MP3 Giant Bear - New American Wilderness
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ROCK: Americana, ROCK: Roots Rock
Orchestral Funkabilly and Freak Folk
Integrating the best elements of American music into their own unique sound, GIANT BEAR is a musical ensemble consisting of multiple Vocalists, two Guitars, Bass, Drums, Flute and Cello with occasional Mandolin & Banjo.
Since their inception, GIANT BEAR have toured, and continue to tour extensively in the US. They recently returned for their second West Coast tour that extended from Southern California to Portland, Oregon. Based out of Memphis, TN, they introduce some of the most innovative music to come out the home of rock and roll and soul in several years. "Odd-ball" instrumentation make the 6 piece not only memorable but thought provoking. The band was honored with two spots in the Joshua Tree Music Festival; one of which was the opening ceremony. At this years Midpoint Music Festival in Cincinnati, OH they were Critic's Pick by the city's alt-weekly, City Beat, in which they were compared to Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention. They have been invited to play at the International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, NM, the Wilderness Festival in Big Sur, CA, and have been added to the ticket - along with many other national recording acts - for Organic Farm Aid, in May of 2007. They recently released their first full length album, New American Wilderness.
Having been voted Memphis' band to watch in 2006 by the Commercial Appeal, GIANT BEAR keeps moving with tours planned that will include New England in the fall and Australia next spring and summer.
Robert Humphreys: Bass, Percussion, Vocals
Mike Larrivee: Guitar, Mandolin, Slide Guitar, Vocals
Jana Misener: Cello, Keys, Vocalist
Jeff Nuckolls: Drums, Percussion
Jeff White: Guitar, Banjo, Keys, Vocals
Home from the Road, Giant Bear Plays Tonight!, By Rachel Hurley
Commercial Appeal 9.8.06
Giant Bear can be hard to define in terms of musical genre. They're not exactly roots, folk, or Americana. They're not bluegrass, country or rock. But they're a little bit of all of those things. Their sound falls somewhere between cowboy noir and the best band to ever play on a front porch. Since being named by The Commercial Appeal as a "band to watch" in 2006, the six member group has crossed the country more than a few times, lost their van to a fire, played to packed houses, and put out their debut album on their own label. Last Friday night they returned to Memphis for a hometown show at The Hitone with Jeffrey James and The Haul.
Giant Bear, which includes Robert Humphreys on bass, Jeff White on guitar and banjo, Mike Larrivee on guitar, slide guitar and mandolin, Jeff Nuckolls on drums, Jana Misener on cello and Daniel Guerra on a host of wind instruments, developed quite organically from two other local bands. Ruffin Brown band, which included Larrivee and Misener, and Okraboy, which included White and Humphreys, were both asked to play Dan Montgomery's CD release party in 2005 and enjoyed playing together so much they began booking shows together, often playing sets together during the shows under the Giant Bear moniker. Eventually the two bands morphed permanently into one.
"We played a bunch of shows separately and just got off on each other's styles. Ruffin Brown Band was more of an art band and then it changed shape and became more of an acoustic thing. Then we played with these guys and we all sounded different, I thought they sounded like the Violent Femmes at first" explains Larrivee. "It worked out because their song structure was more traditional, it was pretty effortless. You have to pay attention to stuff like that. We just realized that it was too easy. One night we had a show together and we just all stayed on stage."
The group pretty quickly came to the decision to dedicate themselves to touring full-time. Constant touring has not only helped them sell-out the first pressing of their album, New American Wilderness, but has gained them a rabid following in places like Charleston, NC, and Shreveport and Lafayette, LA.
"Think of all the venues that it seems reasonable for us to play in Memphis, you've got the Deli and the Hitone, and that's about it" says White. "We have other hometowns now, not only in terms of places to play but places to stay."
"Plus we're still more popular in other markets" says Larrivee. "Just like The Grifters, Memphis was their number 10 market - and if being a musician is your job you go out and get heard by other people."
Crowned by The Memphis Flyer as a "southern-fried New Pornographers," Giant Bear's music has been compared to bands like The Pogues, the Decemberists, and The Flaming Lips. One thing is for sure, the music is always heavy on collaboration, with more than 10 instruments played on stage and several songs with as many as four vocal parts.
"We write songs for each other" explains Misener. "It's not where we're so concerned about having a solo part. It's honestly never anyone's single song."
With over 190 dates played in a little over a year, the group has no intention of slowing down in the near future, they already have 30 songs written for their next album and have been invited to play the Midpoint Music Festival in Cincinnati with over 300 other bands from the US and abroad at the end of September. Rumor has it that there's label interest in releasing their sophomore album, something the band will neither deny nor confirm.
"We'll definitely have a new album by the spring - but it might be faster than that if someone tells us to write another record sooner â thatâs the great thing about having 4 songwriters, we have a lot of material."
