Shall we dance?

Squirrel vs. Bear bring dancing back to the local rock show

SQUIRREL VS. HOOKAHThe members of Squirrel vs Bear blow smoke up the CN&R’s ass—and we let them.

SQUIRREL VS. HOOKAHThe members of Squirrel vs Bear blow smoke up the CN&R’s ass—and we let them.

Photo By Tom Angel

Squirrel rock: Squirrel vs Bear live at Off Limits Thurs., May 19, & LaSalles Wed., May 25

Squirrel vs. Bear has made quite a reputation in Chico over the last year.

The band’s CD release show in March for its new EP The No Business paints the picture.

SVB turned the ARC Park Tower Pavilion into an intoxicated, hand-clapping dance-party, complete with a kissing booth and make-out tent. Amidst a sea of pink balloons, band members and party-goers could be seen crawling into the make-out room, to emerge wearing sheepish grins and noticeably less clothing. It was kind of like high school, only cooler.

Drawing influence from Talking Heads and recent ‘80s revivalists The Faint, SVB has ripped a page from the decade of decadence with its synth-laden dance punk and pinned it on the shirt of our modest borough.

So, when deciding to write an article on Squirrel vs. Bear, I knew a run-of-the-mill, sit-down interview wouldn’t do.

At the SVB house/practice space, I recommend everything from roller skating to even a trip to the local indoor shooting range. But those ideas are deemed a little dangerous, and the fellows suggest walking up the street to Chico’s hip new hookah joint instead.

So we end up going with the run-of-the-mill, sit-down interview. But we are sitting in the rain, drinking water from wax-paper cups, sharing a hookah loaded with two wads of cherry- and cola-flavored tobacco. Romantic, indeed.

We nestle into our table, and our hookah arrives as a light sprinkle begins to fall. As we pass the hose around, I gently steer the topic of conversation from the mushy tangerine that bassist Ron Barker picked up on the way to the cafà, to where they see the band going from here.

One thing is clear—the members of Squirrel vs. Bear, which includes drummer Morgan Fleischmann and Kirt Lind and Ryan Maker (who both share vocal, guitar and keyboard duties), are intent on making the band a full-time job.

And they have their path mapped out—create a following, locally and beyond, and prove to a label that they can push units. A move to Los Angeles could also be in SVB’s future, although for the time being they’re intent on playing more gigs in the Bay Area.

The rain begins to fall in torrents and our brains succumb to the effects of the tobacco, as the conversation once again veers from the topic of music.

“I remember the first time I ever had hookah,” Maker chimes in. “It blew me away, the feeling it gave me. It’s not like cigarette smoke or any other type of tobacco, and it’s not like weed. It’s kind of cool that it’s legal.”

The story of Squirrel vs. Bear began in early 2004, which is when Maker, Barker and Fleischmann disbanded their hip-hop project Bipedal Natives. Lind joined while still playing with local Brit-pop four-piece Caveat, sending his guitar parts to the rest of SVB over the Internet before eventually joining full-time.

“I had been two-timing [Caveat] for a couple of months at that point,” says Lind. “So it made it that much easier to move on.”

Early songs like “Coa Carp” and “I Dodge Bullets” show a band still trying to find its voice—more straight-ahead, less groove.

In the last year, Squirrel vs. Bear has morphed into a more textured, bouncy animal. While The No Business still incorporates plenty of rock aesthetics with the guitar tandem of Lind and Maker, the record is bolstered by a rhythm section that moves audiences to dance.

The members of SVB are excited about the new musical direction, helped along with the addition of a Music Production Center (MPC), a machine used by the likes of Dr. Dre to create beats and samples.

“Right now our goal is to be a lot bigger in Northern California,” says Barker, exhaling a lungful of smoke. “That totally tastes like cola.”