You hear a name like Bear Hands and you think what? Cute and cuddly? Or has the ability to gnaw your face off and rip you in two? Well with this particular band, you’re half right on both ends.
Punk-alt quartet Bear Hands make the nightly New York rounds, finding new venues to rock and new fans to woo. But it all started in 2006, just a couple of Metro North rides away, when singer Dylan Rau, bassist Val Loper, guitarist Ted Feldman, and drummer TJ Orscher decided to birth the band that is Bear Hands. Rau, Orscher, and Loper were well-versed in the punk-angst ways fashioned by Connecticut school boys, but when Rau graduated to the Wesleyan University music scene, he met fellow co-ed, guitarist Ted Feldman, and decided to refine his personal punk flare with the help of his cohorts’ musical inclinations. “I’m trying to rid myself of my more punk tendencies,” Rau says. Rau writes all of the group’s songs and remembers, rather shamefully, the first song he ever wrote when he was 13. A pre-teen emo anthem, I wonder? “Yeah, I’m sure,” he scoffs, rolling his eyes. But even in the group’s four-track outing, Golden EP, you can’t help but get sucked into Bear Hand’s brand of post-punk, laced with dynamic instrumental breaks and Rau’s ‘tudish cadence.
Rau’s voice does usher the band on stage, but in person he’s quite stoic, low key. In a pleasant way, not in an I’m-too-cool-for-this-interview sort of way. He’s thin, and the presence of his mangled bun atop his head gives him a towering feel. But when we sit on the top floor terrace at The Delancey, he hunches, coils himself into the chair. Cross-legged. Doe-eyed. Already in a humbled position, he states, “I’m really terrible at guitar.” Rau, who shares guitar responsibility with Feldman, has never taken a guitar lesson. “I’m trying to play the guitar less,” he says. This strikes me as ambitionless. “Oh, I have ambition. Just not to get better at guitar,” he quips.
The band recently flooded CMJ, playing the NME showcase with The Antlers and The xx—of which Rau is a big fan—The Mercury Lounge, and The Bowery Electric. Although they only played five songs, they stole the show from The Antlers, leaving everything on the stage, particularly during “Sickly Brunette,” a track so seeped in badassitude, it begs to be listened to on repeat to get your ass out of bed in the morning. They’re currently putting the finishing touches on their debut full-length LP, Paper (release date TBA), which Rau says is “85 percent done.”
Although Bear Hands remains unsigned, gigs keep popping up all over the globe. The band recently came back from a stint in the UK and around Europe. “We do pretty good in the UK. But Paris, that was a really great show.” The guys also recently played a November show in Sao Paulo, Brazil, with Chairlift and Telepathe. And you can bet they had fun, because in the end, Bear Hands is about fun. It’s about head banging till it hurts and reveling in how good it can be to just be. And that’s where the dichotomy exists. They shred on stage, tats ablaze, faces contorted. But when it comes down to it, they’re just a couple of nice kids from Connecticut that decided to extend their pipe dream. And now, Bushwick-based and Brazil-bound, it all seems possible. Inevitable, even.