Giant Bear, the world’s only five-piece Orchestral Funkabilly band, spawns from Memphis, Tennessee and its tradition of honest, heartfelt music. But they’re never home for long, touring ceaselessly and playing almost a year’s worth of shows during their adolescent tenure.
Giant Bear celebrates a two year anniversary with a month long west coast tour in May, 2007. The tour is in support of their self-titled second LP, which will be available shortly before they leave for the West.
The album is enormous musically, showcasing a variety of established guest musicians all well-loved in Memphis, adding accordion, pedal steel, Hammond B3 and slide guitar. Despite how big the band’s music is sonically, the songs originate with the theory that music is best when it’s simple and the stories are straightforward.
Giant Bear is being released under the supervision of their friends at Red Wax Music. The founder of the label, Kat Sage, recently began managing the band and was responsible for producing several tracks on the new album. Also producing on Giant Bear are some of Memphis’ favorite musicians: William Lee Ellis, Jimmy Davis and Louis J. Myers. Jennifer Lee, the recording engineer, also helped lend an ear to the production of this communal project.
This was a group effort Giant Bear was unaccustomed to. They have worked independently of any outside help since their inaugural show in 2005. Since that show they have put out an EP, Dead Lawyer’s Carnival, and a LP, New American Wilderness. They have seen both U.S. coasts, the north and south borders, and have slept on the rock, wood, linoleum and carpet of dozens of music-loving strangers.
Other than a lack of rest, their biggest loss came this year with the news that their beloved flautist, Daniel Guerra, was being deported because of an expired work visa. They cannot replace him, but they have picked up what they lost when his flute was deported with him.
They have added a lap steel guitar and a mandolin played by guitarist Mike Larrivee, and guitarist Jeff White has brought the percussive sound of the banjo more prominently into the lineup of Giant Bear’s already odd formation. They still use the cello, played by Jana Misener, as the glue of the music, they still harvest four-part harmonies, and they still sporadically bang on anything around them for percussion. The rhythm is still battened down by Jeffrey Nuckolls on drums, and Robert Humphreys on bass remains the backbone of Giant Bear’s music.
With the pieces still intact and a brand new record, Giant Bear is looking ahead to the next year, which promises both exhaustion and more music. They’ll continue to tour after they finish the West Coast concerts, bringing their music to each state in a yellow Dodge bus they rescued from a carpet cleaning company that threw it out.
"Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention reincarnated as a modern day folk pop powerhouse." (Cincinnati City Beat)