Eliza and the Bear have had a relatively rollercoaster-like career over the past few years, but they are back with a revitalised sound, with their second studio album, Group Therapy, coming out in October. It’s been a difficult couple of years for the London-based outfit; they were tipped as one of the hottest new bands on the UK music scene back in 2013/14 and around their debut self-titled album release in 2016, but major label life caught up with them and a parting with Universal lead them to a crossroad.
This was a tough time for all involved, but particularly for frontman James Kellegher. We managed to have a chat with him about the journey towards this new record, the battles people face with mental health, and the vision he has for the band moving forward…
How excited are you guys to be heading back out on the road this month? Do any of the dates stand out in particular as ones you’re looking forward to the most?
We’re debuting a lot of the new album on this tour so it’s really exciting for us. All the dates are in place that we haven’t really visited that much, or at all in some cases, so it’s going to be nice playing these songs for the first time in a special and intimate space.
We’ve just moved into the second half of 2018, how do you feel the first half went for you as a band? Have you had any particular highlights so far?
The first half of the year was a good time for Eliza, we shifted up a gear in preparation for the new album. Finally getting our album out for pre-order is easily the biggest highlight this year, it’s been something we’ve been waiting for for a long time.
With the new album approaching its release date and a tour just about to start, what would you like to see happen for you in the year’s remaining months?
We want to get out to mainland Europe for sure. We recently toured there with AWOLnation and really want to get back and play some headline shows. And obviously the UK tour…
You released ‘First Aid’ from the album in July, how did you feel it was received?
‘First Aid’ for us is a message about the meaning behind the album, it sums up the entire record for me. The reaction has been amazing, it’s opened up a conversation between us and our fans.
How do you feel your sound has progressed and/or developed between your self-titled debut and Group Therapy?
Our debut was written a long time before its release so our sound has developed vastly since then. We learnt a lot as songwriters over the years and wanted to use that to its full potential on this album. We live in a time where genre barriers don’t exist, every song in the world is in your pocket. We didn’t worry about what genre our next album was going to be, we just kinda let it all come out.
You’ve described the journey in being able to release your second album as “a real struggle” and provided your fans with a little insight into what’s behind it when it became available to pre-order. If one particular message from this album can get across to the listeners, what do you hope it will be?
There were times when we didn’t know if we were going to be a band for much longer, it felt like everything was against us, behind every door was a wall. But we ploughed through and got to the festival season of 2016 and we realised that not everything was against us, we still had people that wanted to come and see our band play and that was what mattered. This album sums up the highs and the lows of a life like this and a life in general, we wanted to be honest and open in this one.
In a time when mental health issues are so prominent in the media and being covered on a daily basis, what advice could you provide to anyone out there that feels as if they have to suffer in silence?
You don’t need to, maybe you don’t want to talk to a friend or a relative but you can talk to someone on the phone or online anonymously. The best advice I can provide is to never assume you’re just being silly – people will care.
Is there anything in particular that you would like to see happen in order to provide better support to those struggling with their mental health?
The stigma surrounding mental health is something that has started to slip, the world is becoming a more honest and more open place and real people are suffering with real problems. But sometimes a story will come out about a celebrity battling depression, but it will focus on his/her wealth and fame, like you can’t be sad if you’re rich and people like you. That stuff needs to end in order to help more people.
How do you think music helps to a play a part in the steps towards recovering from, or dealing with, mental health issues?
Music suits moods. You can listen to music to exaggerate mood or change it. But when a song’s lyrics resonate with you, it can change your outlook completely.
How do you envision your place in the music industry evolving over the next few years?
The industry is a weird place at the moment with streaming on the rise and albums not selling that much, so it’s harder for small bands to survive. Who knows where we could be, but I’d like to be able to do this for a long time.
Where would you like the band to be this time next year?
I’d like for us to be thinking about album number three.
The music industry is seeing a big influx of young talented bands, like yourselves, starting to make bigger and bigger waves on the radio and on festival lineups. Do you take encouragement from that? Does it motivate you to keep working harder?
Absolutely, healthy competition can’t hurt can it, and I haven’t been called young in ages so I’ll take it! It’s great seeing bands go from playing small stages to smashing main stages at festivals – it gives you faith.
What would you like to say to those that have stuck by you through everything over the past few years? What do your fans mean to you?
Thanks for everything you’ve done, there is a sole reason this band is still here today and that is you.
Eliza and the Bear’s second studio record, Group Therapy, is available to pre-order here and will be released on 5th October. Their headline UK tour also commences on 8th August, starting in Peterborough at the Met Lounge, before moving on to Southampton, Brighton, St Albans, Bedford, and Cambridge to name a select few. Tickets for their tour are available via this link.