October 9, 2014
by Tjeerd van Erve
It’s the day after Germany won the World Cup. I am on my way to Utrecht, again. To meet with Lost Bear. They’ve invited me to join them in Studio Patrick, the residence of many Utrecht band and (therefore) not my first visit to the place. Actually I’ll be meeting up with some old acquaintances, as both Gibson Houwer (The Fire Harvest) and Stefan Breuer (The World Of Dust, I AmOak) are part of this lofi DIY punk combo. So for once, I am treading on familiar terrain.
Eighty Four Track
Lost Bear are at the end of a process. Ever since the summer of 2013 they have been writing and recording new material, reinventing the band as well as finding new fun in playing. Just before the summer of that year the (then) six piece found themselves at a stalemate; they had taken on the idea of recording a double CD but got stuck in the process. A band meeting was needed to rechannel the band, which also resulted in the further downsizing of a once eight piece band to five. No more trumpet, no more second drummer, just your normal two guitars, bass, drum and singer band. But the weirdness remained, maybe even became bigger as the band now found a fresh and open starting point to work on new material; burning the fifteen songs they had already written and recorded for the new album. Lost Bear was to start anew, resulting now in over seventy, maybe even eighty new songs at the beginning of this year’s summer. Time to wrap it up, which they wanted to do with me.
On the train I’d been listening to a set of eleven songs, a small selection of these recordings. Eclectic is the word. There is little to no connection between these songs, but that they have all been recorded by Lost Bear. With the first song I thought I had my frame of reference clear; these guys like Guided By Voices and have taken a hint of their music, but with the second song on this framework is destroyed courtesy of some sort of indie-disco-dance thingy. From there on I know I can let go of whatever kind of stamp I have for the five piece. Rough punk, lofi indie, weird experimental free pop; all is possible in the world of Lost Bear. Free form rock limited only by the limits of the four track they have been using to record all these songs.
Eclectic Micro Wave
So when Gibson picks me up at the train station my only reply to the question “So what do you think of the new material?” is “Mhhh, euhm….. Eclectic?”. But in the car I admit that I am a bit worried about how they are going to make a consisting album out of it. Honest, all roads they wander are inspiring, interesting and great in some sense or another, but how to make a working whole out of it beats me. In that manner it is something like the first few records of The Grifters; music that actually only had a common thread because of the experiment and lofi attitude throughout all of the songs. And especially with a total of over eighty songs, one wonders where to start and where to end in the selection process. The eleven totally different tunes did make me extra to curious to the recording and writing strategy used by Lost Bear.
When we arrive at Studio Patrick vocalist Casper Steenhuizen is already there and Gino is on his way from the supermarket. The guitarist was ordered to take care of the food and comes back with a variety of micro-wave dishes from the nearby grocery store. Vegan stuff, curry and other undetermined prefab 2 minute menus; ready while you wait; almost like a record of Lost Bear itself, as I soon find out.
Plug And Play
The opening of beer cans, that’s about the only preparation needed to get the recording rolling. Earlier that day Stefan Breuer had already prepped the rehearsal room with microphones and stuff, so we can immediately start playing the moment we enter. And playing equals recording in the world of Lost Bear. So I don’t even get the time to sit when confronted with the question which instrument I want to play. I end up with a Stylophone, a machine no bigger than the palm of my hand, which makes an annoying high pitched synth sound. Still finding out how the darn thing works (something with a little pen that I have to move over little electrodes in order change tone) the five Lost Bears start playing already. It was either Gino Minuitti or Stefan Breuer that introduced a riff and almost without negotiation the rest of the band step in. I stepped into an oiled machine, ready to use the limited time to fill the tape from beginning to end.
Instruments then are being swapped. Two takes and a song is written and recorded, time for the next. In the meantime Stefan records a sample that he had picked up of a brass band somewhere. I end up holding the bass guitar, but like most others will make several several switches throughout the evening. Only Casper and Gino seem to stick to their instrument, Gino either throwing killer riffs or filling the riffs of others with playful melodies on his guitar and Casper sticking to the microphone. It strikes me how easy he manages to add lyrics to every song that passes by, coming up with catching phrases within the weirdest lyrics. He takes them from a notebook he is carrying, but during the jams I see him writing ferociously as well, adding new words to paper. Words that turn in to songs in almost the same movement. As said before, Lost Bear is an oiled machine.
But also a machine that is able to adjust, turn and move the wheels in a way fitting the situation at hand.
Most of the primitive sketches that the band works out to song come from Gino and Stefan, but when Arno Breuer takes on the guitar to throw in something he has come up with over the weekend, it is easily turned into a song. As does the band with the two cents that I throw in playfully. In total, five chords are jammed into two new songs. Lost Bear is all about productivity. Write, create, record. Not that all songs come from jams. Sometimes either Gino or Stefan have already some deeper ideas on songs, and then they are really worked on in the studio, taking more time to really get to an end result. But often things “just happen”. And let’s be honest, on this Utrecht summer evening something really did happen. Nine lofi noise songs appeared out of thin air, and – and I am not very quick in saying this about something I am somehow involved with – they are freaking awesome.