Local music spotlight: Fox and the Bear

Updated: Oct 31, 2018

Lindsey Lanham | Editor-in-Chief

Photo by Maggie Giordano

Tucked away in the back of a local coffee shop sits Jeena and Jamie Anderson. The two sisters talk about the pros and cons of lavender lattes and laugh about the awkward shows they’ve performed at before.

Jamie and Jeena make up local indie-folk band, Fox and the Bear. The name Fox and the Bear comes from the simple fact that those are the sisters’ favorite animals, and is also a reference to one of Aesop’s Fables.

The two talk about one of the venues they recently played. At this venue, they had to carry all of their equipment up multiple flights of stairs and having to perform in essentially a hallway.

Even though Fox and the Bear have already played at famous venues like The NorVa Theatre, they got their start at a church talent show when they were only 15 and 17. “We raised money for camp,” said Jeena. “All the kids in our youth group had a talent, and everyone encouraged us to do it. So, that was our debut, I guess.”

“When I was 12 I started playing guitar,” said Jamie, after taking a minute to think about when she really got her start playing music.

“And I didn’t get into instruments until I was 15, so I was late to the game,” said Jeena. “We kind of taught ourselves. I took guitar lessons for like six months at the most. And then from there, I taught myself.”

Years later, Fox and the Bear have now played a smattering of venues in Virginia, their fanbase growing and their tours spanning across state lines.

Though the band can play many instruments each, their on-stage ensemble usually only includes a couple of string instruments, like guitar and mandolin. They also bring along their great grandmother’s suitcase that was fashioned into a homemade kick drum.

“We just opened up for The Hunts at the Jammin’ Java,” said Jeena when asked about their favorite venue they’ve played. “It’s in a strip mall, near a Food Lion, I think, so we weren’t expecting much. But it was just intimate and cool and vibe-y.”

“While learning the ropes, something we’ve started thinking about is connecting with the people,” said Jamie talking about pre-show rituals. “We just try to prepare our minds and hearts in a state of giving.”

“Yeah, just having the mindset that it’s not just ourselves, getting out of that headspace. It’s about giving something,” said Jeena. “That and jamming out to Imagine Dragons in the car on the way to shows.”

After performing in different cities along the east coast with other Hampton Roads acts, Fox and the Bear are excited to release their debut album. It’ll come out nearly two years after their debut EP.

“It was the summer of 2016 when we started recording the EP at The Collector in Norfolk,” said Jamie. “And then we released it January 2017.”

“That was us officially starting as a band that January,” said Jeena.

Their self-titled EP has three songs, “The Chapel,” “Elmira” and “Silver Chair.” Overall, the EP is indie-folk, and each song manages to stand on its own. The three songs all mean something different to the band and to the fans.

“All of the songs we play, I wouldn’t come out with if I wasn’t proud of it in some way. But ‘The Chapel’ has taken us far. It’s been on TV and has been played in a lot of places. I like playing that one, I like that energy,” said Jeena.

They met their producer and friend, Jake Hull, in a Trader Joe’s. “He was so fun to work with, so easy-going. We were so nervous, and he was just encouraging,” said Jamie. The sisters talk about the horror stories they’ve heard about producers pushing their ideas on the band, but Fox and the Bear say that Hull was nothing but supportive.

Photo by Maggie Giordano

They joke, saying that it’s kind of a competition as to who can finish the last song they want to put on the album first. The sisters tend to keep a competitive spirit about their work but are always able to collaborate and put something together at the end of the day.

“We kind of write separately and then come in and collab on the song, but Jeena’s song ‘Evergreen,’ is amazing,” said Jamie. “Evergreen” wasn’t on their EP, but the band promises it will be on their full-length album.

Fox and the Bear are influenced greatly by indie folk acts like The Lumineers and Mumford and Sons (“Well, the original Mumford and Sons,” Jamie laughs), and also whatever their parents happened to be playing when they were growing up.

“It’s not glamorous,” said Jamie about breaking into the music scene. She talks about how playing at venues like breweries, there’s always a part of the crowd who’s not interested. Also picking the wrong venue at the wrong time of the year is something that has been an issue for the band in the past.

“There are challenges. You have to be more vigilant, just as girls, playing in bars and breweries and the sketchier parts of town,” said Jeena.

“Or even preconceived notions of us,” said Jamie, talking about how audiences sometimes judge what they’re wearing or how the band looks.

“Some people of told us that they didn’t think we were gonna be any good, but we proved them wrong,” said Jeena.

Fox and the Bear’s authentic aesthetic makes their music genuine. They find power in their simplicity, in that they don’t need anything flashy to set themselves apart.

Incredibly humble and genuine, the sisters are amazed by their success. Fox and the Bear are making their rounds now, but going at the rate they are now, they’ll be nationally touring artists in no time. Until then, you can catch them doing local shows around Virginia and keep an eye out for their full-length album, set to be released by early 2019.