Giant Bear wins over alt-weekly critic in Ohio
Memphis Commercial Appeal: Music
Giant Bear landed in Cincinnati last Saturday night to play a packed showcase at the Midpoint Music Festival. The fifth annual festival drew more than 50,000 fans to the downtown entertainment district to hear more than 300 bands. Giant Bear garnered a "critic's pick" in the city's alt-weekly Citybeat: "This fun, intriguing sextet is indeed unique enough to merit its own, self-made musical genre." It went on to compare the band to "Zappa and the Mothers of Invention reincarnated as a thrilling Americana/Pop powerhouse."-Rachel Hurley
Macon Telegraph: Gig Guide
The banjo and the mandolin indicate a relationship to the modern Americana species of band, but the cello and the flute put Giant Bear in a different genus altogether. This sextet from Memphis starts with folky tunes sung with raspy voices, but takes off in unexpected directions. One might call them Pogues of the Midwest.
Don't Be Afraid
Giant Bear is a toe-tapping, head-spinning good time. Technically the band belongs in the increasingly popular roots/Americana category. But it makes more sense to consider the long list of instruments appearing on their EP (flute, harp, cello and mandolin in addition to the usual suspects), throw in that they've been compared to the New Pornographers, and conclude that such a combination of sounds could only go in a stellar direction.
While Giant Bear's sound has a twangy, bluegrassy appeal that's all the rage these days, the blend of male and female vocals and layering of soaring flute over staccato rhythms sets them apart as a band cultivating an artistic vision rather than a band trying to reproduce a sound that has worked for a lot of other people over the years. Giant Bear also manages to maintain a raw simplicity in their music without ever getting sloppy â impressive considering they're coordinating the skills of six members playing instruments that don't traditionally end up on stage together.
Lyrically, their EP New American Wilderness takes you from love in a small town to the discovery of pregnancy to judicial bribery. Don't be afraid if you meet this bear down at your local watering hole.
The Commercial Appeal
"The band in Memphis to keep an eye on"
- Best of 2005
Thatâs what youâre going to experience when you go hear Giant Bear tear up The Nick tonight. This is an unabashed six-piece rock band featuring a slide guitar, mandolin, banjo, bass, drums, flute, cello and harp. We realize thatâs more instruments than band members â they switch it up, OK? Sometimes it feels like every single one of those tools is in play, however, especially while listening to the Tennessee bandâs album, New American Wilderness. The music is unrelenting, layered so heavily with that beautiful instrumentation. The band, by the way, contains former members of Okraboy and Ruffin Brown Band, just in case that prods you along. Whatever gets you there, we promise, you will not be disappointed when you leave.
Giant Bear at MPMF
City Beat (Cincinnati, OH)
This fun, intriguing sextet is indeed unique enough to merit its own, self-made musical genre. With flute, mandolin, cello and banjo (plus good ol' guitars, bass, keys and drums), the band (dubbed a "Southern-fried version of the New Pornographers" by the Memphis Flyer) creates a boisterous brand of rootsy Folk Pop, unlike anything else going on in the Americana world (or anywhere, for that matter). Despite the originality and progressive songwriting, Giant Bear's debut album, New American Wilderness, is steeped in tradition. But it's the way this regularly touring crew puts all of the pieces of the puzzle together that makes them so compelling.
9/16: Bear Tactics by Nick Pittman
The Times; Acadianaâs Weekly Newspaper
Memphisâ Giant Bear has the potential to be one of the most unique bands youâll never hear â unless you head to Artmosphere, 902 Johnston St., this Friday, Sept. 16. At six or seven members strong, the band proclaims itself as a funkabilly orchestra. Its numbers include banjo, slide guitar, mandolin, cello, flute, recorder, harp and more. You could call it hippie jam rock if it wasn't so darn tight. You could call it American roots music if it wasnât so darn modern lyrically. Either way, call it pretty darn good, and youâd be pretty darn right. Call 233-3331 for more info.
Local Beat by Andrea Lisle
Members of Okraboy and The Ruffin Brown Band recently merged to form the seven-piece Giant Bear. An eclectic, rootsy group which features banjo, cello, flute, and mandolin, Giant Bear chose to hone its craft on the road, landing at the California ranch of chanteuse Victoria Williams, who sat with the group during a few stops on their West Coast tour. A more Southern-fried version of the New Pornographers (substitute Jana Misener's chops for Neko Case's sultry vocals), Giant Bear is currently hammering the Southeast, hitting venues like St. Louis' Off Broadway, Jackson, Mississippi's W.C. Don's, and Atlanta's Brandyhouse. Log onto the group's MySpace page (MySpace.com/GiantBeat) to hear tracks such as "Man on the Mountain" and "Genes Not Chords," then mark Friday, October 7th, on your calendar: That's the date of Giant Bear's next hometown gig, scheduled for the Full Moon Club.
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