Published: 15/05/2017 09:00 - Updated: 12/05/2017 16:29

Highland homecoming for Hunter and the Bear's frontman

Written byKyle Walker

Hunter and the Bear.
Will Irvine (right) sits with the rest of Hunter and the Bear (from left): Chris Clark (bass and vocals), Jimmy Hunter (lead guitar and vocals) and Gareth Thompson (drums and vocals).

You just can’t keep Hunter and the Bear away from the Highlands.

The four-piece have been stalwarts of the region since they first started performing in 2012 – they’ve regularly popped up at Loopallu, headlined the Netsounds club night at the Ironworks in 2015 and as recently as February this year were playing to festival crowds at Groove Cairngorm.

For frontman Will Irvine, born and raised in Achiltibuie, each Highland show “feels like a homecoming”.

“We love it up here!” he continued. The crowds are always amazing – people seem to love a party up here which works well for us!

“We’ve come back to see what people think of our debut album and to blow some roofs off some venues!”

That debut album – Paper Heart – will see an airing when they return to Highlands this week. This time out will see the band play the Ironworks on Thursday and Ullapool Village Hall on Friday.

And the band can’t wait to showcase their new material. “Recording the album was awesome. We did most of it in Glasgow and it was a real learning curve for us having never done a full length record before. It’s a lot of recording!

“We wrote all the songs over the course of last year which gave us time to choose the best ones. We tend to write a lot about people, whether it’s our friends, ourselves or people we meet on the road, human feelings have always fascinated us.

“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about so it’s been good to explore that a bit.”

The album marks somewhat of a departure from their old sound. Their previous recording – the Wildfire EP – was a softer, more overtly folk-tinged effort. “We discovered distortion which is always a good thing,” Will explained.

“Our sound has grown into a much bigger, more ballsy beast. We wrote a few heavier ones in the lead up to the album and those were the ones that felt the best to play so we put them on there.

“It’s kind of just kept evolving from there. We’re still learning all the time so who knows what we’ll sound like next time we speak to you!”

The tour will see them bring the new material – loud and quiet – to both larger venues and more intimate venues. “The bigger shows are epic because the songs sound huge. We like to feel the power!

“Having said that, it’s hard to beat an intimate gig. There’s always an amazing atmosphere when the crowd are almost on the stage with you.

“All the gigs on the Highland section of the tour are going to be wild. To be honest, we just love playing gigs, we don’t care where.”

While their love of gigging has seen them gig across the country, they’ve yet to match their biggest moment to date – supporting Eric Clapton on his 2014 arena tour.

And looking back, Will is certain that it was the catalyst to bring the band’s sound to the next level. “It was such an amazing and ridiculous thing to be invited to do,” he said. “We’re so lucky to have got that chance and I honestly think it did wonders for us as a band.

“Firstly, it gave us the belief to know we could do this properly. Having someone like Clapton – or our pal Eric as we call him – say he likes your stuff gives you that invincible feeling.

“Secondly, it brought us on so much as players. You can’t play arenas and mess it up so we really upped our regime in the lead up to that and we’ve kept it going ever since.”

Hunter and the Bear come to the Ironworks on Thursday, May 18 and Ullapool Village Hall on Friday, May 19. For full details or to book tickets, go to www.beyondhighlands.com

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