Interview: Bear Lake – Musical Coalition

Bear Lake

By: Mut Asheru

Around a campfire in the woods of Northern Michigan is where a group of longtime friends first had the idea for the musical coalition that is now Bear Lake.

Having played for years in numerous other bands around the midwest circuit, these friends acquired some free recording time (thanks to a year of studio servitude by Steve Stetson) and decided to lay down tracks for what eventually became their debut album, “Catch the Sun” (though no one would have foreseen it at the time).

The album was mixed at Rustbelt Studios in Royal Oak, MI (Electric Six, Kid Rock, The Go, and Sponge) under the guidance of Eric Hoegemeyer and Al Sutton.

The tracks for the album were recorded in just two days, but the members knew immediately that this was a band and that it was going to be something worth pursuing.  And now, though very much still in its inception, Bear Lake is ready to begin sharing their quickly-expanding arsenal with the world.

KNOWSHI:  How long have you been playing together?

BL:  We’ve been playing together in a professional capacity for about 2 years now I guess, but most of us have collaborated on projects reaching into the distant past. We all grew up together in suburban Detroit.  We were close friends throughout grade school and played in a variety of bands from a very early age. May got into music after jealously watching Hines and Rice perform at a middle school dance and get all the girls. Pederson decided to give up sports and focus solely on music after getting bullied repeatedly on the football field by May. Stetson knew he was bound for greatness after being removed from band class for banging out an impromptu percussion solo during a soft classical composition, and Kwasnik got into keyboards to support his freestyle rapping habits. This collaboration continued on throughout High school and college.

Then, with college ending for most of us, we began to spend time on Bear Lake (The one in Kalkaska) at a band member’s cottage.  It was a bunch of friends hanging out, drinking all hours, and writing music. After the first couple days up there, we already had enough tunes to field at least two albums. Luckily during this time Stetson was working at Rustbelt studios in Royal Oak as an unpaid slave.  We gathered up two days of free studio time, quickly recorded these songs and voila…Bear Lake was formed.

KNOWSHI:  Reveal your secret super hero identities.

BL:  I’m totally winging it here, but I’m going to say Kwaz is Nightcrawler, Rice is Mr. Fantastic, Keith is The Thing, Stetson is Thor, Penderson is Gambit, and I am the Incredible Hulk.

KNOWSHI:  What’s the ultimate goal of your now indie band?

BL:  I would say the goal would be to make a nice living playing music while maintaining a decent level of anonymity. I would like people who appreciate good music to like our band, and if indie goes mainstream and we strike it rich then I guess that’s okay too.

KNOWSHI:  Tell us how you came up with the name Bear Lake.

BL: We were watching a program about a bear that went back in time to save the world, but ultimately failed. This bears heroic efforts led to several lakes being named after him…and also our band.

KN OWSHI: What’s the best part about being independent?

BL:  Well we’re our own bosses which is cool. There’s no outside influence that we have to listen to or placate in terms of the creative process, and any money we make from merch or shows is ours to keep.

KNOWSHI:  What’s the sucky part about being an indie?

BL:  Being poor isn’t fun. We really don’t have enough financial backing to accomplish some of things we would like as far as getting our name out there and garnering fan support. If we have a gig it’s up to us to make sure it’s a success via promoting and such which can be more work than we’d like.

KNOWSHI:  What represents the pinnacle of success to you?

BL:  I’d say just being recognized as a good nationally touring band making enough money to live a good life. Also licensing songs for movies commercials would be nice. Selling our shows on the road to people who like our music come to see us.

KNOWSHI:  What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

BL:  Got any?

KNOWSHI:  You all are offered 20 million to do music that isn’t really you.  What do you do?

BL: It’s hard to put passion into writing something we think is shit so guess it depends on how not us it really is. We like a pretty wide variety of music and there are usually redeeming qualities in music that we hate so it’s hard to say we wouldn’t try if that amount of money was on the table. That being said, I don’t think anyone’s going to pay bear lake to write a candy pop hit any time soon.

KNOWSHI:  Where are the best places on the web to find and buy your music?

BL:; Myspace; Facebook; iTunes… our shows.

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