Bright, shiny and (almost) brand new, The Slow Cooked Bears are the latest symphonic alternative rock band from London. Reminiscent of the iconic David Bowie, James Gilbert (vocals and guitar), Hyunsu Lee (bass) and Joshua Hack (drums) recently released their debut single ‘Space Odyssey’. James Gilbert (JG) sat down with us for a quick chat about ‘Space Odyssey’, discovering new music and first-world problems.
OSR: How did The Slow Cooked Bears come about?
JG: I started writing songs with Hyunsu a couple of years ago after moving to London and failing to find a band to join that had the sort of sound I was interested in. Hyunsu had only just started learning bass and offered to help just to get some demos recorded. We found we created a really unique sound and we decided to form our own band. Josh joined after hearing we were looking for a new drummer and from the moment the three of us first played together we knew we had something special.
OSR: What about the band name? Was it a simple decision or did you butt heads?
JG: We never really argued about it, but it did take time to come up with a name that wasn’t just generic. It came about in two parts really. Initially, the idea of slow cooking was a reference to the fact we knew we had a long road ahead of us and it was going to take time to get good. We then kept finding we had some strange connection with bears, and after watching a nature documentary and being struck by the image of polar bears stranded and starving due to global warming the combination of the words turned into an eerie reference.
OSR: You just released your track ‘Space Odyssey’. What can you tell us about the single?
JG: It’s symphonic alternative rock! We always try to do something different and in this case we wanted to experiment with the idea of playing electronic ‘synthy’ style music patterns, but on real instruments and with darker more visceral tones.
OSR: Does this debut track have a specific meaning to you?
JG: The track is really about the human condition and our never-ending determination to find our place. We all have those big questions and for me, they seem to have a tendency of coming up at night when I’m looking to the stars.
OSR: What about the recording process? Was it a smooth process or did you hit a few speedbumps?
JG: Well, yes you could say we hit some major speed bumps. There were unexpected delays when we went to have the single mixed and during the same period, unfortunately, one of us was diagnosed with cancer and started receiving treatment. Luckily, the studio helped us find a new mix engineer and Hyunsu lived up to her ‘hard as nails’ reputation and is already recovering.
OSR: How did you feel on the single’s release date?
JG: Given what happened, I think we felt a mixture of relief and excitement. We were happy we survived going through that, but also excited we finally had something to show the world.
OSR: What is your favourite lyric from ‘Space Odyssey’ and why?
JG: We mention “where’s Major Tom” – that’s a little nod to the late great Mr Bowie. Major Tom appears in the song ‘Space Oddity’ among many others, but I couldn’t let the title go without paying homage.
OSR: What about your least favourite lyric?
JG: “We will go to the heavens and never meet God” – note to self: must stop being so hard on that individual.
OSR: What do you hope people take from the single and your music in general?
JG: I just hope people enjoy it and feel this is something different. I think the key to good music is when something strange and new is happening, but you almost don’t notice because you are enjoying it so much.
OSR: Who influences your sound?
JG: It’s a bit difficult with us as we like to experiment a lot, but in this song, in particular, there was a definitely a Bowie connection. Blonde Redhead is a band that tears up the rule book in terms of songwriting and in our future releases, you’ll hear more of a Queens of the Stone Age and Royal Blood kind of vibe.
OSR: What do you think is the best way to discover new music?
JG: I like a human connection, so for me, radio and blogs like this one still prove the most fruitful.
OSR: What do you know is a first-world problem, but it bugs you anyway?
JG: Sour hipster coffee. I don’t know why they like it so sour! Apparently that’s a sophisticated taste. To be honest, I’m glad I don’t like it, it costs about 50 quid a shot anyway!
OSR: How do you feel the Covid-19 pandemic has affected musicians?
JG: To be honest, I think a lot of musicians are quite lucky as they have other sources of income and things they can fill their time with. Everyone’s really missing rehearsing and playing gigs, but I’m more concerned about the wider musical community, especially all the people connected to live music. I mean, how do they meet their overheads? Will they survive financially? It’s scary and we are going to have to help support them any way we can.
OSR: What does the future hold for The Slow Cooked Bears?
JG: We have a follow-up single already recorded which will be released as soon as some of the restrictions ease. We obviously want to tour and play festivals so we are working really hard on our live show. In the short term, we will be playing a lot more London shows and starting to branch out to other towns and cities in the UK.