Former Sullen Bassist Roars as Black Bears Frontman

Photo provided by Adam Gillespie
Adam Gillespie -- who played bass with the hard rock group Sullen back in the early 2000s -- is the front man for the Black Bears. The group recently played Lemmons and the Way Out Club in January.
Adam Gillespie has come full circle.

Gillespie was only nineteen years old when he joined Sullen, a hard rock outfit that created a pulsating array of grunge and hard rock music throughout the early 2000s. After naming Sullen the Best Hard Rock Band of 2002, the RFT described the group as having "well-crafted, intelligent, catchy songs that rock balls-out."

The band, though, eventually disbanded. And Gillespie -- who says he left Sullen before the breakup -- traveled on a winding personal path. He earned a law degree, temporarily relocated to Jefferson City, dabbled in solo work and started a family. Now he's the front man for Black Bears, an indie rock group that's been playing at venues across St. Louis.

"It's gratifying in a completely different way just to have your own songs," Gillespie said in a telephone interview. "And you know it might not be the hedonistic joy that Sullen was, but just totally satisfying in a different way."

Black Bears formed after Gillespie he met up with lead guitarist and vocalist Robbie Caldwell in -- of all places -- the courtroom. The group's two attorneys -- Gillespie and Caldwell -- joined up with two doctors -- drummer Robbie Honey and bassist Ron Loch -- to round out the lineup.

"Out of sheer coincidence we're composed of two lawyers and two doctors," says Gillespie, who is the lead singer, guitarist and keyboardist for the band. "We don't necessarily conceal it, but we're not out there usually advertising either. Because we don't want to be a gimmicky thing."

Photo provided by Adam Gillespie
Black Bears

While Sullen was -- in Gillespie's words -- something of a Nirvana/Hole hybrid, Black Bears' songs travel in a more diverse direction. For instance, the crowd-pleasing "Blades of Grey" has a funky sensibility that Gillespie compared to the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

And "Bunny Rabbits" churns up an intoxicating drumbeat, a methodical bassline and unmistakable melody into a lively, finger-snapping package.

Being in a band again, Gillespie says, possesses a lot of commonalities from his time with Sullen. He still runs into some people that he encountered years ago.

"We have been playing together for about a year," Gillespie says. "It's kind of weird for me going to some of the same venues I used to play in with Sullen. And it's almost exactly a decade I was playing with them. I still see some of the faces, as far as people running the venues."

But while some of the same people are around to the see the band play, Gillespie adds there are some key differences this time around.

"In Sullen, it was very carefree," Gillespie says. "And I was a teenager. We were getting trashed before the shows and just having a blast. But it was amazing -- and I wouldn't change a thing about it. But now that I'm the chief songwriter and everything, there's a lot more responsibility."

"So I'm a lot more focused -- and I've got to find a babysitter for my kid when we have a show," he adds.

To learn more about Black Bears and to hear some of the group's music, click here to go to the band's Facebook page.

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