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For those who don’t hail from the Tri-State area, it’s a little-known fact that New Brunswick, New Jersey is not only home to Rutgers University, but a fair amount of burgeoning musicians. Known as an underground mecca for musicians to band together, play basement shows and sometimes even make it big, New Brunswick has bred bands like Thursday, Screaming Females, the Gaslight Anthem and the Bouncing Souls.
It’s no wonder that Long Beard’s Leslie Bear found inspiration there. For Bear, New Brunswick is the place that helped her craft her debut album Sleepwalker. Residing in what is formally known as the “arts” dorm (and informally known as the “hippie” dorm) during part of her time in school, the 25-year-old found inspiration in the old hallways and constant activity that was happening in Demarest Hall. “They were really echoey and sometimes I’d play acoustic guitar there,” says Bear. “Then it’d be awkward because people would be walking by trying to do laundry or something.”
For those familiar with Junot Diaz’s The Brief And Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Demarest Hall is the same dorm that Diaz’s characters Oscar and Yunior reside in during their studies at Rutgers. In reality and fiction, the dorm exists as somewhat of a sanctuary for creativity. “At Demarest, there was always something going on really late,” says Bear of the dorm. “It was nice to feel like I wasn’t the only one awake at that time.”
Music wasn’t necessarily something Bear set out to do full-time, but she did go to Rutgers with the hope of figuring out how to pursue it. She spent four years writing and re-writing songs and trying to figure out what to do with them. During nights spent awake roaming the College Avenue campus at Rutgers, Bear would come up with inspiration for her lush melodies and post-rock lullabies. “I remember my friends and I would go up to this roof of the Graduate Admissions office a lot,” recalls Bear. “It was really peaceful and helped me get my ideas together. I feel like a lot of songs musically stemmed from the feeling from being up there.”
Ambient music really played a personal role for Bear, who struggles with falling asleep. Bear’s relationship with the idea of sleep and ambience shines through glimmering, lo-fi tracks like “Turkeys,” “Dream” and “Porch.” While one song can’t represent her nights spent awake writing music, there is one in particular that she connects with more than others because it’s so different than the other tracks. Bear is most bonded to “Summer Fall” because it tells the story she wanted to tell.
In dealing with her sleeping problems, Bear just grew a stronger appreciation for tranquil sounds. “I had that in mind to make nighttime music — at least have the latter half of the record to help with sleep in a way,” she says of Sleepwalker. And in a way, it’s like Bear combatted her insomnia by writing her music late at night — it’s when her creativity truly blossomed and emotions became sounds.
While music been a passion and a path she’s pursued, Bear majored in computer science and intends to follow that career path as well. We’ll have to wait and see if there’s more music in the works from Long Beard. It’s fair to say that her future is definitely up in the air in the best way possible.
“Now that I have a record out, I’m definitely playing more shows, and I’m happy to be more of a musician than I was, but I still wouldn’t say I’m a full-time musician,” she admits. It’s a good thing a part-time schedule doesn’t result in part-time dreaminess when she hits the stage.
Long Beard will play Baby’s All Right December 29. For ticket information, click here.