Though the polar bear is the largest land-born carnivore in the animal kingdom, it's also one of the most vulnerable due to its snowy white coat, which lures hunters to its den. The Bi-Polar Bear exhibits a paradox of similar proportions: Its heart beats with hip-hop's verve as its soul struggles to survive in a cold, strange world.
Composed of Madison West grad Ugly Orwell and his college buddy August, Bi-Polar Bear moved to New York City nearly three years ago, seeking to build something from the shards of broken relationships and the viscid quicksand of depression. That something was Today I Found Happy, which bloggers embraced with comparisons to Atmosphere's lyrical prowess and Jurassic 5's buoyant production.
This Friday, the duo return to Madison for their first live show in nearly two years. They'll unveil selections from When Ledge Is Home, a forthcoming album they've been perfecting at Madison's DNA Studios. I spoke with them about the new LP in a recent chat.
How has living in Brooklyn shaped the way you make hip-hop?
August: I don't think where we are has that big of an effect. When we made our first album in Madison, we were six years younger and listened to different music than we do now…. I don't think Brooklyn has pushed us to make more hardcore stuff; we've just gotten more comfortable with ourselves as musicians.
It seems like you were pretty down-and-out a few years ago.
Ugly: We're trying to move away from narcissism. I write from journal entries, but I think the way I talk about my experiences has changed.
August: Yeah, for Today I Found Happy, it was a lot of whining about waking up depressed. Now we're trying to talk to other people who might be depressed. The content is similar, but we're reaching out instead of looking inward.
How long have you been working on When Ledge Is Home?
Ugly: We tend to make music when we're inspired to do it. The happier we are, the less music we make. So this album took a while to come together. That's a good thing, right?