Bear Call is an indie-garage-rock trio based out of San Francisco, although their origins place them all over the map. Starting as a solo bedroom project by frontman Skyler, the name Bear Call has gone through a metamorphosis of changes – having expanded to a five-person band at one point, and then permanently downsizing to a trio. The band has only publicly released a few singles, but they have a full-length album set to be released later this month and are already working on new music to follow.
Nikk, Skyler, and Aaron all joined me for a lively chat about the complicated origins of Bear Call, mishaps from their recent tour, and new music in the works.
So, let’s start just by hearing who’s all here, who makes up the band, and how you all met.
Skyler: I play guitar and sing. Nikk plays bass and back up vocals on some of the songs in the background. Nikk and I met maybe 5-6 years ago through a mutual friend. The two of us are from San Diego and we knew this lovely person name Allison who introduced us when we moved up here to San Francisco.
Nikk: She introduced me to Skyler’s friend Kyle saying that they needed someone to play bass in their old band and Skyler was actually on vacation or something so I was playing music in Skyler’s old band for like two months before I ever met Skyler.
Aaron: And I moved down to San Francisco about two years ago and played in… you might have guessed it… A mutual friend’s band that actually Nikk and Skyler both used to play in and we ended up meeting through the old members.
And you just wrapped up the Blood Moon Tour, how was that?
Skyler: It was a lot more tiring than I ever anticipated a rock and roll tour to be. We did zero partying.
Nikk: We did zero partying because we spent all of our time driving.
Aaron: We ate a lot more McDonalds than expected.
Skyler: Yeah, I’m ashamed.
Nikk: It was a rad tour though, up until the van broke down but we still made it out to San Diego for that show, which was kind of cool.
The van broke down before the San Diego show?
Skyler: Yeah, the tour was really fun and we got through most of it pretty easily. We made it out to Arizona and then the van broke down the day we were supposed to drive from Tucson to San Diego. You were at the San Diego show – we showed up and played, and then left right after because our van was stuck in Tucson.
But it’s a pretty fun story, because I was stressing a lot over getting the van fixed. We were hanging out in Arizona with Mike of PIAPTK Records, we ran into him at our show at Tucson the night before and hosted us for the afternoon while we were waiting to hear from the mechanic. Then we get a call from the mechanic and he said the computer fried, and the part would take 4 days to get to Tucson. At that point I blacked out a little bit on the phone, and we were eating burritos and I think that’s the most sad I’ve ever been with a burrito in front of me. After I explained the situation to the band and to Mike, Mike was like “alright, well I’ll drive you to the garage” which was super nice and cool of him. So on the way to the garage, he was telling us a story about a band that he was on tour with and how they had a van break down, and they were like “yeah, let’s just go to the airport and rent a van” so he kind of put that idea in our heads. And I’m sitting in the backseat with Aaron and I look at him and I just whip open Expedia — Expedia.com #SponsorUs — and I thought $36 bucks a day was pretty damn reasonable so I just booked it.
We unloaded all of the gear outside of the garage because they were about to close, left Nikk without a phone in a garage across the street from a strip club in apparently the shittiest part of Tucson, while we went to the airport in rush hour traffic, and picked up this brand new 2018 minivan with only 100 miles on it. Then we busted out to San Diego, and made it in time to play.
Nikk: Which was really cool, because I was super looking forward to that show because it’s always fun to play your hometown and Bad Kids are one of my favorite bands and they just are really good people and I love hanging out with them. We hosted them up here in San Fransisco a few times and it’s always a pleasure, so I was really happy we were able to make that.
Aaron: Definitely shout out to Bad Kids!
So was that the wildest part of the tour?
Nikk: I would say, in terms of just making the rock and roll decision to rent a minivan.
Aaron: Yeah it’s just rock and roll making your credit that much better by renting a minivan.
Skyler: Yeah that was definitely the craziest part, just because there was so much going on, and luckily it didn’t happen in the middle of the desert. All in all, we only had to cancel one show the whole tour because of that, which is still a pretty blessed thing to happen. Blessed be thy minivan.
Yeah well if you’ve never rented a car before, at least you can say you’ve gone through that process.
