TRACK REVIEW: Hunter & the Bear - Renegade



Hunter & the Bear







Renegade is available at:

RELEASED: August 2016

GENRES: Rock ‘n’ Roll; Rock


London, U.K.


FOLLOWING a brief flirtation with international acts…

this last week: it is back to London and one of the finest bands pounding the capital. I will come to them soon, but for the moment; I wanted to take a look at bands coming through London at the moment; the genre of Rock and the changing face of new music. If we think about terrific new music; many of us will instantly put our minds to London. There is a lot of wonderful talent playing around London and it is impossible to take it all in. If you prefer your music solo-made and tender: Yorkshire-born Billie Marten is someone you need to get involved with. Her rising notoriety and demand will see her decamp to London full-time, one suspects. The buzz from the city (about her music) is creating something fantastic. Her latest single, Lionhearted, is one of the purest and most beautiful performances I have heard in year. Only 17-years-old: she is going to be one of the stars of the future. In a similar vein: the arresting, jaw-dropping Izzy Bizu is primed to unveil her debut album, A Moment of Madness. Blessed with a graveled, smoky voice – capable of pure sweetness and honey-dripped sexiness – she is another star that is ensconced in London; very much one of our city’s finest. To be fair; there are so many tremendous solo artists in the capital. If you prefer band-led music then INHEAVEN are well worth some time and attention. A lot of bands are hyped to the hills because they look a certain way or have a bit of attitude to them – over-sold and blindly cast as musical saviours. INHEAVEN are a south London group that make D.I.Y. music that pollinates Grunge and Shoegaze into something wonderful and anthemic. It is early days for the guys but all the initial signs look very promising. Nimmo have been playing for a few years now but 2016 is going to be a good year for them (the rest of it). The Bohicas are dandy lads with plenty of swagger and authority to their live performances. Gaining comparisons to The Strokes and The Kinks – due to their mesh of Post-Punk and Rock ‘n’ Roll – the band have been gigging across London and Essex (where they split their time) and are another electrifying act you need to check out.

The Bulletproof Bomb are still teens but their guitar-led tracks display maturity and plenty of confidence. Like they have been performing for many years: they already have the feel and sensation of a well-established band. The guys have already played the Reading & Leeds Festival and have no plans to slow down anytime soon. Flyte formed in Hackney in 2013 and tie together embers of Orange Juice and Talking Heads. Another group that has been on the blocks for a couple of years: critics and radio stations have been keen to pay tribute and promote their wonderful music. That is just the tip of a very large iceberg of London music. One of the most creative and prolific cities in the world: it must be hard, for any new musicians emerging, to put their head above the parapet. With so much competition and rivalry around London: how does a band distinguish themselves and make a mark? The thing about London is there is so much support and mutual respect among acts. Hunter & the Bear are not a band that has shunned their peers: they, in turn, have gained a lot of praise and proffering from their musical brethren. Before I come to a new subject – and one that is thorny and much-debated – it is worth gaining a window into the quartet, Hunter & the Bear:

Will - Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar/Jimmy - Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals

Chris - Bass, Backing Vocals/Gareth - Drums, Backing Vocals

‘Renegade’ is the brand new single from Hunter & The Bear, one of the UK’s most exciting new bands and pioneers of a long anticipated resurgence of rock & roll. Hunter & The Bear are a four-piece whose combination of melodic sensibility with riff-laden tunes represents the very best of guitar-driven music today. While the biting tones and driving rhythms of ‘Renegade’ stay true to hard-edged origins, for Hunter & The Bear the song is king. Intelligently overlaying well-crafted melodies over thunderous soundscapes, Hunter & The Bear have reengineered and revitalised guitar-based music for the modern age. On top of their polished studio offerings, the band have a fierce reputation as a live act. Hunter & The Bear’s live show is truly a spectacle to behold, each player captivating their audience with individual personality and total command of their instruments. The group reveal a range of surprises throughout each set, showcasing a wide spectrum of styles from driving rock to acoustic ballads. Over the past few years they have set crowds alight at the UK’s major summer festivals (packing out tents at Reading & Leeds amongst many others), embarked upon critically acclaimed headline tours of Spain and the UK, and supported one of their most eminent forebears, Eric Clapton, on his most recent arena tour.

