We thought we had Eliza and the Bear pegged. They were that indie folk band from London. Then we heard their new single, Higher, a jam with an element of Rick James-like funk and we realised a re-evaluation was in order. But don’t worry, this is still Eliza, still likeable, still like sunshine and holding hands. This reinvention simply adds more fun to the mix. Same joy, just… more of it. Feel-good rock pop you can groove to. Y’know, like Maroon 5 or The 1975. So after the release of Higher kicked off two intimate show in London, we grabbed frontman James Kellegher and guitar-wielding riff-ster Martin Dukelow for a sorta conversational happy pill.
DISORDER: What’s going on, Eliza and the Bear?
JAMES: It’s been nice to be back in the public eye. We’ve been working away for so long in the studio, with no one aware of what we’re doing, writing these new songs. We loved them, but you get self-doubt. They’re different to what we’ve done before, so having it public is a good thing, because we know people are enjoying them.
Did you decide to move towards a more pop sound or did that happen naturally?
JAMES: It happened naturally. [Martin] just came in with that riff for Higher.
MARTIN: Yeah, we decided to just write music that’s relevant to us right now.
Can we expect a new album out by the end of the year?
M: I think it’ll be more like February next year. We’ve got all these songs under our belt that we’re excited about, but we’ve got to sit down and talk about the best way to deliver them in a cool and slightly more thought-out process than we did last time – so it feels like an album.
Your last album bears some resemblance to Imagine Dragons, whom you’ve toured with. Are they an influence for you, or did you end up playing together because you were similar?
J: I think our similarities came after playing together. We saw them live and we were like, wow, we need to find a way of getting this big arena sound, like a rock band. The really heavy drum thing they’ve got – that inspired songs like Make It On My Own. It had that stomping beat that we wanted to feel, that head bopping thing we like.
You’ve also played with Paramore. How did that differ?
J: More… craziness. They’ve been around longer, so their fans were more intense. Watching them soundcheck, you realise how they’ve gone on for so long. Whenever you’re like, how have these bands been so successful? Go and watch them live and then you’re like, oh yeah, there’s something special.
Speaking of playing live, we’ve heard you talk about something called the Eliza experience…
M: The Eliza experience is coming down and sweating it out, making you feel good for a couple of hours. No matter what the show is, we’re 100% committed to playing and showing that we love playing. You should leave happier and a little bit sweatier than when you came in.
What’s your dream venue?
J: I really want to do Ally Pally.
M: That’s the dream. It’s, like, a 10,000 capacity stadium, but it’s flat, so when you’re onstage it looks like a sea of people. When you have that big, grandiose event there’s more of a buzz. You can feel the excitement.
Who are your current musical obsessions?
J: I’ve gone backwards. I’m listening to loads of Earth, Wind, and Fire. I think that’s what’s inspired the new stuff. Kool and the Gang. Alt-J’s new album. There’s a girl called SZA. She featured on Rihanna’s first track on Anti and she’s just released an album [Ctrl], and it’s sick.
M: I’m all into Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and Mac DeMarco at the minute.
Finally, do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?
J: Give up.
M: Stay the fuck out of my way! No, just kidding.
J: But seriously, be prepared to give up everything at some point.
M: Just do you, and don’t serve anyone else with your music, whatever you write. We’ve had this problem where we’ve signed a deal and our focus on songwriting has shifted from what we like to what they like, and it just ruins everything. You’re constantly questioning yourself. If you write music for you and only you, someone is going to like it. The thing that’s really worked for us is that we don’t pander to anyone else. We just write tunes that we like.
Photography: Marieke Macklon