Photo by Conor Gray
It’s a cool Sunday afternoon in the Strip District. I’m lost, of course, trying to find my way in Pittsburgh’s alleyways. Four Chord Music Festival is roaring at Club Xtaza. The festival is a day long and has featured Yellowcard, Anti-Flag, The Wonder Years, and this year’s powerhouses: State Champs and The Starting Line.
After I find the venue, I watch a few sets and take in my surroundings. Xtaza is dark with few streams of light from the stage, but alive with people and music. Fans mix amongst the crowd, waiting for each set to start. Soon after, I find my way outside and meet Collin Hanes, 22, Ryan Culligan, 22, and Doug Cousins, 23, of Bearings. We walk and talk about traveler’s insurance and freak appendicitis accidents, finally reaching our destination of 21st Street Coffee and Tea a few minutes later.
Cousins, Hanes, and Culligan are three-fifths of Bearings. Tyler Nickel and Connor Kington were taking a much-needed nap, considering the five guys traveled from a show in New Jersey the night before and arrived a few hours before set time.
The five met at Algonquin College in Ottawa, Canada in 2014. All realized that they wanted to be in a band, and a pop-punk band at that. Eventually, they made Culligan’s house the birthplace of Bearings. “We started practicing and running through songs. It kicked off right from there,” he said.
Cousins, Hanes, and Culligan grew up on a diverse array of music and all came to playing their respective instruments at different times in their lives. “I personally started playing bass when I was 10 years old.” Hanes said, “ I liked a lot of punk music and stuff like that, and like a little more gritty stuff. Then I kind of got into the pop-punk stuff later.”
“I started playing the guitar when I was 9 years old. I bought a Sum 41 record. That was my first album. Then I got into blink-182 right after that. Once I found them, my whole world changed. Tom Delonge ruined my life.” Culligan laughed.
Cousins learned at an early age that he liked music,“When I was 5 or 6, I liked playing on the piano for fun- not like I knew how. When I turned 13, I got my first guitar. Adam’s song was the first song I learned. Which I guess, in some weird way, is why a lot of our music is a little bit more serious.”
Bearings recently released their latest EP, “Nothing Here is Permanent.” It is comprised of five songs about loss and the sadness that comes with it. While they may be sad, you can still dance to them at the bar. “The entire EP kind of revolves around the same concept of death and loss and the experience people go through when you experience loss,” Cousins said. “ It [Nothing here is Permanent] is something I like to remind myself of when we’re on the road touring and doing what we want to do. It’s cool. We get this one life and we get to do something we love almost every single day.”
Culligan agreed, “I also believe that a lot of the lyrics have to do with death, but a lot of them have to do with ‘Don’t take your time for granted and enjoy it’. It’s the more positive side. The back and forth, two sides of it. We always try to show how bad it can be in the lyrics, but put a positive spin on it- to make you feel more comfortable with it.”
When asked about how long “Nothing Here is Permanent” took to record, Hanes let out a laugh. “We’ve had North Hansen recorded for over a year. Then we recorded another song, Spent.” Then, the rest of the songs soon came after. In November, came Makeshift and Petrichor. Finally, Letters Home, the third song on the EP, was recorded in April. “We would only go for like four or five days each time. We would record two songs at a time. Then, it was like we were sitting on the EP for a long time. We shopped it at Pure Noise [Records]. They really liked it and they picked us up. It was a really long process to put it out, but I’m really happy with it.” Hanes said.
Culligan’s favorite from the EP is North Hansen “because of the meaning behind it, and it was the first song we wrote for the EP. We really felt like we grew while writing it. But I also really love Petrichor just because of how fun it is to play live.”
Hanes laughed, “You gotta pick a favorite, man!”
“I’m saying North Hansen, but I’m giving Petrichor some love because I think it is a catchy one and it also has a lot of meaning to it. I love playing it every night.”
Cousins said that his favorite always changes, but he loves North Hansen the most. “On this tour, though, I’ve been enjoying playing Makeshift. It bops.”
Hanes said that his changes every night, “Petrichor is my favorite, 100 percent. I never felt this way before, but Letters Home is one of my favorites now. It’s really fun to play. It’s not my favorite on the EP, but it’s my favorite to play.” Hanes said.
This year’s pop-punk bands are emotional. Their albums are full of ballads and the performers aren’t afraid to share their true feelings.
“I think it’s that exact thing that makes the genre so important and so cool. Nothing is off the table when you’re writing. People aren’t really going to criticize you for it. People are usually looking to connect to something. I think when you write a song that makes people feel something, you’ve kind of done your job.” Cousins said. “I’ve had people message me on facebook and say how much a song means to them and talk to me about what they’re going through- I think as a dude, you can put up that wall and say that you don’t have feelings, but I think everyone wants to connect and wants to feel something.”
Culligan agreed, “Everyone deep down wants to show those feelings. When you hear a song that hits you emotionally, that you connect to, it feels like you have an outlet to let it out, especially if you don’t want to talk about something. You can let it out through that song or those lyrics.”
Even with so much support from their fans, it is hard for male lyricists to write songs about what they’re truly feeling. There is still a lot of toxicity in today’s society towards the vulnerability men feel. Cousins says that it is hard, but it gets easier when he actually performs his songs live. “Once it’s recorded and all put down, it feels good to go out there and play it live. It’s good, it matters, and it’s meaningful.”
In the future, Bearings wants to tour and write music as much as possible “Europe would be insane and to do a tour over there would be incredible. Working with influential people we’ve looked up to would be really cool, too.” Culligan said. They also have always wanted to do Warped Tour. “It’s a childhood dream.”
“We want to live on the road for most of 2018. We want to keep on playing shows and keep on killing it.” Hanes added.
Follow Bearings on Social Media:
Ryan Culligan: @RyanCulligan
Connor Kington: @ConnorKington
Collin Hanes: @HanesCollin
Tyler Nickel: @Tsnitch