From Wandering Bear To Long Island Sound

What’s in a name? According to Long Island Sound, not much really. Late last year they were forced to change theirs from the already taken moniker Wandering Bear, and it seems like they might have made the move at an appropriate time in their burgeoning career. With their first EP, Distance still doing the rounds (and available as a free download from their website) the Newcastle natives have just completed work on their second, slated for release later this year.

In the lead up to their performance at MUM at World Bar this Friday night, Music Feeds spoke with Sean Cook and Chris Lawrence, one half of the band, to discuss name changes, the Newcastle influence and song writing over the Internet.

Music Feeds: So first off, and without labouring on about it too much, you guys did change your name late last year from Wandering Bear. Was this because of the Canberra-based electronic artist with the same name? Have you had any difficulties keeping people informed about the band since the change, any concerns over potential new fans getting lost in the transition?

Sean Cook: The name change was just something that needed to be done. The Canberra Wandering Bear, along with the other ten thousand bands with the word “bear” in their name definitely pushed us toward changing our name to Long Island Sound. So far there haven’t been any problems with the new name, it seems to be working out.

MF: Some of the members of Long Island Sound were originally in a metal covers band together. How much of that kind of playing has influenced the band? Where do you look for inspiration, musically?

Chris Lawrence: We started our metal band in 2004 (Professor Rock and the Box That Ate Time). We mostly played Metallica and Dream Theater covers. Sean, Andy and I were really young, and played songs that I doubt we would have the skill to be able to do now. That definitely influenced how we play together, we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and hopefully can be a lot tighter. It’s definitely influenced our song writing too.

MF: Newcastle seems to have quite a strong, and proudly independent music scene. Do you think living in Newcastle has shaped the way you play music much? Is there anything to that, or do you considers yourselves more ‘Aussie’ musicians than strictly from Newcastle? Having played around Sydney a bit, you’re no doubt quite aware of the differing scenes that exist. Have you found you’ve been influenced by any local bands in the big smoke?

CL: The camaraderie between Newcastle bands is amazing. Most of our best friends are Newcastle musicians, and half the fun of playing here is the bands you get to play with. Newcastle does seem to have a pretty specific type of song writing though, and I think Newcastle has influenced us more in how we try to differ from other bands. The difference between the Newcastle music scene and Sydney music scene is size; there’s more diversity because there’s more bands. It is cool to see the same sorts of bands playing at Oxford Art Factory or World Bar when we play there though, and bands like Sooners and The Small Hours really made us step up our game.

MF: I read that a lot of your material is written and collaborated on over the internet. Does the sound change significantly when you’re all in the same room jamming a track, or have you been able to get quite a clear idea of the way a song is going before all that?

CL: We’ve been using Guitar Pro to write songs for so long that I think we know how the song will sound before we go in to jam it. For the most part, Sean and I have written the whole song before it gets a run in practice. I think that’s why we love to improvise so much, it’s where we can all get our creative ideas out at the same time. It’s never really worked for us writing songs though.

SC: Pretty much all of our songs are written over the internet, Chris goes to uni in Armidale so it works well. Generally I write the songs and Chris does his thing with vocals and then we get together and work out the final touches like tones or just fixing loose ends.

MF: I hear there’s a six track EP recorded and ready to go. When will that be released? How much new material will you guys be playing at MUM this weekend?

CL: We are really happy with the EP. It’s a project we’ve been working on since early February. I’m really excited for people to hear it. We’ve been slowly introducing new stuff to the set since the start of the year, so people who haven’t seen us in a few months can expect a lot of new material.

SC: The EP should be released later in the year. Around September. We don’t want to rush it and it just isn’t time yet.

MF: Have you found the sound of Long Island Sound has changed much between your first EP and this new one? What has changed / stayed consistent between the two releases?

CL: I think our sound since the first EP has matured a lot. Many songs we played when we first started don’t really suit us any more and don’t get played. There are some central elements that run through all our songs, I think we’ve just gotten better at using them. I don’t think we’re done evolving yet.

SC: Our sound has definitely changed since recording our first demos. I think now we have a more focused idea of what we want to be, rather than getting most influence from other bands.

MF: You’re planning a tour ‘west of the east coast’ sometime this year. Any anxiousness about heading further out? Have you seen much of a response to your music nationally?

CL: We’re looking forward to playing in Melbourne in July. I don’t know a whole lot about the music scene there, so I’m interested to see how people react to us. As far as national recognition goes, we haven’t noticed anything yet. But I got an email from a guy in Massachusetts the other day, so I guess anyone could be listening.

Long Island Sound play MUM at World Bar this Friday, 4th June. Click here for details.

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