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Bear Hands save themselves from extinction

'I am loving you more" is the kind of subcutaneous musical mantra that ping-pongs through your brain. It's the key lyric in Bear Hands' "Giants," a song that suggests the Go! Team being held hostage by Modest Mouse.

It's also the lead single of the Brooklyn quartet's second album, Distractions, and its success has renewed their faith.

"When we made the record we were like, 'We're going to give this a year and if it doesn't do anything, that's the end,'" says guitarist Ted Feldman. "It's put new life into us."

Nothing's fun forever — even something as potentially carefree and frivolous as musicianship. At least that's how it started for Feldman when he met singer Dylan Rau while studying film at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. The two kindred spirits went on to form Bear Hands eight years ago. They followed fellow alums Andrew VanWyngarden and Benjamin Goldwasser (aka MGMT) into dancey college pop. They even signed to MGMT's old label, Cantora, for 2010's Burning Bush Supper Club.

"You start a band and it's the most fun thing in the world," says Feldman. "It's exactly what we all dream it's supposed to be. In some ways it still is, but you have to like, show up places and be on time. People put their money and faith in you, and then start asking questions like, 'Why haven't you put out a record?'"

Trends being what they are, waiting 3½ years between albums is less than optimal. Then again, Bear Hands weren't exactly fully functional much of that time, running through a laundry list of issues.

"It was business problems, personnel issues, having the songs together," says Feldman. "We all had to focus on our jobs to stay afloat. It was just distractions and getting frustrated with the whole operation, then coming back to it. The timing was not a priority. Until it got ridiculous."

Given the circumstances, it's not entirely surprising that the band began to feel a sense of urgency, and ended up finishing the entire album in three weeks.

"It was intentional for budgetary reasons, and also we wanted to finally make this disc," he says. "Sometimes people take too long deliberating over things that are ultimately unimportant."

While Bear Hands' nervy sound sometimes recalls post-punk, more often it sounds like Northwestern pop acts Minus the Bear and Death Cab for Cutie. Distractions is more polished than their debut album, primarily because the playing's better. But what's always been present is a gift for deceptively simple, infectious melodies.

Having survived the sophomore slump, they're not going to let the momentum flag. In fact, finding success on the brink of giving up has changed the game plan entirely.

"It is a kind of strange vindication and it's very exciting," Feldman says. "With this new lease on life, we want to make a new record and do it pronto. We already have 10 full songs we're really happy with, and that could be the next record. Once we get off tour, we're going to concentrate on writing some more.

"Beyond that, it's just trying to make the best things we can and see what comes."

  • Bear Hands save themselves from extinction

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