by Zach Fraley
The difficulties felt in putting yourself out there to someone are felt more harshly by some than by others. Revealing your true self can make you feel vulnerable, exposed, and open to criticism. These feelings kept Leslie Bear of Long Beard from sharing her music with the world for a number of years. Only last year did she muster the courage to release her flowy, ethereal songs with the words, releasing Holy Crow to the world.
“I released my first EP in order to stop hiding and put myself out there with actual material people can listen to. The versions of those songs were very stripped down and raw – except for “Twinkle”, which my friend Ed Waters had remixed. I always thought it sounded so great and just wanted to add that on there. The making of that EP was a quick gathering of material for songs that I had already been working on for the ‘final product’ [Sleepwalker], but I was far from satisfied with them, and had no idea how long it would take me to complete (if it ever would be completed).”
With the pressure of releasing music for the first time off her shoulders, Bear found another band to collaborate with, and released a second EP in just three months. “The second EP was for a split tape with Fraternal Twin, which was my first time ever recording with a four-track tape recorder. Tom [Christie, of Fraternal Twin] brought the thing over and recorded me playing those songs on an acoustic guitar, and then added some synth parts over them.”
Now, more than a year later, Long Beard is set to debut their first LP, Sleepwalker. Rife with echoing synth sounds and nature’s influence, the album has been growing inside of Bear for as long as she’s been releasing music. “The songs themselves have stayed consistent, but making the EPs were quick ‘breaks’ from working on the album, which took a very long time. I poured as much as I could into the album; emotionally and mentally.”
Society, in part, kept Bear from releasing music until relatively recently. The pressure to be someone she wasn’t and to prove she was worth more than what people saw in her weighed on Bear for some time before she was able to overcome it. According to Bear, learning to produce only the music she was comfortable with and wanted to create was a challenge.
“I was always a sucker for pretty sounding music. I remember listening to Wong Faye when I was little, thinking she had the most beautiful songs. For a long time, I was too embarrassed to show people my songs though, thinking they would be thought of as boring or even worse, that I wasn’t a strong ‘don’t mess with me’ kind of person. I feel like a lot of people saw me as a pushover, and making ‘pretty’ music made me feel even more vulnerable. I also noticed people tend to prefer loud upbeat or even angry music that can really give them something to feel or yell about. For a while, I tried making music like that, but just didn’t have it in me. Everything I tried to write always sounded soft and sad even if I’m screaming at the top of my lungs on the inside. I’ve come to terms with it though, and I am happy with the music I make because it’s just who I am and how I can translate my feelings. I can’t sing very loud, but I don’t sound so sweet when I talk or laugh (so I’ve been told).”
In Bear’s mind, the LP contains a subtle influence both by nature and time that gives each song its own unique depth, something she says has influenced musicians for ages. “The time of day/night as well as the season strongly influenced my mood when writing each song, and so it made sense to me that the record is kind of split. But I don’t think that necessarily sets us apart as a band since I’ve noticed these factors have influenced a lot of music throughout time.”
However, Long Beard is unique in the way they market their music. For their two EPs and their new Sleepwalker LP, the band has released a limited number of cassette tapes for purchase on their website. A slightly newer yet increasingly rarer medium for producing music, cassette tapes of their music are the brainchild of Bear, who gives partial credit for the idea to her friends. “Cassette tapes are great! They are cheap, and have that nice warm sound. A few of my friends have older cars that only have a cassette player installed, so we collect and listen to a lot of tapes.”
Incidentally, each of the three album artworks produced for Long Beard have all contained trees in some form or fashion. Additionally, the cover picture on Long Beard’s Facebook page also contains foliage. While Bear notes that this is purely by accident, she admits that nature helps play a part, both in her music and the artwork present on her music to date. “I honestly didn’t even realize that they all have trees; that is completely coincidental! I do love trees though, and think that it’s important to remind people (including myself) to go outside once in a while, but I doubt that’s what anyone thinks when they see the artworks. I think the purpose of trees in the artworks might be to create some sort of illusion of space and openness, like that we are all so small in this world and even smaller in this universe.”
Sleepwalker debuts on October 23, and can be found on the band’s Bandcamp page. While Long Beard currently has very few tour dates revealed to the public, she hopes to reach as many places as she can soon, including Pennsylvania. “Currently, I don’t have any shows planned in Philadelphia, but I’m sure I will soon!”