Indie Icons – 14 Iced Bears

This entry is part 2 of 8 in the series Cherry Red Icons

14 Iced Bears first started playing live and recording records at the time of the C86 wave, building a following through the fanzine network and the John Peel show. Their sound developed in a more psychedelic direction by the time of their eponymous first LP in 1988. They made a second album Wonder in 1991, toured Europe, then split in 1992. They’ve reformed in the past couple of years and have toured the States twice, as well as playing numerous gigs in the UK, including Indietracks festival and the recent Scared to Get Happy night in London, celebrating the new Eighties indie compilation on Cherry Red, which they feature on. Cherry Red records is bringing out a new compilation of all the Bears’ recordings ‘Hold On Inside’ in July 2013.

01. When and where did the 14 Iced Bears form?

We formed in Brighton in about 1985.

02. Who came up with the rather unusual name for the band?

I did (Rob the singer). It’s something that happened to me as a child…

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03. What inspired you and the other members of the 14 Iced Bears to form a band?

When I started going to the University of Sussex, my main intention was really to form a band. One of my best mates at Uni, Nick Emery, picked up the drums, and things developed from there. We put an ad in a Brighton music shop mentioning the Velvets, Bunnymen and The Pastels and that’s how Kevin Canham and Dominic Mills joined the band.

04. What were the primary musical influences on the band? I have heard the 14 Iced Bears music referred to as ‘Jangly’ ‘Psychedelic’ and ‘Proto-Punk’. Would it be fair to say that songs like ‘Come Get Me’, ‘Inside’, ‘Like A Dolphin’ and ‘Hayfever’ are representative of your musical influences?

Each song is representative of our influences really, we started off influenced by stuff like the Mary Chain and the Pastels, as that was what was exciting around 1985, but I’d been into psyche-y stuff for years, as well as the Liverpool scene and the Postcard label. We were all into bands like the Velvet Underground. Nick also liked stuff such as Theatre of Hate, maybe that came out in his very unique drumming style.

05. When did you first start writing songs and what inspires you to write?

I’d been writing songs since I was about 15/16, although I wrote one for my brother’s teddy bears when we were kids – I still can remember the tune! I usually wandered the streets and the tunes would come into my head, often by the time I got home I’d have almost a whole song. I didn’t consciously write on a subject but would work with what came through me.

06. What were the 14 Iced Bears early gigs like and what kind of venues did the band play?

Our very first gig was at the Uni with a mate Alan White on bass — a stoned rasta got up onstage, started rapping and basically ruined it! But we did do Late Night by Syd Barrett in our set, I used an aftershave bottle as a slide I remember. We soon started playing the Big Twang club at the Escape in Brighton. More to come on this later.

07. The 14 Iced Bears recorded a couple of sessions for John Peel. Any recollections of the sessions and was John Peel a big fan of the band?

We’d sent him a copy of our first single Inside. He really liked it and asked us in for a session. I remember Dale Griffin, the BBC session producer who’d been in Mott the Hoople, saying he really liked our track Cut. When Peel played the session he raved about us after each song and made it one of his favourites of the year. It was very exciting that night when we listened to his show. We did another session a few months later and had to sleep on the BBC foyer sofas after our van key snapped in its lock!

08. The ‘Balloon Song’ appears on the Cherry Red Records boxset ‘Scared To Get Happy’. How do you feel about appearing on this compilation and did the band ever feel part of the C86 scene, which seems to be a catch all term for quite a disparate number of bands?

It’s great to be asked to be on the comp, hopefully it will get more people to listen to our other stuff. We came out at that time and in Brighton there was a healthy indie scene reacting to years of miserable music. The club The Big Twang was at the epicentre, and we supported Felt and the Wedding Present there. The Mary Chain were a catalyst for people like me to believe they could make pop music themselves without having to try and get signed by labels who only seemed interested in the shiny, overproduced side of pop at the time.

09. The 14 Iced Bears signed to Thunderball Records and subsequently recorded a debut album in 1988. Was this a genuinely exciting moment and how do you feel this album stands up now?

It was very exciting and seemed the right thing to do after we’d released a few singles. Sarah records wasn’t into albums then, and Thunderball gave us the chance. I personally think the first album is probably our strongest stuff. It seems to have stood up to the test of time — in the last few years, Alexis Petridis tweeted that it is ‘a lost psych classic’.

10. Can you tell me a little bit about the second album ‘Wonder’? Is it fair to use the terms Shoegaze and Psychedelic to describe this particular record?

Wonder came out in 1991 on Borderline records in Brighton. The label manager was friends with Gene Clark from the Byrds, and there was talk of him guesting on the lp. But he sadly died that year.

We weren’t consciously trying to get a particular sound. It’s just where the band were at the time. Also we’d changed bass players from Will Taylor (who’d played on the first album) to Tim White, and that affected our sound. We’d become even more fans of 60s psyche at this time, and I was obsessed with the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. We weren’t really listening to Shoegaze stuff but a lot of those bands were also into psyche so that’s probably where the similarities may have come in.

11. The 14 Iced Bears reformed in 2010 and then subsequently went on a tour of America. Did the band reform initially just to tour the States?

Yes, we hadn’t even discussed reforming. Tim and I were still friends but we hadn’t seen the other Bears for about 18 years. But then on Facebook, people from the US East Coast started enquiring about us playing, so we thought we’d give it a go.

12. I recently watched ‘Dust Remains Part 1’ on YouTube, in which the band is filmed on tour in New York. Can you tell me a little about the tour of the US, and did the band have an audience that was familiar with the band’s music?

Glad you saw the film – there’s also a Part 2! We weren’t sure what to expect, but our first gig (in Brooklyn) was packed and we seemed to gel really well on stage. People were shouting out for songs and singing along too. People followed us around to Philadelphia and Northampton, MA, some had travelled thousands of miles. We were blown away by the support, and decided then to tour the West Coast, which we did a year later.

13. I have to say that the 14 Iced Bears sounded particularly well from what I seen in that documentary. Why did it take until 2010 for the band to come together again?

We’d just had no plans to. Tim and I had moved back to London. Graham Durrant, the drummer after Emery, was in Brighton, and guitarist Kevin Canham lives in Dorset, so he can’t get to play with us. We’re a three-piece now but we’re genuinely surprised by how we gelled together when we reformed. Think we appreciate it more, and there’s less of the crappy immature baggage to deal with now we’re older. I feel incredibly lucky to be allowed to sing the songs I still love and people are still into it.

14. You were asked on the flight to JFK New York, whether the 14 Iced Bears could have been big and you responded with ‘we will be big’. Do you feel that the band could have had some mainstream success, or did it not really matter?

We wanted success, not necessarily huge mainstream stuff. We never had much money behind us. We were all really poor and on the dole in Brighton and success would have allowed us to do more stuff and get to more people. It was frustrating to see other bands on bigger indie labels getting hyped up when we thought we had better songs. Maybe more people will hear them now!

Web Links:


Tour dates:

London Dublin Castle NW1, September 6th 2013 (CD launch gig)

Link to buy the current Releases:


Long John

Charming Chap and a new sharp force for Eyeplug, being a toppermost writer with a keen appreciation for things of quality and distinction. A well known face on the London ‘Mod’ Scene but with an open mind and heart. Got a strange interest in Pirates? One to watch out for!

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Originally posted 2013-07-18 15:43:06. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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