Shropshire unsigned band Black Bear Kiss tell us about the day they drove a tank
Many of us have been there; a friend has said they’re shooting a music video with their band – and it’s going to be the biggest thing ever.
“Oh yeah?” You say. “You gonna be in a warehouse? Have some mood lighting and cool camera angles? Something like that?”
Then the reply comes: “Nah mate, we’ve borrowed a tank for the day. Gonna drive it round Shropshire.”
It’s not the response you’d expect from an Unsigned act, but then Black Bear Kiss aren’t interested in doing things like everyone else.
The name, for example. It draws inspiration from a story they saw online. Kristen Jones, of Tennessee, claims she was doing yoga at her parents’ house on Lake James in Western North Carolina in 2016 when she felt a lick on the back of her neck. Thinking it was a dog, she went to pet it only to realise it was something much larger . . .
“Pretty mad,” exclaims frontman Chris Leech, 32 and from Shrewsbury, who’s also proud of their logo – a kind of gangster bear sporting a suit and shades.
“We wanted something easily recognisable,” he adds. “It ties into the bear theme without looking too much like Paddington or something ridiculous.” Much like the roaming bear on their logo, Black Bear Kiss could call many places home. Joining Chris is fellow Shrewsbury lad Rob Jones on guitar, who this week became a dad. Drummer Chris Bagnall is from Telford, while coming from across the Black Country border is Wolverhampton bassist Rich Sach and lead guitarist Colin Haden from Walsall.
“We formed at the end of 2016 so we aren’t far off turning two,” Chris says. “We’ve gone from strength to strength, playing bigger and better gigs for more people. There’s progression in playing bigger places each year. But we’re not too serious, we like to have a laugh.”
They already have two singles out. First came Hooks earlier this year. “That was great,” adds Chris. “It was pretty rocky and we filmed the video for that one at Percy’s Café Bar in Whitchurch so it had a local feel again. We’re going from a standing start with these so we have to build up momentum.”
If that one piqued people’s interest then single number two Secret Side would have woken them up. This was the video featuring the tank, and the boys had a blast filming it.
“Secret Side was all about being different and, in this case, being stuck in the 9-to-5 slog and wanting to break out. We see our boss being awful to us and so in the end we break free and chase him with a tank.”
That angry boss was a real-life producer who helped them perfect their singles, and the setting is serene as they drive around Shrewsbury and Market Drayton.
“It was all to do with contacts. Our drummer has a tank driving licence – as you do. He knows a Second World War memorabilia collector in Market Drayton. It’s road legal and we were doing 30mph past houses on a really hot day. I think people could feel it coming through the rumbling ground before they could see it so they were coming out of their homes wondering what was going on. Their faces were a picture.”
They’ve already received backing from football clubs such as Shrewsbury Town and Wolves.
“We played the fan zone at Shrewsbury’s ground before their game with Wigan last year and we’d definitely do it again.
“You’re basically in a shipping container and it was properly apocalyptic rain. We were scared of getting electrocuted with all the equipment there but we kept going.
“We’d like to go back when it is perhaps a little nice weather because we’re confident we can win large groups over.” And with Chris helping out at Molineux on matchdays doing the scoreboard he used his contacts to get their foot in the door there too.
“I had some words and they used one of our tracks as backing music to their highlights package for the Birmingham City game. I’m a massive Wolves fan so for them to use it for the game that sealed promotion was amazing.”
Their influences are varied to ‘keep people on their toes’.
“When you see us live there’s a dancey bit. There’s rock and we’ve been working on a ska tune. The Red Hot Chili Peppers are a big influence – especially their bass and guitar.
“And our drummer is heavily influenced by Nirvana and Kasabian.
“We just love to put on a show. There’s nothing like seeing a band and getting into it with them. So that’s what we like to do.”
They’ve got a lot coming up too. On August 17 they’ll take their live show to Shrewsbury’s Dana Prison. It’s free to enter, so they are hoping it will bring in a new legion of fans.
Following that, August 25 sees them play two gigs – first at The bear Inn as part of Bridgnorth Music & Arts Festival at 3pm, before then heading to Telfest for a 7pm show. On September 7 they are supporting tribute band U22 at the Robin 2 in Bilston and also play Birmingham’s Actress & Bishop on September 15.
Black Bear Kiss can be found on Facebook @blackbearkissband and Twitter @blackbearkiss