If 2020 proved difficult for established bands to keep the music alive, just consider the difficulty for a new band just starting to make some noise but yet without an album.
Waking Bear, an indie rock band hailing from Olympia, WA had recently put all the puzzle pieces together to make a go of it when the coronavirus pandemic shut down touring and put a pause, unknown in length, to the music industry. While some bands went ahead with planned releases, many delayed introducing completed albums to their fans but Waking Bear had nothing to offer except their live show.
And after just five performances to their name, Waking Bear seemed destined for long term hibernation.
Founded by Noah Bears in 2018, Waking Bear indeed reflects the idea of a bear returning to life after a long winter’s nap. Divorced in 2012, Noah came up with the Waking Bear name using it as his dating profile once he decided to find love again. Waking Bear seemed relevant as recovering from divorce felt like coming out of a hibernation and rediscovering joy for life.
That dating profile resulted in Noah finding Ivy Jordanne and the two musicians, now a couple, eventually decided to form a band. They brought in lead guitarist Daniel Fisch first, and then welcomed drummer Scott Ercoliani and Scotty Jones on bass. Noah and Ivy share lead vocals with Noah also contributing rhythm guitar and Ivy adds keyboards.
Noah leads the band by example when it comes to writing. Using his divorce as inspiration, Noah also does not shy away from the experience of childhood trauma or the midlife crises he endured after his mother’s stage-4 cancer diagnosis in 2017 that helped change the course of his life.
Now you know what to expect on Waking Bear’s debut album Trust Fall, a 12-song record stretching just more than an hour,released last month. Filled with indie rock sounds with a touch of folk and sprinkled with some 70s era funk, Waking Bear wants to bring love, life and happiness to the airwaves and their growing fan base.
I talk to Noah and Ivy about the band, their new album and how the pandemic has affected their plans.
Q&A Interview with Waking Bear
1. Waking Bear formed in 2018. A number of bands have already secured their place within Indie rock history. What difficulties has Waking Bear experienced in getting a foothold in the industry?
Noah: We’re not really trying to get a foothold. We’re not after fame and fortune we just want a chance to play and move people and uplift people into states of love and gratitude and joy for live. Our next album will be a live album and will include our songs and stories we tell during performances. Both of our songs and stories are geared towards helping people to feel an appreciation for life. We figure we keep doing what we’re doing and some people will like our music and some people won’t and that’s OK.
2. How did the coronavirus lockdown help or hinder the band in recording the album?
Ivy: Coronavirus hit after we only had three shows out. It was very disappointing that suddenly came to a halt but it really focused us on recording and getting songs out every month for the last year. We were able to put so much time and energy into those recordings which resulted in having 12 songs released which became the compilation album that we put together in January called Trust Fall.
3. In many respects, with 2020 on hold, Waking Bear has less than two years of touring. How has the band been able to stay relevant with all the down time?
Noah: I think mostly thru social media we are building a following and through all the streaming platforms. I don’t think we’re really relevant. We have had less than 10 shows. It will be like phoenix rising from the ashes when COVID is in the past
4. How did you get such a solid following? Clearly something special is going on. (Nearly 2,000 on Spotify, more than 100,000 on Facebook and almost 8,000 on Instagram)
Noah: It’s crazy for a band that’s as new as we are to have so many followers. Spotify we have 2,000 followers and that’s largely because we post our songs there and post online. Facebook we’ve taken some courses that helps bands market and use promotions to turn people on to Waking Bear. We have gotten tons of followers – those followers are worldwide – but the downside of all of those followers is the majority are not super engaged. We do have a slowly growing fan base in Washington and the Pacific Northwest but it’s not 100,000 (laughs).
5. OK, tell us about Trust Fall.
Ivy: It’s a compilation of all of our songs we released in 2020. We realized we had enough songs to kick off an album so what better way to kick off 2021 to present our first album. The name Trust Fall is very much a reflection of Noah’s and my journey with this band and putting all of our energy in trusting this thing is going to work out, putting all of our time and energy into this music project, and just throwing caution to the wind and taking that leap of faith.
6. Will fans that have seen your shows recognize some songs?
Ivy: Yes, we have been playing all the songs we have on Trust Fall during shows we have streamed and the few shows before COVID.
