107.7 Alternative Buffalo’s Kerfuffle music festival. How did the band prepare for the championship round?

Tyler Westcott: We won in the first round of the quarterfinals so we had a lot of time to prepare and really pump the propaganda machine to get all of our people there. It was kind of strange too because we were the first to win and we had no idea what our competition would be. When our friends the Heavenly Chillbillies and Pine Fever won the other rounds it was like “uh-oh!” There was some healthy competition for sure. It was a keep-the-warm-bodies-in-the-room kind of game, though. I’d like to say that it was the music that won the thing but it was about how well you prepared and who you could get out there.

AV: What was your reaction when you found out you won?

TW: We were absolutely stoked. With the prize money we want to kickstart the record we’ve been trying to make for about a year. Now we actually have a little bankroll to start the recording process.

AV: Do you have material written for the record?

TW: It’ll be our debut album. We have some stuff that we’ve released that you can listen to online and download but it’s mostly live tracks and live recordings. We’re not going to change the vibe of the songs but we want to just make some quality recordings. It’ll be a nice Christmas present, hopefully we’ll have it done before then.

AV: How do you feel about playing Kerfuffle on Saturday?

TW: I think it’s pretty awesome! I don’t listen to a lot of the bands, the only one I’m really familiar with is Cage the Elephant. I like their songs. “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked,” is pretty awesome and it’s cool to be on the same bill as them. They sure are plugging it often on the radio! There should be a lot of people there.

AV: A Kerfuffle is like a commotion or a physical confrontation. Do you recall ever being part of a kerfuffle?

TW: [Laughs] Well I’m built for comfort, not for speed. I’m a lover, not a fighter. I think I may have punched a bully in middle school and I may have made him bleed and his braces may have broken. That was just a lot of build up after being teased too much, like little school children do, but I haven’t been in a fight since middle school.

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