In a move that is typical of the band’s hard working ethos, summer 2016 will see Hunter & The Bear set out on an exciting and highly ambitious project. Anticipating their first full length record in early 2017, Hunter & TheBear will release one single a month, to give audiences a teasing insight into the band at work as they develop their increasingly mature and compelling sound

‘Renegade’ - the first single from the project - is a fast-paced, fist-pumping track that shows all the hallmarks of a modern rock classic. An anthem fit for wild nights or blasting on the road, the bold power of ‘Renegade’ announces Hunter & The Bear as one of the best new bands on the UK scene and promises much for the releases of the months ahead.

‘Renegade’ is a standout single from a band who know the value of song craft. With unquestionable talent and a subtle musical intelligence, Hunter & The Bear’s ‘Renegade’ is a track that reinstates the guitar to its rightful place at the heart of the UK music scene.

The chaps have already accomplished a lot in their short life. They supported Eric Clapton on his most-recent U.K. arena tour and secured Gibson Guitar artist endorsement. In addition to a successful U.K. headline tour: an equally successful Spanish tour was completed. Playing Reading and Leeds, T in the Park and New Sounds (in Austria): Hunter & the Bear have performed in the U.S. and across T.V. Extensive radio-play includes tips by B.B.C. Radio 2, B.B.C. 6 Music and B.B.C. London. All of this suggests the band is not to be sniffed at. Quite right. I mentioned a ‘thorny’ issue and that relates to Rock and Rock ‘n’ Roll. Rock, in general, is on a see-saw debate that has two distinct viewpoints. On the one hand, many feel it peaked years ago and has, since its apex, been declining and promising diminished returns. Others exclaim how many terrific riff-laden bands are around and breathing new life into the genre – even taking it to new heights and evolving it. Rock ‘n’ Roll, distinct from Rock itself, is a difficult sound to not only get right but to make it sound new and exciting. When we think of Rock ‘n’ Roll, our minds flash to the ‘50s and the likes of Elvis Presley. That is part of its charm and creation but now that sort of sound will not wash: who wants to hear a 1950s-inspired sound with no contemporary edges? It is a very niche and specialised so playing in this way can be quite challenging. Hunter & the Bear bond Rock and Rock ‘n’ Roll into a colourful and smoky boiling pot. You get nods to the ‘50s and ‘90s; elements of U.S. bands like The Strokes and British legends of music. The most important and obvious part of music of Hunter & the Bear is the focus on the guitar. They are putting the guitar right in the core of music: in the heart of the mix where it rightfully belongs. I know what many would be thinking when you mention guitar music: shoulders will be shrugged and we assume some Indie kids who think they’re the next big thing. There are a lot of underwhelming, insincere bands but that is not the case with Hunter & the Bear: they are the real deal and the exposure they are gaining is all warranted and richly deserved. Not only an engaging, sensational proposition in the live arena; the boys have a wonderful dynamic and huge chemistry – each member knows their role and gels together with ease and conviction.

