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Indie rockers Spirit of the Bear release first music following new record deal

Photo of Spirit of the Bear
Jess Hess
Spirit of the Bear is Jamie Vitullo (left), Ethan Schwendeman, James Harker, and Danny Svenson.

Indie rock band Spirit of the Bear formed in 2014 in the Youngstown area when its members were in high school. Now, Jamie Vitullo, James Harker, Ethan Schwendeman and Danny Svenson have continued to build a fan base, signed a record deal and split their time between Northeast Ohio and Columbus, where Harker has a studio. This spring, they’ve been releasing new songs blending guitar, keys and synth while experimenting with new sounds with a '70s vibe.

Amanda Rabinowitz talked with Spirit of the Bear drummer Jamie Vitullo.

He said they’ve come a long way since playing in coffee shops and parking lots because they weren’t old enough to play in bars.

“We've grown so much as friends, especially in the last few years as we've been being way more collaborative in our writing and everything. And we've been able to get so comfortable with each other as people that it's weird to not be around each other. There's nothing like it. I can't even describe the feeling,” he said.

That evolution has led to the band to move away from its debut album, 2016’s "Remains," taking it down from streaming services earlier this year.

“We were kids and we were making those songs. We're not the band that we are now. We have it on our subscription club. So, anybody who's on their can hear it still as well as are some of our really old stuff,” Vitullo said.

During the pandemic, the band stayed busy, despite putting off the release of its long-awaited, self-titled album until January 2021.

When the pandemic hit, we had the masters for our self-titled album. We were so excited because we got what we think at the time was the best work we've ever done. That was like the first time that we had totally collaborated on every single song," he said.

And he said releasing that album led to their new record deal with Shelter Music Group.

"We met our manager, Jackson Stubner, who heard 'Opaque' on Spotify and thought to reach out to us for right around May or June," Vitullo said.

"Wires," the first single released under the new record deal, defines the band's new sound, featuring a saxophone solo performed by Harker's dad.

"We had this burst of inspiration and it's kind of not stopped for a while now, where we've just been sending demos back and forth for like the past however many months. We've got a big Google Drive folder now full of like 30 some demos that we're we're actively working on," Vitullo said.

The band also records, mixes and produces its own music. Harker owns a music studio in Columbus called Moonlight Audio.

During the pandemic, the band also found new ways to connect with fans.

"We started up a Discord chat. Sometimes we do listening parties, and [we started] Bummer Club about six months ago. We get to make all this different content for it. James makes production videos of him breaking down the songs. You get early access to the demos. We've been doing a lot of game nights and movie nights with everybody, which is a lot of fun too," Vitullo said.

The band is set to release a new single June 8 and will perform at Cleveland's House of Blues Cambridge Room on June 16.

Amanda Rabinowitz is the host of “All Things Considered” on Ideastream Public Media.