Little Bear – Interview
Ryan Griffiths is trying to be sensible. He’s determined to finish his degree in Computer Science in Derry. He tells me this after he’s done an all nighter to get two college assignments in on time. Even with the beckoning finger of fame pointing right at him and his band Little Bear, he tries to resist the drawing magnetism of music. He’s not the only one either. Stephen Mc Cool, songwriter singer and bass player of the band has also revisited his studies, completing his degree in English soon hopefully.
Stephen and Ryan make up the band along with Mark O’ Doherty on drums and Conor Mason on piano. Formally titled just eighteen months ago, Little Bear have been playing gigs for most of their musical lives. Their last band was called “Farago” (meaning chaos evident in a crowd) and lasted for several years. It was the platform that got the eventual current line up of Little Bear together. Stephen’s young son provided the inspiration for their name when an unexpected phone call came from the organiser of their first gig, who was looking for their name to put on a poster. They were nameless, until Stephen saw “Little Bear” on his child’s t shirt. And that was it. Sounds simple so far.
Having resisted the urge to mortgage up and settle down, most of the members of Little Bear have hit their thirties. They’re applying a very balanced and mature focus on their simmering success. Lady luck was on their side in February when Two Door Cinema Club had to pull out of the “Another Voices” broadcast in Derry. Little Bear had already been on and had been seen by senior producers of the show. So when Alex Trimble from Two Door was on strepsils, Little Bear got the call. Ryan recalls the disbelief and excitement of that night: “I was so nervous. I was shaking. But the warmth of the Derry audience saved me. They were so willing to listen.“ The Glassworks turned out to be the perfect setting. Perfect for the ambience, perfect for the performance. It provided the spring board for Little Bear to do the next Other Voices show from London. You could say the rest is history. Only it hasn’t happened yet.
Little Bear are making more magic as we speak. The critical acclaim they’ve received has proven to them that what’s in their hearts does work. They’re staying true to their roots and their integrity. The have the ability to connect with people. “Night Dries Like Ink“ resonating with anyone who’s ever lost someone to either to emigration or trauma. That emotive distinctive whistling in “The Devil is a Songbird“ evoking a lonesome soundscape sky. Stephen created this by using a repeat and delay function whistling into his phones. It’s quite hard to resist. “Killer”, lush and lovely, tells a story of loosing control and burying souls in the nicest possible way.
They are currently signed to Smalltown America and have double A side single “Night Dries Like Ink/Killer” on release. A deluxe vinyl edition is available now to pre-order for October 17th. They play Whelan’s on October 3rd. Don’t miss it. It will be one of those gigs that turns into musical history.
Interview by Ciara Sheahan
See also Little Bear – Irish Band of the Week