Bearsnail: Full of Bear Naked Sincerity, Josiah Hesse, The Westword
“Kyle Harris began writing songs at the age of twelve, but it was another two decades before he decided to play them publicly.
“I just never saw a reason to play any of it for people,” he says. “I’d been writing songs regularly that whole time, but I never thought I’d enjoy playing them for people so much. I just thought, ‘This is something I’m going to do on my own.’ A kind of therapy.”
Harris’s two-man indie-folk band, Bearsnail, has been playing shows around Denver for the past year and a half. And in that relatively short time, the act has attracted the kind of dedicated and enthusiastic fan base that many bands would kill to have. Even before Harris released his album Imperfect Goodbyes, his audience would unironically sing along to every one of his madcap songs. “I want to open my guts to you/And I want you to do the same for me, too,” he sings on the catchy “Guts.” The song is about a former lover, but when sung live, it becomes a deal he makes with the audience: If you get weird, so will I.
“When it’s possible to just let go of all the self-awareness and just start singing, I really get into it,” Harris points out. “Then you can really fuse with an audience and build a connection, a relationship. Then people sing back to you! It’s a live act of communication, which is a beautiful thing.”
Bearsnail taps into the inherent need listeners have for sincerity, which is often lacking in today’s music. There’s a surrender of ego and a courageous vulnerability about Harris that is endlessly refreshing. What’s more, he has a terrific sense of melody and song structure. At the same time, though, he makes no overt attempt to impress with his chops. Bearsnail’s music lies in the tradition of Jonathan Richman or Daniel Johnston, yielding songs that put more emphasis on emotional inflection than complex instrumentation. He’s self-loathing yet comical, a big heart with just the slightest touch of cerebral philosophy…”
Steal This Track: Bearsnail, Eryc Eyl, Reverb
“There are times when the embarrassment of riches that is Colorado’s fecund musical community truly astounds. If you keep your eyes peeled, your ears open and your brain permeable, you’ll discover tasty new musical nuggets on an almost weekly basis in our quadrilateral state. Today, that nugget is Bearsnail, the acoustic punk project that will release its debut CD, “Imperfect Goodbyes,” this weekend. Read on and steal a track from the album so your friends will know how cool you are.
Kyle Harris began playing guitar in a Southern Baptist church in Missouri when he was just 12 years old. Six years later, he lost his faith, discovered filmmaking and found his passion in railing against capitalism and advocating for queer rights and identity. With an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in his back pocket, Harris found his way to Denver in 2005, programming and producing documentaries for Free Speech TV.
Somewhere along the way — between growing disillusioned with nonprofit politics and teaching at Colorado Film School — Harris started writing and playing songs again just last year, under the name Bearsnail. Since then, he’s written over 100 songs, 12 of which appear on the artist’s surprising debut, “Imperfect Goodbyes.”
On first listen, Bearsnail sounds like ironic twee pop — Harris’s endearingly off-key vocals and brutish acoustic guitar suggest the unholy collision of Jonathan Richman and Billy Bragg — but a closer listen reveals disturbing depths. Harris’s preferred subject matter includes domestic abuse, failed love and a surfeit of suicides. Though his quirky vocal delivery hints at humor, there’s very little that’s funny about the pain out of which “Imperfect Goodbyes” arises.
“This song is a way for me to pray that I never have another lover try to kill themselves in my presence,” Harris sings on “Tribute Song.” And though lyrics like that might sound over the top, Bearsnail’s quirky, sincere and self-effacing delivery make it all very real and compelling.”
Catch Bearsnail on October 15 at The Meadowlark, Tom Murphy, The Westword
“Kyle Harris has lived all over this country and seen the ups and downs of personal, professional and political life. But instead of cultivating a world-weary sound, Harris, who makes music under the name Bearsnail (due at the Meadowlark on Saturday, October 15), seems to have found a certain appreciation for the vitality of life and simple pleasures that you’ll lose sight of if you’re in too much of a hurry for the next big thing. With songs informed by folky pop, campfire sing-alongs and “acoustic punk” in the vein of Drinking Gourd and the Fainting Fansies, Harris’s debut album, Imperfect Goodbyes, is full of kids’ songs for adults. Even when they’re about life’s dark moments, Bearsnail’s tunes bear an innocent, expansive spirit.”