Somewhere in a dingy pub in Digbeth, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Joey Haynes from Bear’s Den before the first night of their headlining UK tour!
How would you describe your music to someone who’s never heard it before?
That’s the dreaded question. I find it really hard, it’s probably not though. Maybe alt-folk or something. Indie-folk-rock-rock?
You often get compared to Mumford and Sons and the Lumineers, how do you feel about those comparisons?
It’s not a million miles away from what we do, and when you get compared to someone who’s done really well it’s obviously a big compliment. And I actually think we’ve had fewer people compare us to those guys than I was worried about. I do think we are a bit different in terms of sound and tone. But we’ve toured a lot with Mumford and they are awesome, and they’ve made it a real art form to get that kind of music across in a way that really resonates with a lot of people.
What’s your favourite song to perform live?
Bad Blood is a special song for me, and that’s one we sometimes get to play unplugged in the crowd, and I think that’s the essence of what the band is about, so it’s always really cool to play.
You used to hand stamp every Pompeii EP with a bear print using a potato, do you guys still do that?
Unfortunately we just don’t have time at the moment, which is a shame. We got to the stage where we were having potato stamping parties, where we’d have a bunch of people over all doing it. But it takes a while, and once you’ve reached a certain number of people it’s much harder to do. And we didn’t want to do a fake version, so hopefully we’ll get some time to do some more soon, that would be fun.
What song do you wish you had written?
There’s a lot of songs I wish I’d written… There’s a song called ‘A Nightingale Sang in Barclay Square’ which I am a big fan of, and if I’d written that I think I’d be pretty chuffed.
If you had to push one out of a plane, who would it be out of: Justin Vernon, Elena Tonra or Ben Howard?
Oooh that is a tough question… I think I’d push Ben Howard out, but over water cause he’s done a lot of surfing so I think he’d stand the best chance of breaking through the waves.
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians?
GO TO SCHOOL, DON’T TAKE DRUGS! I think the most important thing is just have fun with it, cause if you’re not having fun then what’s the point of doing it.
When did you know you were going to do music as a career?
I think it would almost be weirder if I didn’t do music, my father used to be a concert pianist, my mum teaches music and sings in a choir and plays flute and my brother is a saxophonist. Even my grandmother used to be an organ player and my grandfather was a violinist. So it runs in the family, I’m not really rebelling against anyone. It’s almost the opposite of being an angsty teen like ‘screw you mum I’m not gonna be in a band, I’m going to business school!’
Who would play you in your biopic?
I think that Seth Rogen would play me, he’d have to straighten his hair but other than that we’re good to go.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a musician?
Well I used to have a job as a Norwegian translator, subtitling TV shows. I tell you what, the Real Housewives of Orange County gets old pretty quickly.
What do you do to occupy yourself on long Tour Bus journeys?
Masturbate… No I read books, poetry and the Bible… Not really that either, we have an Xbox on the bus now, so I think there will be a lot of FIFA tournaments..
You spend a lot of time in close proximity with the band, do you ever quarrel or fight?
Very very little I think, considering how much time we do spend together. I think we’re good at identifying all our sore-spots or wind-ups, so I think we’re pretty good at it.
What’s the goal? Where do you see yourself ending up?
Rehab. No.. we’re playing the Shepherd’s Bush Empire which is like a level up, but I think in the future I would love to play the Hammersmith Apollo, that’s always been a dream of mine.
The banjo is quite a distinctive part of your sound, what made you pick up a banjo?
Well I mentioned Nathaniel Rateliff earlier, and when we did the Austin to Boston tour, he was on that and had an absolutely beautiful Nylon-strung custom-made banjo. And one day we were driving in the old VW Campervans, and I asked him if I could try it. Davie had his guitar and we just started jamming on ‘Above the Clouds of Pompeii’ and suddenly it just kind of clicked, and Marcus Haney the filmmaker was lying on a bunk just dozing and he just sat up and was like ‘woah what’s that?’ And so a couple of days later I played it for the first time at the Mercury Lounge in New York. I still can’t really play it, I can only play our songs and that’s it.
Have you guys been writing any new material lately and can you give us any ideas of what it’s sounding like?
We’ve been working on some stuff, there might be a bit less banjo I’m afraid. (Gaby lets out audible disappointment) I’m just joking there’ll be loads of banjo…! We’ve been working around with a bunch of synths and electric guitar, so it might be a bit different.
Has anyone ever called you Banjoey?
Well the tech for this tour is also called Joey so maybe it’s a good time to crack out a new nickname, thanks guys! (definite sarcasm)