Music is changing a lot and, as the Mercury Prize nominations show us, there is learning towards more conscientious, political music. Even Grime acts Skepta and Kano are laying down the politics and social-economic realities of the country. Through the transom of Grime; street poets are the perfect arbiters and exponents of The Truth: able to deliver their messages and mandates with full force, exhilaration and conviction. Look at Anonhi and Radiohead and yet more addressing of the modern-day world. U.S. drone bombing and the ineptitude of British politics: the press, public and music lovers want something deeper, relevant and more thought-provoking. Looking at the complete shortlist for the awards and there isn’t an album on there that is anything but forceful, mesmeric and accomplished. It is not good enough to rock up to music and be like everyone else: do the bare minimum and run through clichés and stereotypes. We have all seen so many bands stick strictly to areas of love and relationships; perform the same tired tunes and say the same thing (as their contemporaries). Even today; how many new bands make you tired and angry before you ever hear them? I feel this fear and sea change is being understood by musicians as this year, as opposed to previous years, has seen a rise in quality and originality. The reaction to the new demands and decreased tolerance (to predictability) has been a good thing for music. Some bands/acts are flouting the rules and still trying to blag it but, for the most part, the fresh crop of artists emerging have that air of quality and freshness. Hunter & the Bear are not only adding fresh paint and vigour into Rock ‘n’ Roll but their tracks are not the cloying, aimless fall-in-love-fall-out-of-love-moan-about-it-through-music merchants. The music video for Renegade was out three days ago and the band is primed, pumped and excited. No wonder when you think of where they have come from and where they are headed.

Despite Hunter & the Bear hitting their peak form right now: it is interesting to see where the boys have come from and how far they have travelled, musically. The Wildfire E.P. was their last full work (their new album is out soon) is a great place to start. Burn It Up begins with gentle, yet propulsive strings, and gets the track off the ground quick. “Another night I spent alone” our lead explains in his husky tones. Spending times on the road and riverbank: he has been looking for room to breathe and a chance for contemplation. It is a song that puts you in mind of Bruce Springsteen in his early career: it has that same gravitas and vocal sound. The band combines beautifully to keep the composition light but powerful. The vocal stands out and ride high in the mix but never too overpowering. Shadow Man provides emotional depth and one of the gentler songs (across Wildfire). Losing sense of hope and perspective: it is another track that casts a shadow but has an uplifting, redemptive spirit. Once more, the band is at the water-edge and presents an itinerant, travelogue song. Vivid, captivating and intense: you can picture the scenes unfolding and the emotions being laid out. Hunter & the Bear show how authoritative they are with a chorus. Making it emphatic and crowd-pleasing: it is impossible not to be won over by its spirit, power, and catchiness.  Blood Red Skies completes the E.P. and, like its predecessors, it does not stick to the same sound and themes. Lighter and tenderer than anything that has come before: it is almost Country-esque in its sound; something that is quite unexpected. Again, there is a leaning towards U.S. sound and it would not sound out of place on a contemporary Country/Rock album from an American artist. The band unify for what is their tightest and finest performance on the E.P. Guitars come up front and stun; the percussion is constantly steady whilst bass provides Blood Red Skies its melody, rhythm, and discipline.

Renegade is a bit of a step forward from Hunter & the Bear and their most explosive song yet. Previous songs, and those across their E.P. were solid and instantly memorable. Renegade ups their game and brings everything into sharper contrast. The production is sharper and more polished (not too much) whilst the vocal has more passion, spark, and rawness – bringing every line fully to life. Thematically; it sounds more positive and less fraught while there is more nuance, dance, and catchiness to the song. Hunter & the Bear create catchy and great live tracks and this is no exception. Something that can instantly whip audiences into a frenzy: a great building block that shows what their album will contain. Few bands really look back on their previous material and make steps to improve or change it. Hunter & the Bear started wonderfully but figured there were little aspects and elements that could be tweaked and polished. What we have now is a stunning song that not only works alone but makes a perfect companion piece for other songs.

