Friendship Meets Food Meets Music
(Friendship Plus One?)
Words by Melissa Andrada, Images by Yawen Chen, et al
What do sweatshops, fried chicken and folk pop have in common? Mama Bear—an emerging DIY Brooklyn-based band that loves food just as much as they love music. A band that admits,“We’d rather be cheesy than cool.”
Yawen and I bike over to Bushwick to a street just off the L train’s Halsey stop. We stop in front an old, brick warehouse, where we call the Mama Bear’s lead singer, Victoria, to let her knew we’ve arrived.
Always the perfect hostess, she meets us outside and leads us to the loft where they live with their adorable dogs running around the living room. Typical of most Bushwick apartments, the space has been restructured with the bedrooms lofted overhead. The walls are festooned with a motley crew of old signs, posters and spray paintings. The toilet in the bathroom has an electric cord instead of a metal chain for a flush. In the middle, there are newly silk-screened tote bags strewn on a clothesline. “They’re for the show,” Victoria tells us. “We’re giving them away as a ‘thank you’ to our fans.”
We then crawl up a ladder and through their window onto a semi-private rooftop patio. A table is set up, lined with homemade guacamole, chips, veggie burgers, buns, fried fish and cheddar cheese ready for picking. The grill is just getting heated. “Help yourself,” says Mama Bear’s guitarist, Dale.
Welcome to Mama Bear’s.
They are the kind of band you want to be friends with. Not only because their music is addictively fun and catchy, but also because they’re just really awesome, nice people. And they like food. A lot.
Mama Bear makes homemade vegan cupcakes for their fans at their record release party that happened at Fort Useless. Created in May 2009, Mama Bear’s members were friends before they were band mates. Their songwriter/guitarist/vocalist Dale and their drummer Tim, originally from the suburbs of Pennsylvania, moved to the Halsey stop seven years ago. Their bassist Ryan and guitarist Jeremy moved in not too long after. Lead vocalist, Victoria, moved to NYC three years ago from the Portland suburbs and met Dale about a year and a half ago. “We met basically by eating and watching movies, which isn’t too different from what we do now,” revealed Victoria.
After hearing Victoria belt out songs from the Disney movie Aladdin, Dale asked her to demo a few songs he had written. Not long after, they formed Mama Bear, becoming the bread and butter of the band.
Poppy folk with a spunky twist, Dale describes their music as “campfire songs.” Their music is the perfect soundtrack for when you’re curled up in a blanket, drinking tea and checking your email. But the funny thing is, when they play live, you just want to dance and jump up and down; their energy is infectious.
Friendly, energetic and adorable as hell, Victoria is the perfect crowd pleaser. We got to see this first-hand at one of their recent shows at Fort Useless. The band’s energy was multiplied by their intake of Joose and Victoria’s voice, a mixture of Jenny Lewis’ voice with the charisma of an Asian pop star definitely moved the small but loyal crowd. In the middle of their set, Victoria thanked the crowd, telling them that,” This must be how Lady Gaga feels.”
Every other member is just as amazing as Victoria. Dale is just damn cool and awesomely quirky. A musician of many trades, he does most of the songwriting, as well as play guitar and sings. His own personality, a combination of imagination and curiosity of a five year old, can also definitely keep you guessing. It became quite apparent during our interview with Dale and Victoria at the Williamsburg waterfront when he posed a question to Victoria. “What do you think of the rocks by the water? Is it okay to skip rocks? I can totally beat those kids,” referring to kids near our vicinity. Victoria just shook her head.
That’s when we knew we had to be friends with them
It was during this waterfront interview that, when we suggested a photo shoot, they invited Yawen and our friends, Joy and Jesse, and I for a barbeque at their apartment. They also wanted us to hang out with the rest of the band. What we expected was to be quick eat-and-run turned into four hours of eating fish tacos and veggie burgers, looking at their pog collection and making buttons for their EP release party. Looking at the assembly line of small Asian girls making buttons, Dale joked, “Our house is like a sweat shop.”
Their DIY approach to their music and merchandise is infectious. Mama Bear is the kind of the band you want to work for free for; they’re just that awesome.
In other words, if somebody doesn’t sign this band quick, we might just have to do it ourselves.