Adorably tragic or tragically adorable? The legacy of Knut the Polar Bear is still being debated by experts everywhere.
Rejected by his mother and raised by zookeepers, Knut captured the heart of anyone who, like some New Times staffers, had been through the same thing. Other people just thought he was the cutest little fluffy guy to ever exist on Planet Earth.
Knut drowned at only the age of four after tumbling into his enclosure's pool. He was suffering from encephalitis, an acute inflammation of the brain, proving that "cute" was a part of everything Knut did, even when it came to fatal brain swelling.
Indie music's leading ursine thanatologists, Bear in Heaven, are in town to play Bardot at 10 p.m. tonight. So we took the opportunity to ask the band's mustachioed multi-instrumentalist, Adam Wills, how they think Knut is doing in the afterlife, having more crap on stage than Battles, the difficulty of touring South Florida, and their dedication to indie label, Hometapes.
Crossfade: Do you have any thoughts about Knut, the polar bear who is now assuredly in Heaven?
Adam Wills: Oh, man. That was a headline when we were in the studio. So we missed a lot of the story at the time and could only catch little blurbs.
Presuming that he's in Heaven and listening, do you have anything you'd like to say to Knut?
I hope he's having a great time.
Me, too. So you guys have never played in Miami. But you've spent a lot of time down here, right?
Well, [singer] Jon [Philpot], his mom lives in Florida. My mom was born and raised in West Palm Beach, and my aunts and uncles live in Fort Lauderdale, so I've spent plenty of time in Miami. Especially during my childhood. Unfortunately, since we're just flying in and out for the show, we won't get to see or do too much.
Why do you think it has taken so long for you guys to get down here?
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As a band, all of us -- but especially Jon -- have been dying to play Miami. It's difficult, especially for a band at our level. You have to be hugely popular or really dedicated to make it down to the southern tip of Florida. It's really hard to do it viably. We've been trying to do it for four years.
And now you're able to.
We're doing a week-and-a-half-long tour based around Lollapalooza. We play that this weekend and so we fly back to Chicago after the show.
What do you think you'll do with the 24 hours in Miami?
I'd like to go swimming and eat some Cuban food. And I hope to see some family too.
You guys are still on your same label, Hometapes. Do you plan to stick with them? Or are you looking to move to a major?
Yeah, stay. Absolutely. Adam and Sarah who run Hometapes have been my closest friends for almost 15 years now. We all went to art school together and worked on every project, film, and art together. They started a label after college and I joined Bear in Heaven after college, so full intentions to stay.
We're co-signed with Hometapes and Dead Oceans, which is a perfect, perfect, pefect scneario for us. Hometapes is like two or three people, but Dead Oceans has a much bigger staff. They also have the same kind of family-oriented feel. It's really important for us to stay with Hometapes. They are two of the coolest people. There will not be a Bear in Heaven album without Hometapes.
You have a very layered sound. How hard is it to bring that out on the road?
It's complicated. I think it looks pretty streamlined from an audience perspective. But it sure takes us a long time to set up. It's not your traditional bass, guitar, drums sort of thing. Lots of keyboards and MIDI cables and lights and I think we rival a lot of bands that way. Battles is a band I think of as having a lot of complex live scneario. They're all hooked up together too. We rival those guys for the total amount of crap on the stage.
Do you think of ever simplifying the sound for the live show or even the way you record an album so it would be easier to tour?
It's something we consider, for sure. It's not like we set out to make things complicated for ourselves. It's what we think serves a song. And we really dig textures. To reproduce that with three people takes a lot of technology to pull it off. It's a challenge, but it's more fun. We talk about making a more sparse record. And I'm sure it will happen eventually, but not yet.
What about additional touring personnel?
We met with some people to bring a fourth person, like an additional keyboard player. And we were gung-ho about it, but it's daunting. Because not only are they going to have to learn the new songs but a catalog of two albums.
We started eight years ago with six people and have shed people down to three since then. And it's been the Bear in Heaven ethos to not add people. The idea of adding is foreign to us. You know, it's fun to have only three poeple on stage and gives us a lot of room. The energy of it really works.
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Pour one out for your bear bud Knut at Bardot tonight. Just watch the carpet, OK?