Deep Purple, Depeche Mode, Medeski Martin & Wood, The National, Elbow, Radiohead
3-piece original rock band
Erik Fagrelius (bass, lead vocal)
Bill Beach (keys, organ, synth)
Chris Beach (drums, percussion)
Father/son duo on keys and drums.
Has performed at:
Elbo Room, Live Wire Lounge, Cubby Bear, Hampton Bay Days Festival
Nothing like a party to jump-start a band's existence. Unless the party is of the bon voyage variety, and the person going away is a member of the band in question, and the place he's going is halfway across the country.
Still, when it comes to musical chemistry, anything is possible--and the members of Man Fighting Bear have managed to find a way to stay together for more than half a decade, since the band formed at an event celebrating keyboard player Bill Beach's move from Chicago to Virginia. Bill, along with his son (drummer Chris Beach), bassist/vocalist Erik Fagrelius, and a number of guest musicians worked up a set of cover songs, and the core trio decided to continue playing, writing and performing together whenever Bill was in town. After a few years of sporadically jamming around the city, the band rented a rehearsal space and, through the magic of a product called jamLink, began having regular cross-country practice sessions, bridging the distance and allowing the band to write original material and prepare for live performances.
On the band's new album, 2015's Waiting, the members' diverse influences are on full display. Bill introduced Chris to Deep Purple and Wishbone Ash; Chris in return introduced his father to Weezer and The Decemberists; all three are fans of Manchester indie rockers Elbow and jazz fusion trio Medeski, Martin & Wood.
"We understand just how difficult making music is and know the importance of taking a second listen," Chris says of the group's unlikely combination of influences. "We find ourselves listening to bands that maybe don't have a direct influence on how we write or perform, but bands that we appreciate their songwriting, production, and performance."
Songs like "Shards Of Steel" are built on Chris's muscular drumming, Bill's classic-rock organ, and Erik's powerful vocals. "Hitman" is a gospel-tinged, piano-driven stomp, while the slow burn of "AM/FM" brings out the trio's jazz influences. But while the musical influences are important, the biggest influence of all is family--and that tie is deeper than just blood.
"I have been playing in bands since the 7th grade, and over the decades, I have had the opportunity to play with some extraordinary musicians," Bill says. "Yet, I can tell you without hesitation that I have never had such a more personally rewarding experience than playing with Chris and Erik. Not only are they two of the most talented musicians I've had the privilege of working with, playing with, and collaborating with, but being able to share this experience brings with it a tremendous perspective of mutual admiration and respect, and at the core is a genuine feeling of family. I wouldn't trade it for the world. This is the band that I always wanted to be in, and it is immensely fulfilling."
"Our band is a family," Chris agrees. "Family has your back and wants you to be the best you can be, and that comes out when we play live. We practice hard and if something seems off, we let the other person know. We want each other to succeed just as much as, if not more than, we want the band to. I am related to my dad, but I consider Erik to be my big brother too."
"There are no two musicians that have ever been bigger influences on me than Bill and Chris," Erik mentions. "Their musical talents keep pushing me to be the best musician and co-songwriter I can be. They're so good at what they do naturally; both instinctive and innovative. I believe that they deserve the very best of what I can possibly contribute at all times."
This mutual respect permeates every level of Waiting, and the interplay between drums, keys, bass and vocals feels completely natural and symbiotic. From the funk-infused "Jupiter" to the haunting, pseudo-industrial "Echoes In The Dark Pt. 1" to the uplifting close-out punch of "Into The Light" and "Good Morning" (the former of which serving as a showcase for Fagrelius' opera training, the latter highlighting the band's commitment to songcraft and melody), the entire experience feels much bigger than three people. It feels like a pure outpouring of love--of music, of family, of everything in between.
When he was a child, Bill would sit with his back to the piano as his own father played. "I would feel the vibrations, and it was magical; especially when he let loose on some Chicago-style boogie-woogie," he said. "My father was my first piano teacher. Now, I listen to artists as diverse as Andre Previn, Bill Evans, Alabama Shakes, and Wilco. Nothing is ever too new, and certainly never too old."
"Man Fighting Bear is a hard band to categorize. In many of the songs on their 2015 album “Waiting,” you hear the influence of artists as diverse as Joy Division, Deep Purple, Brian Eno, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, King Crimson, the Rotary Connection and Leonard Cohen, sometimes within the same song. But the one band that comes to mind the most when I hear “Waiting” is the Velvet Underground.
Man Fighting Bear blend the sacred with the profane brilliantly to produce a complex sound full of sonic surprises."
- Dave's Strange Radio