Music » Music Features

Cabin Fever

Bear Vs. Shark locked themselves away and emerged with a melodic post-hardcore album.


Cabin fever can do wonders for art. Literally.

Case in point: Bear Vs. Shark's second full-length album, Terrorhawk. When it was time to start work on the album, members of the five-piece post-hardcore outfit retreated to a shanty in the woods of Michigan's Upper Peninsula for two weeks. The nearest pay phone was 45 minutes away, and they packed enough supplies to ensure no one would have to go into town.

"There were no outside distractions. We didn't have to worry about jobs. We could just play on into all hours of the night," says vocalist Marc Paffi, a self-professed "nature boy."

The result is an album that spans the highs and lows of hardcore. There's soft bordering-on-emo moments, where Paffi's vocals are crisp and clear and sung with a bit of a British lilt. And there are the more common intense moments, where guttural screams meet frantic tempos.

Paffi says the album is intended to be heard as one piece of art, rather than 13 individual songs, and that makes sense considering the albums ups and downs. Terrorhawk is a bit of an emotional roller coaster, barreling down the tracks at full speed, only to stop short at the bottom, allowing its riders to wave to the crowd below, and then taking off again without warning.

At the album's start, it's easy to get the impression that Bear Vs. Shark is another band that, despite their intense live shows, sounds monotonous on record. The first couple of songs have a typical beefy balls-to-the-wall sound. But listen closely and listen to all of Terrorhawk in one sitting, and you'll get the whole picture complete with punk riffs and near-emo moments.

"Every song we recorded, we put on the album, and they were all written in the same segment of time," Paffi says.

Paffi also spent much of his time in the cabin creating the CD's cover art. He was an art major in college and took up drawing long before he picked up a guitar, so providing all the band's art is a natural for him.

When pulled out, the CD booklet opens with the bottom as the spine. Each page is shorter than the one before so that when viewed together, the booklet creates a layered effect with colors ranging in the same hues found outdoors - brown, green, and gold. On each page is a separate work of art spanning various mediums. There's a painting of a human embrace, a multi-media collage of smiling people, and a drawing of a furnished sitting room with paper doll cut-outs.

During live shows, all the band members, with the exception of the drummer, switch instruments between songs. Members Derek Kiesgen, Mike Muldoon, and John Gaviglio take turns on guitar and bass. Gaviglio occasionally chimes in with vocals. And Paffi and Muldoon switch up on keyboard.

Since they've spent much of this year touring for Terrorhawk and plan to continue touring through the start of the new year, Paffi says switching instruments onstage keeps things interesting.

Although Bear Vs. Shark consider themselves a touring band, the time spent in the cabin has left a lasting impression, and Paffi says the band's looking forward to working on their next album.

"We tour a lot," Paffi says, "but I'm ready to get back to writing and recording as soon as possible." n

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