THERE is nothing quite like a return to form after more than a year of hard work behind the scenes – and few emotions could rival the feeling of landing a number one single.

Hunter and the Bear have been absent for all of 2019, but they certainly know how to make their way back. Last Friday, the alt-rock quartet released the infectious Digital Light and watched on as the track climbed to the top of the iTunes Rock Chart.

They have taken a bit of a blow this month as the Covid-19 outbreak lead to their UK tour being put back several months, but the band refuse to play victim over it and have already scheduled new dates for September.

Will Irvine, lead singer, admits the news came as a bit of a shock – but was welcome surprise amid the ongoing doom and gloom courtesy of the ongoing pandemic. Indeed, the outbreak lead the band’s UK tour being put back several months; however, with new dates now set for September – and a #1 single to their name – the four-piece have serious cause for optimism.

Irvine tells The Weekender: “The song went to number one in the iTunes Rock Chart, which was massive for us. We hadn’t expected that. It was the first song we had released since the end of 2018; we saw this as us dipping our toes back and we’d have to build it up a bit. But our fans have really got behind it and that was awesome to see.”

The new release represents with a slight sonic shift, the song paves the way for “chapter two” as the band begin to hit some serious momentum in terms of their songwriting process.

It is the first song to come from their new material, following work with producer Romesh Dodangoda. That collaboration proved fruitful with 11 songs recorded. It is hoped that a second Hunter and the Bear album may be released at some point this year.

all I want to do is send everybody a link to the album and tell them to listen. We’re so proud of it..."

Irvine says: “We’ve done the best version of ourselves in this new stuff so, hopefully, people will like that sound. It is a little bit different to the things we’ve done before. I hesitate to use the word ‘change’ – it is more of a positive progression for us.

“But it’s frustrating because all I want to do is send everybody a link to the album and tell them to listen. We’re so proud of it…we want to get this stuff out so we can move forward.

“There are definitely songs to come that will take people by surprise,” Irvine continues. “But we wanted to start with something that wasn’t a million miles away from what we have done before. It will show people the new sound and, hopefully, get people excited for what is it come.

“No one is going to say: ‘Oh my god, they’ve totally changed – that’s not the band I love’. I think some will notice a difference in how we sound and, hopefully, see it as a positive progression.

“We will always be proud of Paper Heart – it did such great things for us; it opened so many doors, and we were able to play some amazing gigs on that run. But this new material feels like chapter two – it’s on a different level and a big step up in all areas.

“But that’s just what we think; it’ll be down to whether people will be on board with that progression and the direction we’ve gone in.”

Digital Light has now racked up more than 17,000 streams on Spotify. The track’s video was also released on Friday, March 27, with a few thousand views already.

It is clear the four were able to cut loose during filming – they show off a bit more character, rather than take an overly-artistic route. 

However, it lines up with the substance of the track as well, with the theme of those being lost in the Digital Light of their own lives, while remaining oblivious to all that is going on around them.

Irvine recalls: “The video was a lot of fun to film; we went down this warehouse in Manchester and though it ended up different to our original plan, I think it came out much better. 

“We wanted to get the point of the song across, but without ramming the message down anyone’s throats. We also wanted to try and get our personality across as well and we hadn’t really done that before – just us messing around.

“There wasn’t really a plan, we just set up these scenes: Someone is on their phones, not reacting to anything going on around them, while the rest do stupid stuff for the duration of the shot. We spent all day just trying not to laugh – if you are the one ignoring the others, you have to keep this sort of deadpan face, but you don’t know what is going to happen. It was a challenge.”

The singer goes on: “I think in the past we have sort of played it safe in our videos and gone down the route of having one element of us playing the song and another element which vaguely represents what the song is about – that standard formula. Moving forward we’ll look to do something a little different. 

“A video of people pretending to play the song isn’t enough anymore. You have to try and think up an interesting idea and we look at it along the lines of it should be interesting to watch, even if the song wasn’t there.

Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiser:

“For all bands and artists, there is always a struggle to do something unique. You’ve got to strive for it, otherwise, you’ll end up a carbon copy of someone else. And without even realising. Sometimes you’ll come up with a cool idea for a video or something you’ll take to a director, management or bandmates and someone will reply: “Oh, yeah – like that Post Malone video”. You might not even have seen it yourself, but someone’s already done it. Trying to do something genuinely fresh is a challenge. 