Aaron: Yeah, I’ve only ever rented cars in shitty situations.
Skyler: The lady was pretty confused why two boys needed to rent an 8-passenger minivan for three days.
Aaron: She straight-up asked us if it was for business or pleasure. And it was my absolute pleasure.
Well, it was a pleasure for San Diego, right?
Skyler: It was worth it, it was a lot easier to drive the new minivan than our van. No offense to our van.
Aaron: You asked if it was the craziest part of tour, but I guess it was my own sabotage because myself and Skyler booked most of it, and I was pretty gung-ho on booking a show a night. We did a show in Reno and had a show the next night in Phoenix – so that might have tied for the craziest part – we left the show at midnight in Reno and drove overnight to Phoenix. I don’t know what in my brain was like “Yeah, if we’re going to do a tour, we should play a show a night.” Just switching off driving every four hours, I’ll never do that to myself or wish that upon anyone ever again.
Skyler: The most fun thing about this tour was learning how to book a tour by ourselves and I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out. For the most part we did everything on our own besides the LA shows which were booked for us. But yeah, definitely lesson learned – you gotta play a couple shows then take a day off, or maybe break that 13-hour drive into two 6-hour drives. I definitely felt insane four days in.
So was this your first big tour as a band?
Skyler: Yeah, well we did one small tour but we didn’t know what we were doing at all. So this time around we knew kind of what we were doing – like we knew that we had to start booking further out in advance versus last time where we had no experience booking and it just turned into a lot of empty days. For this one, we bothered pretty much every contact we’ve ever made in each city and I learned that sometimes you have to be annoying because you can’t just send one email and expect to hear back, you’re not going to get anything done. That was kind of a long answer, but yes, this was our first big tour.
So this next question is for Skyler, because you’re kind of the one that started Bear Call, right?
Skyler: Well, I don’t want it to be something I started – like it’s the three of us now and it’s gone through so many changes, in terms of who’s in the band and what instruments they’re playing. So I think, like this is Bear Call – the three of us are Bear Call. I would say Bear Call started mid-last year when we got to these three members being the band. As a name, it’s just been something I’ve been messing around with since I was in high school but in terms of a band, this is it now.
Since you birthed the name Bear Call, over the last 8 or so years how has the sound/vision changed?
Skyler: The first song that I released under the name Bear Call was like an acoustic recording in my bedroom in Seattle. I really like playing with Nikk and Aaron because while we all have really similar styles and visions for what we want to do with music, we also all bring something different to the table. Like I think you know you’re in a good spot with the band when you can just sit in a room and end up writing a song together for like eight or ten minutes. But it was always changing – this time last year, there were two extra members in the band, Aaron was playing synth instead of drums, I wasn’t doing as much on guitar because we had another guitar player. But as we’ve lost members I think we’ve gained more of an identity sonically. It’s kind of something we don’t really think about, because we all get along pretty well to the point where we kind of just start playing something and it will create itself.
It’s always nice when everyone has the same vision and there’s a consistency across the group.
Skyler: Yeah, exactly. That’s why the three of us is Bear Call. This is the first time that I feel I don’t really have to think about what we’re doing or what we’re pursuing as a band.
Aaron: This time last year when I was playing synth, I kind of knew my place in the band and where my sound was. But now because I’m playing drums, I feel like there’s more of a creative space and I’m laying down a bigger portion of the sound. It’s been a good refining period, just getting down to the core of the band and joining forces.
Nikk: Like Power Rangers!
Power Rangers, idea for the next album cover?
Skyler: Ah no, don’t give us any more ideas. I think we have more ideas for album names and album covers than we do songs to fill those albums.
What made you relocate to San Francisco?
