Bear Claw

Name Of Band: Bear Claw

Hometown: Chicago, IL                

Year Formed: 2002

Bio: Imagine walking into a donut shop, delirious with hunger. Not just anything will suffice. You have a man's appetite and you need a man's pastry. You glance past all of the crullers, long johns and old-fashioned pastries and dismiss them as trivial, wimpy snacks. Then, out of the corner of your eye, you see a BEAR CLAW. Golden brown, caked with glaze, gleaming like a diamond among stones. This is what you have been hankering for, a meaty slab of fresh dough, infused with gooey cinnamon and fit for a king.

-Ryan Duncan

It is the music of Chicago's BEAR CLAW that fits this form of desire. Formed in 2002, the band creates powerful, noisy, yet melodic songs utilizing its obtuse instrumentation of two bass guitars and drums. Members Rich Fessler (bass and vocals), Rob Raspolich (bass), and Scott Picco (drums and vocals) continue to push the possibilities of the trio while adhering to a strict "no filler" approach to creating songs with tools they wield.

History: Bear Claw formed in 2002 as a side project of another band by the name of Hello Operator that Rob, Scott, and Rich were in along with a guitarist by the name of Pete Aimaro. Bear Claw was the result of a temporary hiatus of Hello Operator that took place due to Pete's absence while away at art school in Italy. Rich came up with the idea; although he played guitar in Hello Operator, he has always had a passion for the bass. The idea wasn't taken seriously at first, but Rob and Scott were open minded enough to try it. After a few weeks of figuring out what the instruments should sound like and experimenting with tones, Bear Claw was born. The first song ended up becoming Chameleon in which Scott sang. With Bear Claw there was an open mind to write something different without it feeling forced.

As the summer went on and a few songs had been written, Rich decided to move to Carbondale, IL where Scott and Rob were attending school. Most of the songs found on Find The Sun had been written in Scott and Rob's basement during the three and a half months that Rich was in Carbondale. As soon as the band had a few songs together, the first show was played in Carbondale. After a few months of living in Carbondale, Rich had to move back to Chicago. A few more shows were played that year, most in Carbondale and a few regional.

After the year passed and Scott and Rob were done with school, Bear Claw started playing more and more shows including one at the Double Door in Chicago with a band by the name of 'Just A Fire'. During this show a gentlemen by the name of Ryan Duncan from Sickroom Records happened to pick up the Bear Claw's 4-song demo CD. After a couple of weeks, he contacted the band and wanted to set up a meeting to discuss releasing an album for the band. After meeting with Ryan, it was decided right away that it was a great label and that Bear Claw would be well served working with them. Bear Claw had already recorded the album themselves at this point, but with Sickroom supporting them, they decided to record at Electrical Audio with Steve Albini. The album was released in late October of 2004 and made WLUW's number one local record release for that year.

The next year kept the band just as busy with touring and playing as many shows as possible and trying to balance full time jobs in the meantime. More songs were in the process of being written for the next album and a few had been played out live during the shows. This included a 2-week east coast tour as well as many regional shows. By the end of 2005, Bear Claw decided to take some time off to relax, as well as work on more songs for another album.

2006 saw the band playing many regional shows along with working on material for a 2nd album. By the end of 2006 most of the material for the 2nd album had been written. In April of 2007 Bear Claw once again entered Electrical Audio with Steve Albini at the helm to record and Bob Weston to master 'Slow Speed: Deep Owls'. Sick Room Records was gracious enough to release this record in September of 2007. It was at this point that the initial discussions about doing a European tour were started.

With 'Slow Speed: Deep Owls' having just been released on Sick Room Records, Bear Claw decided to take on the most ambitious touring schedule to date for the band starting in April of 2008. With the help of Five Roses Press and Sick Room Records, Bear Claw completed a 3 ½ week tour spanning Germany, the UK, Belgium, France, Italy, and Switzerland. All in all the tour consisted of 21 shows in 23 days.

Upon the completion of the European tour, Bear Claw decided to scale down US touring mostly due to limitations with work schedules however some time was made to play a few regional jaunts throughout the Midwest. Starting in November of 2008, it was decided to take a break from playing live in order to begin serious work on writing new songs for a 3rd album. On the horizon, Bear Claw is planning on a 10-day tour with Italy's Three Second Kiss, 4 shows of which will be with Shellac of North America. We anticipate beginning recording for the 3rd album in mid 2010 if not sooner.

Do your best to describe the sound of your band in one sentence:

 A 3-piece rock band based upon live performance and a no filler approach composed of 3 friends, 1 black bass, 1 blue bass, and 1 orange plastic drum set.

What are the most recent activities of your band?

Resting… Our drummer has been in Germany for 18 months for his day job. We’re all very excited to get back to playing full time. We also did a 3 week European tour in May of 2011. Future plans are to start writing new material as soon as his plane lands.

How excited are you to play this event?

We couldn’t be happier. We’ve been to the UK once during our 2008 EU tour but this will be a totally different experience.

Do you have a connection with Shellac / an idea why you were chosen to play?

When I was visiting back in Chicago a few weeks after the first announcement I saw Bob and thanked him and the rest of Shellac for picking us to play. He responded “thank you for being a good band”. I think it’s as simple as that.

We first met Bob and Steve through recording our albums which have all be recorded by Steve and 2 of 3 have been mastered by Bob. Later we ended up playing shows in the US with Shellac at various points in the last 7 years.

Which of your releases do you feel ATP attendees should check out first?

“Refuse This Gift”. This is our latest release. We all feel it’s the most jammed pack full of rocking tunes. Also, the recording is absolutely perfect to our ears. Steve and Bob really outdid themselves on this one.

Is there one of your tracks you think specifically represents you best?

That’s a hard question. We have two dedicated singers. Rich and Scott and their voices are very different. I’d say “Back Breaker” is a good example of using both of our voices in the same song and is one of those songs we find we play at almost every show. Another good example is “Cat & Mouse."

Are there any other currently confirmed bands you're excited about seeing? To remind you the current line-up is:

We can just about get excited for every band which has been confirmed but highlights for us would be:

Shellac Of North America
Mission of Burma
The Ex + Brass Unbound

If you were curating, name three bands you'd want to play your event...

The Jesus Lizard

If you could pick one record release in the last year which would you recommend?

This was released just over a year ago but  we really like “El Camino” by  the band “The Gary” out of Austin, Texas.