In an era currently saddled neck-deep in genre-dictated complacency, it’s often hard for discriminating music fans to find bands imbued with a sense of originality. The gentlemen behind Bear Vs Shark (BVS) – one of Equal Vision’s most dizzyingly talented and diverse outfits – feel the exact same way. After all, these Michigan natives are, above everything, music fans themselves, which seems like something of an oddity when the majority of modern musical success is predominantly based upon purely financial and corporate themed goals.
BVS, however, has much more refreshing intentions. According to amiable frontman Marc Paffi, “We want our records and shows to be as vibrant and exciting for us as they might be for our fans. We’re all fans of older music and take influence from a lot of the stuff we grew up listening to. I think that helps us have a unique slant on things, especially during a time when so much music seems to be mass-produced.”
With originality as a template, BVS took its layered, grooving cabin-fever creations into producer Matt Ellard’s (Motorhead, Morphine, Converge) studio to put together Terrorhawk—the group’s most accomplished record to date. Building on the Fugazi meets Motown rhythms and grooves associated with the group’s debut LP (Right Now, You’re in the Best of Hands…), Terrorhawk contains fifteen tracks of a weathered and harrowing mixture of post-hardcore and rollicking rock fused tight with gut-wrenching soul, which further defines BVS as a group of individuals that is greater than the sum of its parts. While the sound on the new record will be fairly familiar to BVS’s ever-increasing devoted fan base, Terrorhawk is an amalgam of the group’s collective musical passions and obsessions–ranging from Black Sabbath to The Commodores.
“We feel that Terrorhawk is a diverse musical experience and the whole album should be viewed as a single entity, as opposed to having a string of singles,” guitarist/bassist John Gaviglio insists. “We still have the high energy ethic that our first record had, but we’ve tried to change up the tempos a bit; we wanted to explore new sounds and moods in our musicianship. We never really try to go for a certain sound. I think the mood dictates the songs for us as opposed to us trying to dictate the mood.”
But experimentation and inspiration aren’t the only things that make this five-piece so unique. Case in point: how many other bands would have the gumption to spend two weeks in a shanty located within the confines of the upper peninsula of Michigan to focus on the writing of a record?
“We wrote 60 percent our new album (Terrorhawk) in a cabin with four-wheelers and crossbows,” Paffi fondly remembers. “This is honestly one of the most important components of the album because we really took this time alone with each other to put all of our influences in the songs. I think it’s an honest document that we really put our hearts into.”
To complement the raw emotional honesty of BVS’s music and lyrics, the artwork of Paffi – as equally dedicated artist and painter as he is a musician – once again graces the layout throughout the entirety of the package of the new album. Although most modern groups tend to go for computer graphics and glossy photos, BVS prefers to utilize Paffi’s unique take on the world in an effort to further develop the overall one-of-a-kind nature of the band.
“I’ve been a painter longer than I’ve been involved in music,” Paffi shares. “I’m always sketching pictures and paintings during the writing of our records, so we just compile all my pictures from that period and pick some to use for our artwork. It’s another outlet for me to explore.”
Speaking of outlets, BVS just happens to have one of the most rigorous touring schedules known to man. The band is surely no stranger to the road with numerous trips up and down the interstates with a variety of diverse artists, not to mention wowing folks at select Warped dates, Krazy Fest, SkateSurf and SXSW.
While BVS’s consistent touring ethic goes without saying, what really sets the group’s live show apart is its intense and cathartic let-it-all-out ability. Many fans, in fact, were made converts strictly because of the band’s kinetic live shows, where one is bound to see BVS spilling it all out every single night. In fact, Paffi has even been known to take his act right on down to the floor and in the audience’s face.
“I guess this just reflects my background in growing up and seeing bands that really put something extra at shows,” Paffi states. “In a way, I’m surprised that people do sometimes seem shocked at our laying it all out there. It just seems natural to us.”
But then again, what seems status quo for these musical mavericks is just another aspect that sets BVS apart from its contemporaries. While BVS may not play the typical sounds that the mainstream is currently pushing, one cannot deny the passion that sweats through the speakers either via the experience of a recording or bearing witness to one of the unit’s chaotic and intimate live sets.
As Gaviglio concludes, “We want to have people like our band but we’re not trying to reach out to a certain demographic. We are just trying to be ourselves, while having as much fun as possible.”