Two months before its members meet us to write this story, we saw Bear With Me for the first time. They were loose, baby-faced, by all accounts bushy-tailed as they sweat through an un-air-conditioned set at Yayo Taco, for what was, without exaggeration, 100 people.
The band had yet to hit its first birthday, with only a three-song demo (Sand Dollar) under its belt and not a drinking-age member — and thus, bar show — to its name. And it was good. Not good for what it was: 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds playing hooky, synth-dipped (but not synth-drenched) beach pop with early Imagine Dragons tones. But good, with no asterisks or caveats.
Now, after two months of radio silence, they’re finishing up a second recording, a three-track E.P. with Brian Garth at Chrome Werewolf Studios, one of the last recordings he’ll complete before closing up shop on Nov. 1. And that beachy-ness has largely dissipated. “Sand Dollar felt like a walk on the beach,” says guitarist Tyler Naegle. “This new one is like a stroll in the park on an autumn day … but a sexy stroll. Like you’re filming a cologne commercial in the park in black and white. With Brad Pitt.”
And that hits it on the head, Brad Pitt notwithstanding. Singer Jason Terrones owes the recording’s heartbreak and growing-up (the first recording was mostly written before he was old enough to vote) themes to the darker mood that comes through in this more grown-up Bear With Me, most of which was written from the (real-life) point of view of an 18-year-old graduated from high school, making sense of life. The unsure future. The self-analysis. The horniness. Emotions most of us forget were so powerful when they happened. But Bear With Me is still in the throes of newly claimed and unreasonably complicated adulthood — as is its enthusiastic audience.
“I think the main challenge is proving to people older than us that people our age have feelings like that,” Terrones says. “They don’t give enough credit for feeling lonely, that I’m not allowed to feel sexual frustration about a woman.”
And maybe that’s why everything sounds more thought-out. To keep up with the more mature lyrics, these songs took more mature songwriting, ditching three-minute extensions of single bars to make way for more cohesive pieces; mountains and valleys of sound where their predecessors were shallow, happy-go-lucky boardwalks.
The musicians are already well aware of what the best song is of the three. “I Am a Fiesta” is an unfathomably sexy, get-it-on slow-burner that would fit on an R&B album, devoid of the unsure delivery the usually mousy Terrones undertakes on most songs. On this, he belts. He closes his eyes like he needs to imagine a tangible target for these pent-up emotions, and, as if in response, Naegle releases sweeping, crying, wah’d-out guitar lines as drummer Kent Bauer and keyboard player Brittany Eichorn rise to the occasion, carrying Terrones to the finish line.
We could base Bear With Me’s appeal on “I Am a Fiesta” alone. But knowing it isn’t the band’s only high point, and that there’s more where it came from, portends success for Bear With Me. And not just for its age. “I hope they stay together for a long time,” Garth says of his youngest clients. “They are a great group of musicians and they have only begun this journey.”