Which Bear blends diverse instruments, crafts exotic ‘gypsy jazz’ flavor
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Which Bear, a baroque folk band comprised of eight Whitman students, burst onto the local music scene on Friday, Feb. 3 with a buzzed-about Coffeehouse show in the Reid basement.
The band, previously known as The Futures Traders, formed late last year and is led by junior Bo Sagal and senior Mark Glasionov, who both write the music and arrange the cover songs they play. Between the two of them, they sing vocals and play mandolin, guitar, harmonica and spoons. The rest of the group is similarly multi-talented: its seven other musicians play instruments ranging from flute and clarinet to tabla, guitar, accordion, melodica, fiddle, bass, Stylophone and the cajon, a wooden percussion instrument.
Several of the group’s members: seniors Billy Harbour and Ruben Raychaudhuri, along with Sagal: originally formed campus band Science and Progress. Last semester the group added senior Aurora Bowers, junior Brandon Hopper, junior Robby Seager and first-year Jessica Shatkin to its ranks. Like many musical groups, Which Bear came together organically.
“It just kind of arose from just jamming all the time,” said Shatkin.
Due to its varied instrumentation and many influences, the group’s music falls under a mix of several genres. Its members described their sound as “ghost pirate,” with elements of Irish folk and classical Baroque music, including “Bachian chord progressions,” according to Sagal. The group also plays covers of jazz standards, adding to its musical diversity.
“I’d say our instrumentation hints at gypsy music, no matter what we’re playing,” said Bowers. “It sounds like gypsy jazz.”
After their Coffeehouse debut, the band plans to record an album. Additionally, they would eventually like to move on to playing at other establishments and gatherings in Walla Walla.
“I really want to play Laht Neppur,” said Sagal, referring to the Irish alehouse and winery in town.
As a group, Which Bear has a good camaraderie, trading jokes and wisecracks in between practice sessions. During our interview, the band discussed the motivation for changing their name to Which Bear, a moniker that arose from the poster design for their Coffeehouse show, which featured a bear wearing a witch’s hat.
“We make a lot of funny jokes in between working hard,” said Bowers.
For more information on the band and their future projects, check out the band’s Facebook page.