“Still, we really enjoy the video side of things; it’s a different element that we’re not really used to. We are all musicians, but suddenly you get to be an actor for a day – it’s quite fun. But the point is to get people to engage with it and to tell the story of your song.”

Linking up with producer Romesh Dodangoda has been key to capturing a more true-to-life sound for the band. Irvine has nothing but respect for those who help to craft Paper Heart, but it was important that the next album has a bit more of a raw intensity that is more indicative of their live sound.

He says: “Until Digital Light, we’d only ever recorded with one person and they have a sort of style of recording things that is very clean and often work with people in the pop world. For us, it was like they took a band that was a bit rough around the edges and tidied it up a little bit.

“It’s maybe more surprising when people come to see us, because it’s a really raw show that we put on: it’s high-energy, lots of noisy guitars and big drums. That sound maybe doesn’t come across in our earlier singles.

“But what we’ve tried to achieve with this new song is to try and get some of that energy into the track and the recording, and that was using a different producer. We just thought it was time to branch out a bit and Romesh has really hit the nail on the head with how we want to sound on record.

“Until we’d done this, I’ve never come out of the studio saying everything went exactly how we wanted it to. But with this new body of work… I’m just so proud showing it to anybody, and saying ‘this is how we sound like’ and it’s how we want to sound like live.”

The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc across almost every industry, with the performing arts community among those to take a serious hit. Hundreds, if not thousands, of shows have been postponed up and down the country, including a number of high-profile tours and festivals such as Glastonbury and Download.

Hunter and the Bear were among those who had to make new arrangements, having been due to kickstart a series of shows next week, including sold-out gigs at Glasgow’s King Tut’s and The Mash House in Edinburgh. They have confirmed they will hit the road in September, starting with Tut’s on the 15th.

There is a lot of material that we are sat on at the moment; we’re not short of stuff to put out there..."

He adds: “Getting the shows rescheduled was an amazing turnaround from our team. We were holding on for dear life, wanting to do the gigs. And with so many cancelled gigs recently, we wanted to give people that outlet to jump around like a loony for a bit. But circumstances changed a bit and it felt like the right move to postpone it.

“We were all pulling our hair out and two days later our agents and manager came back and said: ‘Right, we’ve sorted it. September. Done’. So, we are so happy about that. The last thing we wanted to do was cancel.

“The shows are in a slightly different order, but we’re playing all the same venues – which is great; no one misses out. And who knows, by then we might have more music out, so it might not be the Digital Light single tour.”

“We’re trying to remain positive,” he adds. “There are always ways for us to reach our fans and we’ll be looking at doing some live streaming and some other things we haven’t tried before, to keep connecting with people.

“It’s a hard time for venues, artists and really anyone that is self-employed. And it’s not just us suffering; there are others in much worse situations right now. Still, we are really gutted; we were so ready for this run, and had the new music sounding good in rehearsals. But we will be back.”

Nevertheless, the future remains bright for the four-piece. Digital Light will be followed up later in the year with a second single, though the band’s release plan may take a detour to adapt to the Covid-19 shake-up. The ambition is still to bring out a second album, but the timing will have to be right.

Irvine says: “There is a lot of material that we are sat on at the moment; we’re not short of stuff to put out there. We went and recorded an album – so we have 11 tracks that are essentially an album. We’d like to release it as that, but it depends on everything that is happening.

“One thing for sure is we can definitely release a few singles and take it from there, but the plan is for it to be an album. Once we do drop an album, we’d want to go on a massive tour and hit some festivals. But we will crack on with the single release for now and take it from there.”

WATCH: Hunter and the Bear, Digital Light


15 SEPT Glasgow, King Tuts

16 SEPT Glasgow, King Tuts

17 SEPT Edinburgh, Mash House

18 SEPT Inverness, Ironworks

20 SEPT Perth, Inchyra Arts Club

21 SEPT Manchester, YES (Pink Room)

22 SEPT London, Oslo

23 SEPT Exeter, The Cavern

24 SEPT Birmingham, Castle & Falcon