The 2 Bears Blend Beats, Brawn, and Brains on 'Be Strong'
We nicked stuff off Alan Partridge
“Chaotic, smelly, dark, drug-fueled,” that’s the way Joe Goddard of Hot Chip fame describes the Greco-Roman collective’s sweat-soaked DJ nights, where he met fellow beatmeister Raf Rundell, his future collaborator in the duo The 2 Bears. Goddard recalls that he was spinning “Jungle, reggae, house, garage mostly” at the time. “Raf called me up and asked if he could come round and make some tunes,” and thus was born a new musical entity.
But while the sounds Goddard and Rundell have created on their first full-length album, Be Strong, (following a trio of EPs) are full of house, electro, and disco-minded beats, among other things, it’s anything but a straight-up DJ/dance release. As he does with Hot Chop, Goddard brings a highly melodic, structurally sophisticated songwriter’s sensibility to the proceedings. And though he somewhat coyly describes The 2 Bears’ main inspirations as “mostly house,” the tracks variously echo everything from Soft Cell-tinged synth pop to Ian Dury-esque sonic sarcasm. “Time In Mind” even ventures into the uncharted waters of electro-country, and “Heart of the Congos” treads on deep, dark, dub territory. With seemingly characteristic understatement, Goddard simply identifies his main modus operandi for bringing all these disparate stylistic streams together as “everything being around 120 bpm mostly,” but if you think it’s as easy as that, we’ve got a lovely bridge property we’d like to offer you.
Culturally speaking, The 2 Bears are coming from an old-school gay-disco inspiration, in line with their peers in the aforementioned collective, and a London-based scene that includes similarly inclined crews like Horse Meat Disco. The duo’s name is in keeping with that orientation as well, in case you were wondering. “Stephen Bass from [record label] Moshi Moshi chose it for us,” says Goddard of the husky, hirsute pair’s moniker, and they play it to the hilt, appearing in press photos and videos attired in full-body bear costumes. But it’s in their videos that The 2 Bears’ loopy, absurdist sense of humor truly comes to the fore, as even the most cursory glance at the endearingly oddball clips for “Work” and the album’s title track will tell you. Naturally, Goddard is as quick to deflect the credit for his group’s grin-inducing videos as he is for their musical achievements, declaring that they merely “nicked stuff off [Steve Coogan’s comedic TV character] Alan Partridge.”
When considering calendar conflicts between his allotted time for both Hot Chip and The 2 Bears, Goddard admits that “the schedule is definitely too cramped,” but explains that “2 Bears goes in between Hot Chip stuff,” so at the end of the day he finds a way to work it all in, even if it costs him several hours’ sleep here and there. That’s good news for all those who have already become enamored of the big, furry feel of Goddard and Rundell’s ursine art, as well as those whose attention will be snared by the sinuous, shape-shifting sounds of Be Strong, which drops on January 31 via DFA Records.
Audio: Work — "The 2 Bears" Download MP3