Exit: Pursued By A Bear have released a new album. Don O’Mahony chats with the Cork band.
IT WAS something of a surprise to learn that Exit: Pursued By A Bear had released a new album. Five years after the release of their debut, the Cork band emerged from hibernation with little fanfare. In the normal course of events an attempt would be made to whet appetites with a single or two and there would also be the announcement of the obligatory ‘triumphant’ hometown gig to celebrate the launch of the album into the world.
Yes, a PR company had been engaged to alert the media and enthusiastic reviews have been duly posted in the national press while key radio shows have eagerly invited them in to record sessions, but still no news of live dates.
While the release of their debut album was accompanied by singles with eye-catching promos and gigs, there was a rueful recognition that they had made no effort to petition festivals for slots, perhaps assuming they’d be the ones beating a path to their door.
“And we’ve done all the same errors again this time, just putting it out,” says lead singer Tadhg Hickey with almost unseemly cheerfulness.
“For the first album as well, we’ve had the same set of studio sessions and stuff. We had Paul McLoone, we had Arena, we had Dan Hegarty. We’ve just had the small circle of fans in Dublin or whatever,” he shrugs.
Of course, the band’s old champions are back in their corner because as with their debut, E:PBAB have created something rather special, which departs neatly from their debut into a more ’80s electronic pop sound.
There has been a change in personnel. The band is now a quartet since the departure of their drummer Phil Lambert to settle down in Wexford some years ago. But Lambert’s absence has left the band with their original line-up of Paul O’Driscoll, Eoin O’Sullivan, Brian Lane, and Hickey and this has no doubt had a bearing on their more streamlined sound.
Hickey is surprised by the amount of reviews that have mentioned the ’80s. “We were just talking amongst ourselves [about that]. We think there’s about three tracks in it that we’d hold our hands up and say that’s ended up sounding really ’80s. But no-one set out to do it. It’s just the process, I suppose, for us going from that kind of driven sound with drums, whatever, just stripping it back, and our version of stripping it back ended up being a little bit ’80s. In some of the tunes,” he says.
“We didn’t set out to make a very ’80s album but if it’s coming up time and time again from listeners we have to accept it’s there.”
It comes as no surprise to learn the album was actually finished three years ago.
After a Fund It campaign they went to John Fitzgerald at Lettercollum Studios in Timoleague near Kinsale. There they recorded Having sat on it for a while, they listened back and were less than fully satisfied. Not the producer’s fault, insists Hickey, who did exactly what they told him. “We almost got it to sound too polished,” he explains. “It’s not quite us.”
Nonetheless, they kept three tracks they were happy with. The other seven they did with Cormac O’Connor, who produced the latest Frank and Walters album.
It is not a view that this writer would share but Hickey feels the first album suffers from having too many ideas.
If someone was insistent about a particular riff or even a lyric being included the others would yield to that particular band member’s idea, even if it would need to be shoehorned in.
The second album found the band taking a more relaxed approach to the songs.
“I mean from the first album it would be very challenging to try to get somebody to accept that a riff isn’t going to be in. And I’d hold my hand up there as well that I’d want the lyrics to be a big part of it in the first record. And then in the second one, it’s not such a big thing really,” says Hickey.
“I love the first album but I do think, listening back on it, it’s like there’s so much stuff coming from all angles; sometimes it can be a hard listen when you listen back.
“But what we want to do with the second album was to stay a little bit truer to the kind of stuff we listen to really and the stuff that we like doing and if it’s catchy and it’s working just to go with that and trust it.
“I think the way I could sum it up really is everyone’s taking themselves a little bit less seriously now. I think this album is a little more fun.”
As for those gigs, don’t be surprised if they turn up at a festival somewhere.
Exit: Pursued By A Bear’s II is out now.