Skyler: Well I wanted to move to San Francisco right out of high school but I ended up staying in San Diego for another year and then moved to Seattle for a relationship, which wasn’t a good idea. After that, my good friend from high school had an opening in his house and San Francisco and said “hey you should move down here” so I did. But I chose San Francisco for music, really – and it’s close to home but still so different from home. I mean, I love San Diego, and no offense to San Diego – but when I was growing up and when I was in high school, it was really hard to identify with any sort of scene. To me, it just seemed like you were the butt-end of the LA music scene. But honestly, looking at it now, it’s so cool to see so much going on down there and there’s so many cool bands down there. There’s a lot going on now, but when I was in high school it just didn’t seem that way. San Francisco seemed so vastly different versus the suburbs where I grew up, so I was just like “that’s where I’m going to fucking go, and be poor, and spend all my money on a ranch and play music.” So that’s kind of what San Francisco was to me. It seemed like for a lot of bands at the time, you hit a ceiling and you end up just staying in San Diego. Again, I love a lot of what’s going on in San Diego and I don’t want to shit on San Diego, but I think it takes publications like you and bands like Bad Kids and Los Shadows, and places like Title TK that are really making shit accessible to everybody there – I think it takes all of that to make the city as a whole break out. But I just think for the longest time, it was just like “You want to get big, alright you better move to LA.” But I think that’s all changing.
Yeah, LA is so close too. Like it’s so easy for anyone to just move up there and abandon the scene here, you know?
Skyler: Yeah, but fuck that. I mean LA is cool but I’d go crazy there. There’s just so much going on and even our shows there, I just felt so out of whack. Again, LA is sick and I love playing down there but I wanted something that I felt was a little smaller. San Fransisco is a small city and it’s really cool to be in a small bubble.
So do you have a new album in the works?
Skyler: Yeah, well kind of but I mean it’s not going to be necessarily new. It’s set to release in March on this label called Resurrection Records, and it’s this really great dude Mike House. He helped us put on our show in Spokane, which is where the label is based out of now. He’s so fucking cool, and he’s putting out our tape for us and we’re really excited for that because it is technically a new record with new songs, but it’s so old to us. And this is like the second time that we’ve recorded them, and they’ve gone through like five different changes of the band – so to finally put it out and to get to finally work on new songs with our new sound is going to be great. Like we don’t even play the songs the same way that they were recorded because that was as a five-piece and we’re working on new songs already to the point where half of our set list isn’t even songs that are on the new album. So it’s a really good feeling to get this first album out because it is the first album and we’re at a point where we’ve been sitting on it for so long where it’s like “shit we need to get this out before it gets stale.” So yeah, it’s coming out mid-March, and one of the new songs was put on a compilation that the record label made:
The song is called “Don’t Remind Me” and it’s one of my favorites that we recorded.
Is there any sort of story behind that one, that is if you want to share?
Skyler: The album is just a bunch of stupid fucking love songs. I don’t know what else to write about other than myself. For this song, I was watching a lot of Twin Peaks – the first time I ever watched the show was two years ago – and I needed lyrics, so I was kind of just ad-libbing and the lyrics turned into being about the first two episodes of Twin Peaks.
Wait, the original Twin Peaks or the new Twin Peaks?
Skyler: Yeah, the original, first season.
Ok, good. I love the old Twin Peaks, but the new Twin Peaks is just too much.
Aaron: Yeah, the first episode is killer, but…
Nikk: Yeah, the first episode sets you up for so much!
Aaron: …I mean I really want to finish the series, but – wait Skyler, you said two years ago was the first time you watched Twin Peaks? Two years ago is probably the 8th-10th time I’ve watched the series.
Yeah I’m like Skylar, I probably watched the original series a few years ago as well.
Nikk: I’ve only ever seen four episodes.
Aaron: Wait, there’s now a new band disagreement – Nikk, you’ve only ever seen four episodes?? There’s a reason we don’t talk about this.
Skyler: Band breaks up mid-interview.
Nikk: Aaron’s highlight of tour was that we stopped by the diner.
That’s so cool!
Aaron: I think my favorite part about Twede’s Diner was the portion sizes.
All: Oh yeah.
Skyler: Portion control? More like portion un-control. They want you to leave satisfied. Also the food is amazing.
Aaron: Shout out to Twede’s Diner #SponsorUs.
Skyler: On that note, please don’t look too much into the lyrics, I had watched only the first episode and then I wrote these lyrics, and then it just ended up sticking because I’m really bad at changing lyrics after I’ve already sang them a few times.
So is this the first album with the new band, if so how has the writing process changed?