Already gathering so much acclaim and celebration: that will give the band a lot of confidence and pride with regards going forward. Befitting of its title: Renegade is a fast-moving, dangerous thing that gets off and sprinting from the first second. The guitars, drum and bass race out of the blocks and the band ensure they provide as much edge, panache, and weight as they can early on. You always know you’re onto a winner when you go back and repeat a chorus; that is the case with Renegade. Chugging, determined and keen: the listener is primed and prepared for what is to come. Our lead steps up to the microphone and ensures his voice is as direct and chocolate-smooth as it can be. Delivering opening words “I am an icicle/hanging in the breeze” is not something you can sing if your heart is not in it. Those sentiments provide some mystery and you are curious what is being referenced; whether there is violence afoot or a fall-out has occurred. In spite of our man having a “cold cold heart” and needing to breathe again: there is never a sense that things are suffocated, negative and harsh. Hopefulness, need to change and spirit are all in the mix. Our hero’s vocal keeps strong and always provides interest and depth. I have mentioned other singers but it is impossible not to bring legends like Springsteen and Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam) to the fore. That said, there is a lot of individuality and personal insight that makes the vocal familiar but unique. One of the charms of Renegade is the contrast between vocal and composition. The vocal has a silkiness and power but does not accelerate and get too heated. Composed, steel-eyed and smooth; imbued with commitment and electricity. Composition-wise; there is a definite difference and contrast. It is scintillating, rushing and exciting: the two, rather wonderfully, work well together and sounds completely natural.

It seems like romance and separation are in the mind: further lyrical confession gives you some insight. While our hero is on a cold trail and holding out for the morning; it seems like a girl might be in his mind. Ostracised and castigated perhaps? You are not sure the circumstances behind the song but one assumes there is a bit of a drama and split that is being assessed. Maybe two lovers are in different lands but there is a yearning to be reconciled and unified. Windows are calling and the morning is coming into view. Like previous Hunter & the Bear songs: we have scenes and stories that could have come from American history. A lot of bands are predictable with their lyrics but the London band seems seduced by wild mountains, rivers and the craggier side of nature. It not only brings a real epic-ness and sense of homeliness to their words: it ensures the song has a grandeur, drama, and filmic quality. Each new revelation provides curiosity and intrigue. My initial thoughts looked at lovers divided, but my mind slightly questioned given new information. Sinking ships are collecting water and beasts are prowling. All of this might seem like collected metaphor for hopelessness and a defeatism. If you look closer, there is more positivity than you might think. Our lead’s vocal never drags things down and seems determined to be wallowing and mordant. If anything, there is a real defiance and desire for betterment with each line. Holding out for the morning and hunkering down: the spirit and strength-against-the-tide is amazing. Perhaps life is throwing too much (our lead’s) way and the situation perhaps attornment is being sought? So layered and open are the words you will speculate and wonder the origins of the species. Renegade clearly boasts ideals of a lone figure fighting forces and battling the elements. You get a sense of that raw and savage side but you always sense relief, hope, and romance. Vocally, it is the strongest from the band and the composition continues to chug and propel; always building emotion and never relenting. When the entire album is revealed and every song is in the ether: Renegade is unlikely to be bettered easily. One reason for this is the band; who manage to keep the song engaging and essential from start to finish. Provided the background and intensity of the subject matter: if the composition is not up to it then the song will suffer.

Past the half-way mark; the band step forward and ensure, once again, guitars come into the light. Bristling, aching and mollifying in equal doses: a terrifically composed and thought-out line. Each player adds to the mix and showcases incredible talent. The composition and vocal work in unison and ensure Renegade has a strong beating heart. Perhaps the band does not truly reveal what is at the core of the song. Is it separated lovers and the need to be with one another or one man fighting oppressive forces and seeking salvation? Maybe both are in mind and that possibility is very exciting. As the song progresses, it becomes clearer. “I wanna feel again” sings the hero; one assumes, that concerns passion and emotion. “You can take my breath” might have another meaning, but again, one will look towards romantic possibilities seem most likely. Wordless vocals from the band are likely to be reflected by live crowds and it gives Renegade some pepperiness and anthemic unison. Our lead is a renegade and outcast; on a burning horizon, he is seeking a new life. There are not many songs that possess such potent and dramatic lyrics but Hunter & the Bear manage to pull it off and make it work superbly. Our lone wolf and survivor will keep pressing until the morning and it leads to one question: does he ever find what he needs? Sure; there is a desire to keep going and pressing but it leaves me with a couple of interpretations. Maybe two lovers split and that desire to be together against all hope. Perhaps just as likely is someone that is feeling the pressures of life but is surviving and keeps on moving. You can take the lyrics at face values and cast your mind in the scene or take it as metaphors for deeper emotions. Whatever your takeaway from Renegade: it confirms Hunter & the Bear are one of the most alive and engaging bands in London and will keep on making fantastic music for many more years – make sure you grab their album and see what all the fuss is about.

