Brooklyn-based pop-art band Bear In Heaven released its fourth album this month.
Synthesizers bubble and snare drums snap in “Time Is Over One Day Old,” an album inspired by the 1970s and ’80s, the synthesizer-filled British likes of Joy Division, The Cure and New Order as well as the classic downtown New York music scene that included Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground.
Bear In Heaven singer Jon Philpot’s high, wistful vocals are both above it all and in the mix. A tenor who can also reach impressive low notes, he prefers to sweeten his singing with reverb.
“It just sounds nice,” Philpot said. “People enjoy singing in the shower for a reason.”
Artistically ambitious yet accessible, Bear In Heaven obviously is smarter than the average band.
“I would hope to be,” Philpot said. “We are experimenting in pop-song form. We are equally interested in pop music and experimental music. So I think our place in this world, as it’s unfolding over time, is to figure out a way to take those two worlds, find a happy medium and be that band that does that.”
Bear In Heaven wrote and recorded the finely crafted “Time Is Over One Day Old” between tours, over a period of several months.
“There was a lot of work, a lot of love and a little sleep,” Philpot said. “Unfortunately, when I say a little sleep, I mean very little. Many late hours.”
Speaking earlier this month, a few days after release of Bear In Heaven’s new album, Philpot said he was following reaction to the album, including reviews.
“I look at the reviews and sort of agree or agree to disagree,” he said. “The big picture doesn’t really come clear, usually, until we get out on the road and get in people’s faces. Than when I’m like, ‘Oh, we did do something.’
“Up to this point it’s been this sort of nothingness. There’s this thing we made and worked really hard on, but nobody knew about it.”
“Time Is Over One Day Old” follows 2007’s experimental “Red Bloom of the Boom,” 2009’s “Beast Rest Forth Mouth” and 2012’s “I Love You, It’s Cool.” From a composing standpoint, it’s very much a collaborative effort by Philpot, guitarist and bassist Adam Wills and the group’s newest member, drummer Jason Nazary.
When Philpot composes, he naturally turns to the synthesizer.
“Yeah, it’s the place where I find myself going,” he said. “The synthesizer, it’s important for us because of its drone, and drones are a big part of what we do.”
Philpot moved from Atlanta to New York in 2000 with dreams of a music career. The city’s huge cultural scene drew him as well as opportunities to work in film and television.
Despite his Southern origin, Philpot never made music that was identifiably Southern.
“Even when I was in the South, I wasn’t necessarily making Southern music,” he said. “I’ve always had a fondness for the New York downtown scene, Velvet Underground, the mystery of that part of New York and the music that was attached to it.”
As for his band’s name, it’s not really about a bear who goes to heaven and dwells amongst fountains of honey.
“It’s more about what a person will bear in heaven,” Philpot explained. “The idea is that what you do here on Earth is what you will bear in heaven. But a lot of people do have the animal in their minds and that’s fine. He’s up there in heaven and he’s OK, but he has something to bear in heaven.”