Eliza and the Bear are a band on the cusp. The likeable five-piece from Essex already have an infectious single under their belts that charmed its way onto every radio station’s playlist while the word-of-mouth that’s surrounding them is approaching a level of hyperbole you usually only see from stadium acts in the making. You will love them but so too will Sandra from Accounts because their blasts of euphoria are not just for musicheads who can recount from memory every Smiths b-side but for everyone, an inclusive celebration of adrenaline-fuelled folky pop that will surely see them mainstaging Glastonbury in the not too distant.
But that lies ahead. For now – today in fact – it’s all about the release of the band’s eponymous debut album, a stellar collection of upbeat tunes that includes Brother’s Boat, Upon The North, and the aforementioned radio behemoth Friends.
You can buy the album here but before you do we caught up with the band’s guitarist Martin Dukelow to discuss its conception, giving good joy, and Dimitri Payet.
DC: In my research I stumbled upon a really good phrase for you guys which was that you ‘give good joy’. Is that important to you that your music is uplifting and inspirational?
Martin Dukelow: When we write the music we have that positive vibe in mind and especially for our live shows that is at the forefront of our minds. It might start with a simple idea, a chord sequence or whatever, then it’s all about having a smash up and creating something positive that we can carry over to playing live.
DC: Genre-wise you’re often described as indie-rock while you’ve been compared to The Flaming Lips among others. But there is also a notable pop element to your tunes. Do you embrace the pop?
MD: Funny enough we do get compared to The Flaming Lips quite a lot but not one of us has actually listened to them properly. I think it was the Guardian who said we were obviously massive fans but we sat there reading it a bit perplexed. We’ve gone back now and can see the comparisons but in terms of ‘indie’ I think of bands who were big back in the day like the Kaiser Chiefs, Franz Ferdinand and Razorlight and I do feel we have a lot more poppy elements. With the album coming out this week it feels like people will get a more 360 degree view of our sound rather than the singles that are on Spotify at the moment.
DC: Talking of the album when I was in a band many years ago all we ever discussed after rehearsals was our imaginary debut LP. What the track-listing would be, the artwork, how we’d promote it. Was that the same for you guys when you first formed?
MD: Yup. All the boys have been in bands since we were eleven or twelve and we’ve all sat there and dreamed of being signed and allowed to make a full-length album. It’s all weird at the moment and we really need to step out of it and realise we’ve achieved a lot here and put a lot of work into it. We will have one of those moments on Friday when it’s released because we’ve put everything into this trying to make it as perfect as we can.
DC: As the release date approaches how does it feel to present the world with your life’s work so far?
MD: Excitement and nerves. We’ve listened to those songs so many times we don’t even know if they’re any good anymore, since they’ve come from my bedroom to now. You don’t walk down the street listening to your own music – you have a different relationship where you’re making it for other people – so there are nerves as to how it will be received. We’re obviously very proud of it and we’ve done everything we can now so there’s a mixed bag of real excitement and nervous energy.
DC: All the best debut albums are eponymous (The Smiths, The Roses) but did you have any working titles that were briefly considered?
MD: We worked with a couple of lyric ideas. The problem that we faced was some of the songs are four years old from the very early days so it’s hard to sum up in one word something that stretches over a big period of time and how we’ve changed in that time. It’s hard to find a phrase to sum it all up and we’d come up with a lyric that would be cool for a day but then didn’t feel right. Going self-titled just says this is us, this is our journey.
DC: Your stock is soaring and it must feel wonderful for the band to be getting more and more recognition. Do you notice this on a day to day level? Have you noticed any changes when you play live for example?
MD: We started to notice in the middle of last year when more and more people started turning up at festivals and they were singing along. Then you notice the ticket numbers and then came the love we’ve had from radio in the past six months which has increased our numbers on social media. There have been nicer festival offers and busier gigs and the progression has been really exciting.
DC: Moving on to your second love, football, I believe some of you are Spurs fans and others Hammers. Were tensions running high when both teams met up last month at the Boleyn Ground?
MD: Yeah unfortunately some are dirty Spurs. Chris our bass player is and most of my mates are. Being from Essex it’s either Spurs or West Ham around here. As for the games between them I dread them because the atmosphere is absolutely terrible. For the game just gone I sat at home and gritted my teeth. We scored early on and then came eighty-odd minutes of absolute tension but the next day I turned up to rehearsals in full kit and shinpads.
DC: Last weekend’s results certainly could have gone better for both sides. Can Spurs still win the title and is it still possible for West Ham to snag a top four spot?
MD: I feel like we’ve been robbed the last three games. Obviously there was Clattenburg on Saturday – it just wasn’t a red card – but thinking positively we’ve been playing really well recently and United and City aren’t on the best form. In terms of Spurs winning the league I’ve got a sneaky suspicion that they could. At the moment though Leicester are turning up every week. They’re doing it, grinding out the results.
DC: Who is your all-time West Ham hero?
MD: There are so many. Obviously Payet at the moment is turning on the style but going back there’s Tony Cottee, Julian Dicks and Ludo Miklosko. We’ve been lucky to have a plethora of heroes from Di Canio and so on.
Payet is the golden boy but we’ve also got Antonio and Lanzini. There’s a lot of good players at the moment.
DC: Favourite ever game?
MD: It sounds bizarre but it’s one I went to recently. I don’t get to many away games due to what I do but I managed to get a last minute ticket to Everton. We were two nil down and came back to three-two and I came out of the stadium in a euphoric state. I’d lost my voice but we were still singing down the street. It was one of the best days.
DC: Would you well and truly freak out if you heard Friends played at half time at the Boleyn Ground?
MD: Yeah hearing our song there would be amazing and you know what as well, I’ve said to the boys that I’d turn down Wembley Stadium to play Upton Park. Obviously it’s not going to be possible because we’re moving but both my grandads went over there and my grandad’s ashes are actually buried at the ground. My dad had a season ticket so it’s going to be a sad day.
DC: Your album goes straight to number one but it means Spurs win the league this season and sign Payet in the summer. Would you take it?
MD: I’d take number two if it meant Champions League and Spurs don’t get Payet!