7. Describe the writing and recording process for Waking Bear?
Noah: Most of the songs were songs I had written originally and brought into the band and some were written when the band was formed. But I’ve been the lead composer other than a few songs Ivy has written but we all contribute to the songs. We all bring our ideas and creativity.
If I have a song I’ll play it and sing it and everybody will contribute their layers. One of the cool things that has happened is we have learned a lot about how to record. In the beginning we were doing our tracks separately, and doing it in layers until we had good layers from everybody and mixed it. But, I noticed certain songs were missing that certain magic when you all play together. We knew we wanted something well-produced and not just publish live recordings. So we made this transition that whenever we had a new song we wanted to record in the studio we’d do a band scratch track, that’s where the whole band plays and we record everybody to different channels. This allows the natural tempo changes that might happen. The hills and the valleys, the ebb and flow, the energy that might come out in a chorus to really shine. That has been really working well for us to build on the bones of a song that has been recorded in an organic way.
8. Many of us hope 2021 brings a return to concerts. What have you heard, what do you know?
Noah: We don’t know for sure what’s going to happen. But I strongly believe through inoculations we’re going to reach critical mass and herd immunity that by September things will shift and by 2022 we will see a return to concerts. We’re all looking forward to life returning to normal.
9. How does the unknown affect Waking Bear?
Noah: I’ve worked really hard to get this band up and running and, having past experience from building a start-up from the ground up, it’s something I’m familiar with and the drive it takes to do something. But I am finding myself more and more in the trust of the unknown and the surrender and knowing we have beautiful messages in our songs and stories that’s really going to move people. Once that gets out in the world through streams and out next album we will have people reaching out to us and wanting us to play. I think we’re going to wind up doing corporate keynote performances and touring performance art centers. Our shows are very unique. It’s a ceremony, a celebration of life. It includes stories not just songs. I’m in the trust I’m in the surrender. I just know good things are coming our way.
10. Has Waking Bear done any livestream concerts?
Ivy: Yes we have. It was kind of a rough start. So many things can go wrong, so it was one of those learn by experiencing, time after time, and working out all the kinks. It was a rough ride but I feel like we have finally had some successful ones.
Noah: Recently we had one with over 500 people tuning in. This mix is not always perfect – the sound – so we’re struggling with the sounds and getting the sounds out of the mixer into OBS can be challenging. The other thing is its just weird to play to no audience. It’s like this blank slate and it’s perfect for pulling out all of your projections and transference and helping you become aware of your own stuff. If we can play to no audience we can play to any audience.
11. Waking Bear places an emphasis on joy, life and love. I’ll assume that’s a reflection of who you are individually. But clearly you want this to transition into your music. Was this intentional or just something you cannot separate from the music making process?
Noah: For me the best songs are the songs that give me goose bumps that uplift me, that make me feel love and happiness and joy or gratitude or really bring me into my feelings. I think it’s part of who we are, it’s part of who I am, it’s been this journey for me thru my own life and own difficult experiences I went thru in my childhood and helping me transform rather than fall into victimhood and feeling resentful and angry, I’ve been able to heal all of that stuff and feel thankful for the difficult things I’ve gone through. I’ve been able to stretch my heart and so many unexpected gifts have come thru my suffering that this is inherently in my music to take people on a journey through the heart, thru our pain and out the other side into the uplifted joy and gratitude for life. We are also so friggin lucky to be here on this journey.
Ivy: I think our intention together when we were bringing this to life, we love humanity and we care and there’s that piece of what do you want to share? How can we make waves that are positive and uplifting for people? So incorporating that desire to uplift people in the music then that vibration is already there in the songs.
12. If you could play in any era of rock music where would you go and why?
Noah: Two periods stand out. One for me is the 60s and 70s. I was so influenced when I was a kid by bob Dylan, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Neil Young, all of those bands and all the classic rock stuff. That was such an amazing era of experimentation. But I was coming of age in the 80s and love 80s music. It was a whole different level of experimentation, the keyboard the synthesizer really changed things and new kinds of beats came into play, so much creativity that way. Either of those would have been really incredible to play in.
Ivy: Which is kind of ironic because we keep being told we sound like a 90s band. That’s not our intention but I guess that’s what’s coming out. (both laugh).