Bears In Trees, ‘How To Build An Ocean: Instructions’ | The Album Story

Bears In Trees guide us through the creation of their poignant and personal new album, ‘How To Build An Ocean: Instructions’, out April 26 via I Sure Hope It Does.

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On February 12, 2024, Bears in Trees announced that they would be heading to Hyde Park to premiere their new track, ‘Hot Chocolate’, for any fans who wanted to hear it in just 24 hours. So, on a very wet and rainy February 13, the band and 50 of those fans assembled in the centre of one of London’s largest outdoor spaces, listened to music, learned a choreographed dance routine and smiled together. On the one hand, the event was a lovely little way of showing off the second single from their new album ‘How To Build An Ocean: Instructions’, their most joyously thoughtful and existentially vast work to date. Yet, on the other hand, it was a measure of how impulsive, passionate, and willing their community is to be a part of something more. To drop everything and be there to create a lasting memory.

In many ways, this is what the whole Bears in Trees journey has been about. What started out as four friends hanging out and making things they enjoyed has transformed into a world where everybody is welcome to be whatever they want. A space where silliness is as encouraged as critical thought on why the world is the way it is, it’s more than anything the band could have ever hoped for, but something they are so grateful exists. It’s a place where just being is encouraged, and that’s where ‘How To Build An Ocean: Instructions’ comes in.

Born out of seeing the world and experiencing everything before returning home and feeling like you are back where you started, it’s a record that strives to feel secure within the everyday. A reminder of how the little things in life are the things that define us the most. The place where you grew up may change, but the things it taught you will never fade. Of how it feels to find meaning in everything but be okay with not always finding the answer you were looking for.

“I think that we have learnt so much over the last two years since our last record,” guitarist Callum Lichfield admits. “Not just about how to be in a band and how to collaborate, but also about what music we like and how to experiment with other sounds and ideas. This album feels like all of that at once. It is Bears in Trees, as far as we can take it.”

To delve into every aspect of this beautifully poignant and effortlessly rousing work, Rock Sound sat down with Callum, guitarist Nick Peters, bassist Iain Gillespie, and drummer George Berry, and dug in at the deep end.


When asked to sum up what it is they were trying to achieve sonically with ‘How To Build An Ocean: Instructions’, one word continues to crop up for the band.


It’s a term brought to the table via producer George Perks, who strived to get the band to think about the elements that take a song from good to timeless. Though for many, the idea of making a song feel iconic may come with added bells and whistles, here it came more in the form of trust in each other.

“I feel like we find our confidence in what every member brings to the table,” Nick explains. “Like, if you take ‘Things That Look Like Mistakes’, it goes from a pop song to an emo song breakdown, then back to a pop song. The two parts only work together because we have parts of the band that are inspired by both. You just have to trust that each side is doing the best they can to mould the two together, and we all have that trust. When it comes to a song, there has to be sincerity in it. If we weren’t sincere whilst writing it, then we wouldn’t do it.”

“It’s all about not shying away from the song,” Iain adds. “We should see every song for what it is and be confident that it will be solid. Then, we started to do even more outrageous stuff because we had to do what the song asked us to do.”

That’s how you end up with the likes of the gorgeous balladry of ‘All You Get Is Confetti’ rubbing shoulders with the contemplative songwriting of ‘Tai Chi With My Dad’. It’s how the twee pianos of ‘Henry Says’ clash perfectly with the poignant euphoria of ‘We Don’t Speak Anymore’. It is a melting pot of inspiration whilst never straying too far from the infectious pop core that has carried the band through every one of their adventures.

In striving for these crossover quirks, they are not only managing to create an atmosphere that can only be associated with them but also making sure that they are still having fun. Though the pressure may have increased as the Bears in Tree name has pricked up more and more ears, the pursuit of making something that feels fun for them will always be at the forefront.

“Doing the core thing that works is fine, but it would get boring,” George interjects. “That’s not exciting for us. There’s nothing special in that for us. So, it’s a case of taking one little thing and making it crazy. Making something entertaining for us, because if it’s entertaining to us, then someone else somewhere in the world will find it entertaining as well.”


This is the first record that Bears in Trees has had an external producer in the mix, and they were pretty wary of that fact to begin with. Not just because George has a first-class honours in professional music production and has handled all their previous output with care and precision, but also because welcoming someone else into their very personal world comes with its risks.

However, they knew they had nothing to worry about when it came to George Perks. Rather than picking apart their foundations and rebuilding in a way that made sense to him, he offered ways to elevate them. The same could be said for Jason Perry, producer and vocalist of the legendary A, who the band co-wrote with for a selection of tracks. Assisting them in ensuring they weren’t standing in their own way, the pair were more understanding and empathetic than the quintet could have ever hoped for.

“There’s always an apprehension that it won’t go as we thought it would,” Nick explains. “We were so hesitant to let anybody else into the band because it has been our baby for so long. We think people won’t get it the same way we do, but both GP and Jason absolutely got it the way we hoped.”

“It was a case of elevating what was already there,” Callum quips. “Giving us permission to do what we have always wanted to do and trust that it works.”

