Call it a furious reinvigoration. Bear Vs. Shark songs made fans feel alive in a way that this biography can’t even capture with words; the music itself, on recordings and from a stage, speaks for itself. Shouts for itself. It was balletic turbulence, anthemic tantrums, it was a sophisticated frenzy.
BVS is a handful of Michigan music makers who grabbed the ferocity of post-hardcore and the fragility of indie-pop and threw em’ both into a cement truck mixer with valiant nonchalance. But they broke many a heart when they broke up, admittedly quite abruptly, back in late 2005.
Forget it. That’s in the past. Now? With the oncoming reissue of their two tremendous albums via Equal Vision Records, the band gets to have a proper movie script ending… Not that we need to even underscore this (undeniably exciting) reunion event with any sort of melodrama, because this group was never about aggrandizing anything they did; that was part of their charm.
Formed in 2001 in Ann Arbor, BVS were achieving new heights of success and popularity when they abruptly decided to hang it up soon after the release of Terrorhawk in 2005. Guitarists/bassists John Gaviglio, Derek Kiesgen and Mike Muldoon, with singer Marc Paffi and drummer Brandon Moss have known each other as far back as third grade.
BVS’ 2003 debut, Right Now, You’re in the Best of Hands (Equal Vision Records), was an epiphany for many music fans eager for a revitalization of rock, back in that strange turn-of-the-century time when the distillation of genre and tribalism of sound-or-style was just too shrewd for one’s health. BVS broke those molds with a vociferous, fuzzed-out, polyrhythmic, anthem-howling squall of intensity that was free of hip indie postures, drained of any punk doom and gutted out any emo-gloom, edging instead, towards a more life-affirming, from-the-heart frenzy.
After a blur of tours and festival spots (not to mention substantial blog buzz), drummer Moss was cut for Ashley Horak, another lifelong friend from their social circle back in Michigan. Horak contributed to what would become BVS’ unintended final album, Terrorhawk. Worn down to the bone by tours and bullshit, the band opted to break up, mostly to save their sanity;
In the years since, fans continued carrying a torch for BVS’ signature multifaceted, multitudinous spazz-folk/blue-collar punk variations. Last October though, social media fervor pushed the envelope. When three former members were on a stage together, a photo went live on Facebook with a caption that toyed it an as-yet-unconfirmed (and unconceived) reunion. Needless to say, it kinda blew up the FB walls (as well as some of their personal smartphones, as texts poured in…) Luckily, Equal Vision had long been eager to facilitate a proper vinyl reissue of both records and was all too ready to get the boys back in the Batmobile, so to speak. While Muldoon opted to sit this one out, bassist
Nick Jones (who currently plays in Bars of Gold with Moss and Paffi) will be filling in, while a handful of limited live engagements will be announced very soon… Look for the dual-album reissue on September 9th, 2016, and stay tuned for more info: facebook.com/bearvssharkband/
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BVS hit this primal sweet spot for a lot of listeners. Not too pissed. Not too anthemic. Not too nostalgic and not too instrumentally self-indulgent. The adrenaline-pumping, aerodynamic rock tunes of BVS felt like a secret formula of sorts because it was something heavy, something intense, something fast, that never wore you down. It was acrobatic and, at times, aerobic, but never tired you out. It was contemplative and blunt but never exhausted your emotional core. You always wanted to hear more…which is why, frankly, it, if I may…sucked so much…when they broke up.
Bear Vs. Shark’s origins go back to 1999, with guitarist Derek Kiesgen and drummer Brandon Moss driving around downtown Detroit, purposefully getting lost so that they could have more time to talk about their favorite records, whilst dreaming up band names (90% of which were hilariously nonsensical). While around that same time, guitarists John Gaviglio and Mike Muldoon ventured to Colorado to coax their longtime friend Marc Paffi back to Michigan with some new songs they’d been working. Chemistry had already congealed between these ambitious kids, as Paffi, Gaviglio and Kiesgen had already had a rock band with drummer Ashley Horak, and most of the crew had known each other since the third grade, all growing up in the neighboring towns of Highland and White Lake, MI.
So there are your six major players: Kiesgen & Moss settle on a name and sync up with Gaviglio and Muldoon in 2000, while Paffi made arrangements to move back to his home state… Horak would join eventually officially join, but kept busy with other gigs as well as sharpening production chops while living in Arizona. Essentially always the sixth member, Horak would also record & engineer the bands demos.
But over the last 11 years, fans could only pine, holding any memory of a concert or ripped tracks from their two CDs as though it were treasured lore, never to be re-activated… Until last year’s Facebook “reunion” post sparked a wildfire of expectations for fans, Moss called Gaviglio up and they had the talk… Was it now or never? Gaviglio pretty much considered it a gut reaction. Very quickly after, Paffi, Kiesgen and Horak were all in, with Jones soon to follow. Of course it helped that Paffi and Moss had been developing a similarly avant-tremor-pop rage with Bars of Gold since about 2010, which served as a subtle conduit to keep all the former players in touch.
And while we couldn’t get them to admit to it, this band was ahead of their time. Reuniting like this, with a fancy biography and fanfare and gladhanding and inevitable ovations from amped-up audiences…that was never any kind of vain desire for these dudes. As far as they knew, reuniting was never 100% guaranteed. It just felt like the right time… Don’t let this opportunity pass you by….
There aren’t loose ends, necessarily, to be tied up. But there is lots of acknowledging to be done: not only to the supportive fans, but to each other, to their successful tear of sincere, no frills, and unabashedly jubilant, unabashedly aggressive, nothing-but-themselves rock anthems.
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