Hungry like a Bear

It began in a crowded closet on the fifth floor of Hardwick Hall. In addition to housing a college student’s garments, the cramped wardrobe contained walls padded with comforters, wires, a flashlight, a microphone, and

It began in a crowded closet on the fifth floor of Hardwick Hall.

In addition to housing a college student’s garments, the cramped wardrobe contained walls padded with comforters, wires, a flashlight, a microphone, and film and media arts majors Bill Benz, Mike Giambra and Joe Stakun.

Packed in that tiny, pitch-black space, the then freshmen members of Explosive Bear said they never dreamed they would be semifinalists in mtvU’s “Best Music on Campus” contest one year later.

A friend, engineering technology major Danny Pennebacker, lent them his equipment, his producing skills and his roommate’s closet in exchange for a nominal fee -Quaker Oats Chewy granola bars.

The deal was simple; keep him stocked with his favorite snack and he’d help the band record their second album “Huggable Dudes.”

And so it was that sophomores Benz, Giambra and Stakun found themselves taking turns crammed in the dark closet while a microphone pumped their message out to the world:

“Hey there, we’re Explosive Bear / If you heard us before, it’s cool we just don’t care / None of our songs stick to their themes / We think of stupid rhymes, don’t care what it means.”

Synthpop hip-hop party rap – that is how the boys of Explosive Bear describe their unique electronic sound. It is the brainchild of MIDI sequencing, Acid Pro software and comedic lyrics that take you on a nostalgic trip down memory lane – early ’90s style.

And it’s taking the campus by storm.

The band members met as freshmen, living on separate floors at Hardwick Hall, but often frequenting the same Open Mic Nights.

Benz and Giambra met Stakun one night at the Owl Cove when he was performing a karaoke version of Aha’s “Take On Me.”

“I thought, ‘This is the least cool kid on Earth,'” Benz said.

That clinched it. A few weeks later, the three formed a band.

Singing about everything from video games to Vikings, Explosive Bear has already gained a taste of national fame. The band was chosen as one of 50 quarterfinalists in mtvU’s “Best Music on Campus”contest. The finalists are posted on with music, bios and photos.

Students across the country were able to vote for their favorites through April 2 to narrow it down to 25 bands. Explosive Bear did not make it into the top 25.

After a series of semifinals, the bands will be narrowed down to the top five college acts.

Fans and mtvU’s panel of judges, including New Found Glory’s Jordan Pundik, The Early November’s Ace Enders and Hello Goodbye’s Jesse Kurvink, will decide who wins. The winner receives a record deal with Drive-Thru Records and an opportunity to film a video.

“I’m very glad Explosive Bear entered because you can see its clever lyrics,” mtvU General Manager Stephen Friedman said. “It’s smart. They have fun with their music, and they’ve definitely got a shot.”

Since its first release of solely electronic music in 2004, Explosive Bear expanded its sound to include the crazy childhood references, silly rhymes and fun expressions for which they’re now known.

Riddled with memories the 20-something set can easily relate to, the band’s lyrical subjects include sprinklings of pop culture like Teddy Ruxpin, Oregon Trail and Steve Urkel.

“They bring back all the fun times that you had as a kid,” sophomore film and media arts major Ryan Sun said.

In fact, remembering the silly expression of being a kid is in many ways what Explosive Bear is all about.

The band has been known to wear mustard beards for photo shoots, don chicken suits in concert and chuck candy at the audience. It is all part of an attempt to make an original, unforgettable experience for their fans.

“With every show we try to incorporate something new or do something new so it’s exciting for us,” Giambra said. “We always try to have new costumes and make it fun for our fans.”

And the fans certainly seem to appreciate the effort. Loyal listeners have formed a “Bear Brigade” to patrol campus and recruit new voters for Explosive Bear.

Audience members have also been known to make shirts, bake the band cakes and dress up in cow suits.

“Our fans are just as weird as we are,” Benz said.

Although Explosive Bear didn’t win the contest, the band members say they are still looking forward to other goals.

Said Stakun: “Our mission is to make it to the red carpet and take over the airwaves with happiness, candy, rainbows, skeletons, bats -everything that’s cool.”

Kate Bolesta can be reached at

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