Renegade is as fire-brand and racing as the title indicates. One of the hottest properties on the London musical map right now: make sure you throw your full support behind Hunter & the Bear. Over the next few months; the guys have a pretty hectic touring diary. On 27th, they hit the Camping Be Cider Festival in Dorset. In September, they will be rocking Devon and Salisbury; across to Yorkshire before heading up to Wales and Brighton in October. You can get a run-down of their dates on their official website but ensure you catch the guys live. They are a wonderful live band and a marvelous young talent. It is not just their live performances that mark them aside from the crowd. Investigate their music and you not only get a vintage nod to ‘50s Rock ‘n’ Roll but a combination of 1990s Indie and modern-moment Rock. Every note and song races from the speakers and you get hooked inside the marvelous riffs and crackling interplay. Renegade is a fine cut and colourful moment from a band that is definitely on the rise. Just look at their social media feeds and you get a tangible sense of excitement, hope, and passion. The boys are not resting on their laurels and pounding the circuit hard. In addition to Renegade promotional duties: they have touring commitments and will doubtless be looking ahead. The boys have just paid a gig at Paradise, London (an uber-trendy venue in Kensall Green) and are very much living the dream. There is demand across the U.K. and clearly, the music is registering with the public and really speaking loudly. You only need to take one sip of Renegade and you know Hunter & the Bear are going to go pretty far.

I am not sure what the future promises but one assumes there will be new material afoot. Right now, Renegade gives a taste of their new album. The boys have spent a long time sequestered in Gorbals Sound laying down the tracks.  That will be out very soon and, if Renegade is anything to go by, the record will be a sizzler. After that, one assumes there will be a mixture or touring and relaxation. You feel like Hunter & the Bear have many more albums ahead and they are always evolving and developing their craft. Compared with everyone from Kings of Leon to Bruce Springsteen: there is a U.S. sound to their guitar-driven music but the abiding sensibility and flair is of a young London band that is distinctly British and proud. Uniting U.S. and U.K. characteristics into their music will ensure they will have transatlantic demand. Maybe the boys already have some American recognition but one imagines they will have U.S. gigs lined up in the next few months? Having spent time in Scotland and come down to London fairly recently: opportunities, fans, and gigs are lining up. I opened by mentioning London bands and how much is changing today. Hunter & the Bear are not only enjoying the (comparative) prosperity the capital is provided but are not your average band. Their new material, as they say themselves, is the best they have written and they’re excited to get new songs to the crowds. It is a good time to be a part of the Hunter & the Bear juggernaut and who knows how far it will go. Renegade is a wonderful tease and nuanced beauty that not only stands as a live anthem of the future but a beautiful glimpse into their current creative process. Yes, it can be a migraine-inducing experience trying to find which bands are worth following and who is deserving of attention – such a bamboozling and baffling endeavor. It is still early days for the band – in terms of how far they can go – but there are few artists that burn as bright and have such a genuine enthusiasm for what they are doing. In the mire and wave (smaller by the year) of tired bands: Hunter & the Bear are a sharp, flavoursome cocktail that adds vigour, life, and magic. Music relies on inspiration and evolution: with regards the rise and rise of London’s Hunter & the bear, it is safe to say…

WE need a  lot more of them.




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