While really stopping and staring at our city in assessing it for our State Of Brighton issue we’ve decide that actually we like it here at the moment, despite everything. There are a lot of parallels between Us Baby Bear Bones and Brighton and they sum up a lot of what it is that we still love about our shared hometown. For a start they make great music – beautiful, melancholic sounds that refuse to sit in any easy pigeonholes. But while doing that they manage to be so creative, from making their own artwork and videos to programming their own website. They’re also fun, friendly and rather charming. They’re Brighton personified.
Recently we went to see them play and so did a lot of other people. A lot of other people. For their debut EP launch they completely packed out the Green Door Store, and it’s easy to see why they’ve attracted such a following. Over the last year they’ve come on in leaps and bounds, both on stage and in their recordings. Live they have a strange drummer-less set up, messing with a whole range of electronic instruments while a wall of umbrellas magically displays images behind them. Like their music it’s high tech and lo-fi at the same time.
Meanwhile their ‘What Starts With A U, Ends With An I’ EP, released on Love Thy Neighbour, is a joy. ‘Mountains’ is an off-the-wall r’n’b song that could have drums by DJ Shadow and guitars by Arab Strap, which makes it, of course, one of the most brilliant things to come out this year. Meanwhile ‘Sun’ is a pretty, delicate song with chiming guitars that Bat For Lashes wouldn’t have kicked off any of her albums.
Across the rest of the five-tracker they remain very difficult to pin down – neither a guitar band nor an electronic outfit. We don’t imagine they go into a practice room to jam the tunes out.
“Basically we record a bit of the song, record a bit more of the song, and we jumble all the bits together and mix them up,” explains Daisy. “And then we have to learn how to play them.”
“It sounds very cut-up live, and I think that reflects the writing process,” adds Puff. “It starts to sound different when we start playing it.”
The band are so easy around each other it’s obvious they’re great friends, and it’s no surprise to learn that Puff and Daisy met when they were cartwheeling 10-year-olds.
“You tell the story Luke,” suggests Puff.
“I don’t know the story,” admits Luke, “because you make it up all the time.”
They also like to concoct stories about how Luke became involved. The last one was that they met him on a ferry during a school trip. He canoed around a river with them for two days, sleeping underneath the stars.
“He had a camouflage sleeping bag and he got covered in caterpillars,” Daisy explains.
That’s a very elaborate tale.
“It’s all in the detail,” smiles Puff.
This time out Daisy seems to keep the story of meeting Puff fairly believable when she explains they were in the same class at summer school, though she claims that Puff, now her best friend, didn’t want to be mates because she didn’t think Daisy was cool enough.
“She wanted to be popular,” Daisy teases.
Have you dragged her down or has she dragged you up into social acceptance?
“I think it was a balance,” says Daisy.
“I cut all my hair off and then Daisy thought I was cool,” counters Puff, who may have influenced Daisy’s sudden recent decision to shave off her own locks.
From summer school they went to what they call, with tongue firmly in cheek, ‘rock school’ – through Daisy’s insistence. A laptop, a copy of GarageBand and a microphone (“I thought it was so pro!” says Puff) and within 20 minutes they had their first song. They were sent into the recording studio to finish it off.
“It was like a cleaner’s cupboard,” remembers Puff. “That’s how our musical journey began – in a cleaning cupboard.”
Then six years ago, aged 16, another ‘rock school’ brought them to Brighton and they met Luke.
“I’d heard their GarageBand songs so I had this expectation that they were a bit crazy,” he recalls with no mention of caterpillars. “When I met them I thought, ‘It makes sense now.’ The first time I saw them was in the video when they make synth cake and put cake all over their faces. I thought, ‘These girls are crazy.’”
“It’s Luke’s luck in life to be surrounded by crazy girls,” says Puff with a smile.
One of the things we love most about Us Baby Bear Bones is their creativity. It seems like they’ve always got a project on the go, whether a new video – like the macabre but beautiful short film for ‘Sun’ – or artwork that joins together to make a huge picture out of their EP sleeves. Their imagination doesn’t end with writing songs and performing them.
“We like making stuff!” say Puff and Daisy in unison.
“Constantly, all the time,” adds Daisy. “You can pretty much do anything in a band. You can make music videos, film, draw pictures, do graphic design, build websites like Luke. You can make a band magazine if you like. T-shirts, video games…”
“We’ve got our own clothing range coming out,” says Puff before admitting. “Not really.”
We wouldn’t put it past you.
“One day,” she promises. “We’ve got our own perfume coming out. It’s actually a jar full of dirt and sticks.”
“And a collection of spit from everyone at our gigs,” adds Daisy. “Every person who’s seen us play, collected in a jar.”
Us Baby Bear Bones are indicative of a new type of band who don’t want to hand over their artwork to a graphic designer, or their videos to a production company. They try to do everything themselves, or with their friends as collaborators. If they were given more money they say they’d just use it to make better things themselves.
“I think it’s a good thing because then there’s a clear aesthetic,” reckons Daisy, “a sense of their personality if bands do it all themselves, because it’s coming from the artist rather than outside people.”
It’s all coming from Us Baby Bear Bones. We’ve no idea what they’ll do next, and that’s a very exciting thing.
EP: ‘What Starts With A U, Ends With An I’ out now