Though these collaborations signalled a new way of doing things, there was still space for familiarity. That came in the form of Joe Matthews, or Trumpet Joe, as he is affectionately known who plays, erm, trumpet on the record. From going to school with Nick and Iain to playing classical music alongside Callum and being on every Bears in Trees release to date, he is like the band’s unofficial fifth member. Considering that the album speaks of hometown comforts and the friends who help make us who we are, having Trumpet Joe in the ranks once more served as a means of keeping things grounded as well.

“It wouldn’t be a Bears in Trees album without Trumpet Joe,” George laughs. “We are trying to expand on what we have done previously, and that comes with bringing in people like GP and Jason. But you can’t just do that on its own. You still need to have that groundwork in place. You still need to sit in that room together, struggling to write songs, with Trumpet Joe. That’s how we have always done it.”


‘How To Build An Ocean: Instructions’ is a record that thematically sits in a curious spot in the lives of Bears in Trees. A lot was flying through their minds, especially for Nick and Iain, who take care of the lyrical output, as they attempted to figure out what it was they wanted to represent.

Stepping out into the world as full-blown real-life adults, but with the events of their formative years still fresh in their memories and actions, it’s a position that so many of us find ourselves in asking questions about what the fuck we are even supposed to be doing. What is the purpose of all of this? Are we on the right track, or are we going backwards? Are we who we want to be? Who are we beyond Bears in Trees, and what would we be like if all of this ended tomorrow? Though the most crucial question always ended up being, does any of that really matter?

In stripping away the nonsense, the band were able to focus on the things that make life what it is. Burning on one end of the candle, you have the sound of birdsong as the dark transforms into dawn, the feeling of dancing like nobody is watching and the joy that comes with doing things you had only ever dreamt of with your best friends. Burning on the other is the anxiety of having enough money to pay for your funeral, running out of charge on your phone when you don’t know which bus route you need to get home, and being too proud to text back someone that you really know you should. The ebb and flow of life, all existing in perfect harmony and helping you realise that every up and down makes you who you are.

“I was trying to work out what I wanted this album to be before I had even written anything down,” Iain laughs. “It was only when we relaxed into it and took off the pressure that we as four people making music were able to express this true human experience.”

“It was nice to remind ourselves of what matters,” George adds. “I don’t think that writing about something massive happening is representative of life in general. Change and growth don’t happen in a huge eureka moment. They happen over time through tiny little mundane things that take place for months and months.”

This focus on the day-to-day also stems back to that communal feeling the band has developed alongside its fans. Though speaking about personal incidents, there is a universal aura to the sentiments from these tracks: Defining yourself within your own limits, finding peace in just being, and realising not every moment has to be The Moment. Within this, Bears in Trees know that they become one with their audience; the gap between the stage and the crowd is less of a barrier and more of a bridge.

“So much of the retrospection of our songs comes from our fans and how they have interpreted them,” Nick smiles. “As much as I can mean one specific thing, once a song is out and it becomes a public body of work, it comes from them instead of us. The reasons they want to tattoo it on their body or make art based around it. I’m happy I can put a song out so people can find meaning. I’m even happier that one line can mean ten different things to so many people.”


‘How To Build An Ocean: Instructions’ comes from one of a handful of pieces of literature which have inspired its philosophical and sociological themes. That is ‘Flights’ by Olga Tokarczuk, which Nick had read and loved, a series of fictionalised vignettes written about people the author sat and watched make their way through airports. This idea that a series of little things can come together to represent something bigger bleeds into the fact the record is made up of the same little things. It’s a case of each one of them being as intrinsic to your being as the last.

“When I first heard it as a title, I didn’t know what the book was about,” Iain explains. “All I heard was, ‘How To Build An Ocean: Instructions’ and with this project being about trying to construct an identity, a sense of self that is complex and multi-facetted and both chaotically grand and also mundane and simple, it was perfect. You are an ocean, and you are building yourself, and I love that. Then, when I heard the actual story, it fitted even more perfectly.”

The same sort of connections can be found within the artwork, too. Created by passionate map enthusiast Mike Hall, it is a traditional portrait of Croydon with little parts of Bears in Trees plastered all over it. As much a collection of landmarks as it is a love letter to the place where they come from, it’s a perfect way to tie together and hammer home the sentiment that everything you are is everything to you.

“Croydon is returning to home,” Iain continues. “It’s returning to your history, your entire growth as a human being. It is exemplified in somewhere that is just a place but becomes much more than just a place. It is all the memories, all the trauma, and all the joy instilled into one space.”


Though this album is helping Bears in Trees to take the next step up the ladder towards superstardom, starting with a huge UK and European tour, the real reward from this process is the mindset it has allowed them to develop. More than anything, it has cemented the fact that all they need to make Bears in Trees, whatever they want it to be, is each other. As long they have that, be that storming the stage at Alexandra Palace or having a coffee on Park Lane, nobody can tell them what they can and can’t be.

“Believing in the four people right here will be so important as we look forward,” Iain concludes. “We have had so much happen in trying to get this album created. Ultimately, this band is us four, and nothing else matters as long as we are together.”

“We know, and we want what is best for Bears in Trees more than anyone else will ever know,” George adds, with the rest of the band nodding in total agreement.

“And we will always find a way simply because we love doing this.”

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