Artist to Watch: Spirit of the Bear Take Off with Dark Charm & Cinematic Finesse in “The Shape”

The Shape - Spirit of the Bear
A cinematic upheaval with a dark, pulsing backdrop, “The Shape” captures Spirit of the Bear at their best as they mix humor with depth, and intimacy with invigorating charm.
Stream: “The Shape” – Spirit of the Bear




This is the kind of October surprise we’ve been looking for.

Whether you’re a fan of reanimated Frankenstein-esque bassists or deep, spooky grooves (or both), there is so much to love about Spirit of the Bear’s new single and music video. A cinematic upheaval with a dark, pulsing backdrop, “The Shape” captures Spirit of the Bear at their best as they mix humor with depth, and intimacy with invigorating charm.

An all-too perfect Halloween release, the only thing “The Shape” is really missing is a “Thriller”-like dance break to put it over the top.

The Shape - Spirit of the Bear

The Shape – Spirit of the Bear

My god said I should bury the hatchet
Underneath my fake sympathy
I don’t know what he told you
But that’s what he told me
How’d I get here, so low?
I want to live when I’m old
And I’ll be made of gold, but
What’s the shape of my heart got to do with it?

Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering Spirit of the Bear’s “The Shape” music video – directed, shot, and edited by Quinn Villarreal. Filmed an hour outside of Columbus, Ohio at a campground in nearby Bucyrus (pop. 12,000), “The Shape” arrives today as the third single taken off Spirit of the Bear’s forthcoming self-titled third album, Spirit of the Bear. Preceded by lead single “Summer Snow” and sophomore single “Opaque” (both of which also premiered on Atwood Magazine), “The Shape” elevates the band’s already-obvious talents to new heights, sealing the deal for them as an “Artist to Watch” for the coming months and years ahead!

The Shape - Spirit of the Bear

Spirit of the Bear © Aleah Mersch, edited by James Harker

Comprised of James Harker (vocals, guitar), Danny Svenson, (keys, vocals), Ethan Schwendeman (keys), Jamie Vitullo (drums), and Mike Perorazio (bass), Spirit of the Bear formed in high school and have been tearing up Northeast Ohio’s indie scene for years. Their third record will be their first post-college release, and all signs point to it being their finest offering to date. Earlier this summer, Atwood praised “Summer Snow” as a groovy modern disco jam ready to light our spirits on fire: “If this song is any indication, Spirit of the Bear have found a new peak of both sonic and stylistic finesse.” The band’s follow-up “Opaque” arrived as “a hypnotic and catchy psych-infused indulgence.”

An easy and obvious addition to the next Stranger Things season’s soundtrack, * “The Shape” retains Spirit of the Bear’s signature style and the sonic template of their recent releases while leaning into heavier rhythms and an ethereal atmospheric ambiance. “Sonically I think we were going for a Foals or Young The Giant-type indie rock track with some ’80s synth bass influences,” lead vocalist James Harker explains. “The video is pretty detached from the actual song theme-wise but we wanted to do a video paying homage to some of our favorite horror movies for the season!”

Musically as well as visually, “The Shape” is a thrill. Harker’s intense vocals are magnified thanks to the dynamic bass work around him – props to Mike Perorazio for truly making this song a jam; his instrument is ever-present in the track’s foreground, a driving force that leans into the pocket with drummer Jamie Vitullo to make an immersive and instantly memorable rhythm section.

Atop this talented pairing, Harker seems to soar effortlessly – his lyrics speaking to a depth of personage we surely have all felt at some point during our own roaring, turbulent twenties:

My god said I’m an ant on a hill
Right between the others
And he said that they’re my brothers
And all I do is take
The message, not the ache
And my god looks a lot like me
In wrinkled leather shoes
I see the reds, but not the blues
For all my sympathetic views
I have a lot of trouble trusting me or trusting you
How’d I get here, so low?
I want to live when I’m old
And I’ll be made of gold, but
What’s the shape of my heart got to do with it?

Atwood Magazine spoke to all five members of Spirit of the Bear to learn their favorite aspects of this enchanting new song. Their perspectives capture a range of emotion – from giddy excitement to solemn appreciation – and speak to the wealth of creativity, dedication, time, and effort that went into the making of both this song and its stunning video accompaniment:

Danny Svenson (Keys/Guitar): “The first day we started piecing this song together, I remember hearing this synth line in my head. “Holding on for life” by Broken Bells came to mind for the sound, but once we added it in while we were playing, it sounded hilariously spooky. That sound didn’t end up making the cut for the song, but I love how the spooky vibes ended up showing their face through a different medium. I couldn’t be happier with that.”
Mike Perorazio (Bass): “This song ended up being a combination of about three different demos that we had. The first two provided the nasty arpeggiated bass synth as well as the tempo, and the last one had the chords and bass line I had written for a completely different idea. It was probably the hardest song to finally discover and write, but it is by far one of my favorites from the album.”
James Harker (Vocals, Guitar): “Like Mike said, ‘The Shape’ had one of the longest and most varied writing processes of any song we’ve ever written. The bass line in the verse came from an almost Death Cab For Cutie-esque demo we had lying around, and Danny’s spooky synth part in the chorus ended up manifesting as the background vocal part, sung beautifully by our friend Aaliyah Lashaun. The music video filming was equally wild, taking us the better part of twenty hours to film over the course of two nights in the middle of rural Ohio. The final thing is so special to me, though. Lyrically, this song deals with some of my deepest insecurities, and I think there’s a lot to unpack in there for anyone who might take the time to dive into it.”
Jamie Vitullo (Drums): “The night we wrote ‘The Shape’ was easily my favorite night of our eight-day cabin retreat. The eerie sounds we were messing with and the fun lighting Dan set up in the room made us all think of it as having a sort of spooky Halloween vibe to it, which is why I’m SUPER glad no one wanted to change the name of it by the time we recorded it. The title of ‘The Shape’ is a reference to John Carpenter’s ‘Halloween,’ which is my favorite horror movie! I already know when shows can safely resume that this one will be my favorite song to play, because it is simply vicious!”
Ethan Schwendeman (Keys): “’The Shape’ music video was such a weird and exciting thing to make. We knew the video had to be spooky, so we went all-out. We spent two full nights getting shots in pitch black woods. Anytime we heard a noise that wasn’t us, we would jump. My sleep was completely messed up for a week, but the result of the video was worth it.”
Spirit of the Bear 2020

Spirit of the Bear 2020

How can I say I wasn’t there when I should’ve been?
I talk and talk, but never find the air
How’d I get here, so low?
I want to live when I’m old
And I’ll be made of gold, but
What’s the shape of my heart got to do with it?

Spirit of the Bear are a small-town band with big things afoot.

Pre-order the band’s self-titled album now, and stay tuned for more great songs and videos coming out of the Columbus outfit very soon; Spirit of the Bear is set for release late November, and promises to be a fantastic soundtrack to every season – haunted or happy, winter, summer, spring, or fall.

And for now, stream “The Shape” exclusively on Atwood Magazine!

:: stream/purchase Spirit of the Bear here ::

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Stream: “The Shape” – Spirit of the Bear

*  … But please, enough Stranger Things seasons; where can they possibly go from here?!



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The Shape - Spirit of the Bear

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📸 © Aleah Mersch, edited by James Harker
artwork © Nick D'Apolito

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Mitch Mosk

Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York's many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch's words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing. Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com