Aaron: The band’s structure is about as complicated as my family structure. Just kidding. Shout out to my family, uh #SponsorMe.
Skyler: I guess, no, because the three of us were still part of the band lineup and Nikk was like a founding member of Bear Call – It was us and another dude playing drums… Then we added a guitar player, added Aaron on synth, lost and gained some members, and then Aaron started playing drums. So this album was recorded with an old band, technically.
Aaron: Yeah, I actually didn’t even touch the drums on the album. I did all of the overdubs, synth, piano, organ, and all that.
Skyler: Which made the fucking album! We’re kind of like a rip-off garage… Wait no, we’re fucking good, man! I don’t want to downplay ourselves. A lot of the songs on this album are pop-y in structure and sound, and I think Aaron’s synth really added a lot to them. But trimming the band down to just guitar, bass, and drums – It has really forced us to write a little more creatively. And I’m excited to get this first album out because I’m really excited to start recording these new songs, because they’re fucking sick and I love playing them.
I look forward to hearing the rest of them! I also wanted to ask about the future of Bear Call… I know you’ve moved a bit in the past but do you plan on staying in San Francisco?
Skyler: We’re over it! Just kidding… I don’t know. The three of us are all very big fans of the city of Portland. Shout out to Portland #SponsorUs.
Aaron: Hey, we’re in an 18-month lease!
Skyler: Right, Aaron and I just moved in together so we’re obligated to stay in San Francisco for at least another 18 months. But shit, I’m down to move, let’s do it boys! She says we gotta move, I guess we gotta move! But on a serious note, we’ll end up staying here for a little while longer. But it’s so expensive, we’d probably look to go a little more North rather than South to the LA area, like a lot of people.
But in terms of the immediate future for the band, we do have the album coming out, which is super exciting. We’re already looking to start recording our second album, and we have a few shows coming up which are pretty cool.
What are the upcoming shows?
Skyler: We have a show on March 5th at the Clara Auditorium with No Vacation, Hot Flash Heat Wave, and Pierce and the Gals. And then another fun show coming up is that we are for some ungodly reason blessed to play with Brian Jonestown Massacre at Bimbo’s 365 Club on May 25th.
Woah! That’s super cool, they’re huge.
Skyler: Yeah the show’s sold out, too.
Nikk: And we found out that we were playing that show like the day we got back from tour, too.
Skyler: We’re also trying to go back down south again for another batch of shows around LA, San Diego, OC. And then we’re gonna make it back up north again because our label is out of Spokane, WA – probably play Portland and Seattle again.
As you know, Radiotrails is all about music discovery and supporting independent art. Are there any up and coming artists in San Francisco (or anywhere) that you think me or my readers should check out?
Skyler: Again, shout out to Bad Kids in San Diego, they’re making all of the dreams come true.
Also shout out to Creepseed from San Diego too.
A band we just played with in Vancouver, Wax Cowboy, they’re freaking sick.
Mayya & The Revolutionary Hell Yeah! They’re super tight.
Nikk’s roommate, Locus Pocus.
One of my favorite bands, Tino Drima, they have a lot going on – they’re great, super fun live. Shout out beautiful Greg, he’s our big beautiful boy. One of the few people you have to physically look up to.
Spooky Mansion are also very cool.
Bad Vibes from San Diego, they’re coming up here to play with us on March 2nd. I’m not sure if that’s confirmed but apparently it’s going to happen.
We’ll be playing with them and this band Lousy Music, which is also Greg from Tino Drima.
Oh yeah, and shout out to that band we played with yesterday, they’re brand new and called Moon Daze. They’re really sick.
Friendless Summer, they’re just fucking awesome. I would argue they’re not up and coming but they’re sick also.
Turqouiz Noiz, they’re really cool. Not exactly sure where they’re based out of now but I think it’s mostly Oakland.
Listen to Bear Call’s latest single, French Creeps, below:
Stay up to date with Bear Call through the following social links:
FACEBOOK || TWITTER || INSTAGRAM || SOUNDCLOUD || SPOTIFY
Support Bear Call by purchasing their music on BANDCAMP.
THIS INTERVIEW WAS EDITED AND CONDENSED FOR CLARITY