The two years of pandemic lockdowns were as much a time of limbo as it was of change and arguably no art better reflected that than the albums released during 2020 and 2021.

Charli XCX’s ‘how i’m feeling now’, Fiona Apple’s ‘Fetch the Bolt Cutters’, Taylor Swift’s ‘folklore’ and Mogwai’s ‘As The Love Continues’ are just some of the staple ‘lockdown records’ released across the two years which explored the confinement, loneliness, frustration, and introspectiveness we all felt during that time.

Three years on from the onset of the pandemic, and with most people having returned to and settled into a somewhat normal life outside of social restrictions, it would be presumptuous to say that the era of the ‘lockdown album’ is over. But despite being released just last week (March 17), Ayrshire band brownbear’s latest album ‘Demons’ could be considered just as important a reflection on the political and social landscape fuelled by the pandemic as the albums mentioned above.

Written by frontman Matt Hickman across the last five years, the album serves as the band’s sophomore effort following their debut album ‘What is Home?’ which was released in 2018.

“For the first time in a lot of years I had been home for a consistent period of time, and I was just coming to terms with the last few years of my life and the things I’d been through,” says Matt.

“I suppose it’s quite an honest reflection of the traumas and things I’ve went through in my life and also the relationships I’ve had.”

The reflective nature of the album shines through for listeners as songs like ‘Let Your Guard Down’, ‘Telling Stories’, and the titular ‘Demons’ highlight Matt’s personal experiences over the past few years through vulnerable and candid lyrics which fuse with light and bright instrumentals.

“For the first time I was being really honest about where I was at as a person,” Matt admits.

But for Matt and many others, the political importance of 2020 – especially for the Black Lives Matter Movement - in particular was unavoidable and something he wanted to convey through the album.

“It’s funny for me coming from a mixed background and coming from black culture, Black Lives Matter wasn’t something I found out about in 2020 – I’d known about it for years and years and years. For me it was a lot about what does that mean for all of us who’ve been trying to have that voice heard for all those years and also our own stories and our own joy as well.”

No song better reflects this than the album’s powerful closer ‘Unity’ which incorporates gospel music influences into its swelling and grand instrumental.

“Black history and African history aren’t just defined by racism and slavery it’s a celebration of culture and kings and queens and the future.”

However, the song encompasses more than just the Black Lives Matter movement’s importance and prominence in 2020, but also the discussions around class that were sparked.

Matt says “When you get to the chorus it’s universal: that’s not just about black Scots and black people.

“I grew up in Ayrshire and I’m so proud of being from Ayrshire and of being Scottish and like a lot of people in Ayrshire I’m from a really proud working-class background.”

Making music to the working-class rural communities is also of great importance to Matt as he’s aware that promoters often ignore more remote areas meaning music fans often have to shell out to visit the city to see gigs.

He said: “The album has an ethos of bringing music back to the community.”

This is why he’s chosen to go on an acoustic solo tour of small towns in Scotland as he believes “music’s for everyone and it shouldn’t just have to be something we travel to the city to see.”

It was the pandemic that also inspired Matt to do the intimate tour – which is stopping in Irvine on May 6 – as his lockdown live streams which were made possible via the Harbour Arts Centre [HAC] sparked a match that he had been holding for some time.

He continued: “I thought I could sit and say that Ayrshire should have more music, or I could do these tours.

“Music should be accessible for everyone and that’s why I thought ‘let’s take it to as many places as we can and meet people and just talk about songs’ and it’s really lovely – they’re my favourite shows.”

While all gigs on the tour will be a special experience and will allow Matt to bring music to places often neglected by big promoters, the Irvine stop will be even more meaningful.

This isn’t just because of Matt’s ties to the HAC – the venue he’s playing at – but because of how special he feels it is to play for a home crowd.

He said: “I’m so glad we got a show in Irvine to happen in the HAC because it’s home for me.”

While ‘Demons’ explores Matt’s challenging experiences over the last few years, in the same vein home and comfort are at the heart of the record. As an album born from both the comfort and discomfort of one’s home it had to be.

Through its reflective subject matters and writing process, the album offers a unique capsule of both lockdown and the post pandemic world we live in and still feel the effects of.

What’s more, is it might be one of the last ‘lockdown albums’ to be released, and because of that, it’s an album like no other.

Stream brownbear’s ‘Demons’ on Spotify here:

Find out more about brownbear and book tickets for the tour here: