- Mon, 2012-09-17 17:25
Brooklyn's Grizzly Bear have made a slow and steady rise to the top ranks of inspired indie rock since solidifying themselves as a quartet for the 2006 release of Yellow House. Driving eloquent, folk inspired acoustics through a web of electronic distortion and experimentation, rich vocal harmonies sweep across their compositions, providing a melancholic, mournful and often wholly joyful listening experience.
Three years after the overwhelming success of Veckatimest, Grizzly Bear return with their fourth studio album Shields. We called up Daniel Rossen to talk about the release...
ILM: Hi Daniel. Thanks for taking the time to chat to us, how are you?
Daniel: Good, good. How are you?
ILM: Yeah, good thanks. The fourth Grizzly Bear album Shields is finished and on the way. How are you feeling about the record?
Daniel: Um. It was a really long process. I think we're all just proud that we got it done. It's been so long since we've been out on the road so it's exciting to be doing shows again and they feel like a new experience all over again, so right now it's going very good. I feel like we're a new band...
ILM: Around the release of your last album, Veckatimest, you spoke about how relationships within Grizzly Bear had grown closer, which led to more experimentation. I imagine that's been taken a step further for Shields?
Daniel: Yeah. Absolutely. As we get closer you can kind of let go of yourself a little more, you don't feel the need to always put your own ideas on eveyone else. The more we make music the more we listen to each other. As we've grown as musicians we have a sense of what we can do on our own but also, what we can do together. So for me, the music we make together now is far more interesting. We tried to make this record as collaborative as possible.
Written for himself with no real future plans, Edward Droste recorded Horn of Plenty as Grizzly Bear and released the album via Warp in 2004. 2006 marked the first Grizzly Bear release as a quartet, Yellow House, named after Ed's mother's house where a majority of the recording took place. Asking "Do we even know how to write and collaborate together?" the band approached their third album Veckatimest, released to high acclaim in 2009. 2012 now sees the release of Shields, summarising the release Daniel told us, "It feels really fresh and crazy and different."
ILM: What's your sense of what you can do on your own?
Daniel: Well, I released a solo EP a while back... Really, solo is just much more introspective... obviously! You have to have a greater sense of confidence, it has to mean something to you. It has to resonate with you. In a group a song becomes something beyond yourself, you watch it take shape as you reinterpret and bounce ideas back and fourth. It's a very different experience.
ILM: Can we expect more solo material from you?
Daniel: Probably. I really like working that way. It lets me do things I wouldn't be able to do in the band, and vice versa of course. It's a challenge though. I found making that EP interesting because I had to finish all the arrangements on my own. I had to play bass, drums and cello, really fill out the whole thing by myself which was quite tough. We'll see. Every record is it's own project, has it's own timeline.
Daniel's debut solo EP Silent Hour / Golden Mile was released by Warp Records on March 20th 2012. Home to groundbreaking electronic artists including Aphex Twin, Squarepusher and Hudson Mohawke, Grizzly Bear are one of few non-electronic artists signed to the famed independent British label.
ILM: Were there any areas of completely new territory for you on Shields? Anything you'd never tried or worked with before?
Daniel: There were bits on this record where someone in the band pretty much wrote the basic chordal idea and I ended up taking that over. I've never done that and as a band we've almost never done that before. That was an interesting experience. Normally I focus on melody rather than the general picture of the music. Ed and I also collaborated on a much more basic level. Just jamming in a room. I'd play chords and he'd just start singing over it. We'd then work on lyrics together.
ILM: Taking quite a liberal appraoch to the songs...
Daniel: Yes. It became about letting the songs be as open as possible and from the outset not needing them to be this great, meaningful thing. Letting them develop slowly and not worrying about what the song was going to be until it was nearly done. If anything, that was the biggest challenge for me. Some of the tracks we ended up finishing were just big, open questions for a long, long time. It was kind of exasperating. I didn't know what it was meant to be, it didn't have a centre. I spent a lot of the time just thinking, "How can this even be a song? What's the idea here?" We had to have that faith in ourselves. And patience. We weren't going to force any solution onto a song just so we could feel like it was done. We just had to let them happen very, very slowly.
ILM: Is there an example of a particular track that went through a number of different transitions? That took a long, long time to finish?
Daniel: Definitely! There's a number like that. Haha! Particularly though, the last track on the record. Sun In Your Eyes, this sprawling seven minute thing. There was a period in January when we wrote a lot of the record and I would ask Ed to just go sit at the piano and I would just record it, then pick out things that were interesting to me. One of those nights he sat down and played this sequence, I took it, expanded it and it turned into this seven minute piece that sat around for a really long time. It took a while to be convinced of it. I wasn't convinced for a long time. Chris Taylor kept working on it and really pushing me, "we have to finish this! It'll only get done if you and I work on this more and more because I don't think anyone else is going to try!" Finally, the last couple of days just before we went to mix the album, it came together. We figured out the melody and we made it compelling. Now it's one of the band's favourite songs on the whole record. Everybody feels really excited about it. It feels really fresh and crazy and different. Nobody expected to like it. Nobody expected that it would work then all of a sudden it did.
A glimpse into the Grizzly Bear rehearsal space. After opening for Radiohead in 2008, Radiohead guitarist Johnny Greenwood declared on stage that Grizzly Bear were his favourite band...
ILM: Fresh, crazy, different, compelling....is that the kind of music you want to make? Is that what keeps Grizzly Bear going?
Daniel: Yeah, yeah. And in a lot of ways it's become about surprising each other. We really thrive on bringing out qualities in each other that we didn't know we had. I think that's what's always so exciting. Sun In Your Eyes is a good example. I had no idea we would be able to make something like that. Certainly, I'd never have been able to think of anything like that on my own. I think everyone would say the same thing. Yeah, that kind of surprise is what really keeps us together, the novelty of those feelings are what really keeps us going.
ILM: Four records into your time with Grizzly Bear, how have your thoughts on music changed and developed?
Daniel: I definitely think more about musicans and their careers, which I never considered as a kid. You know, how do you keep on making music that you care about? How do you keep finding new experiences in sound and have a regular life alongside those? I don't judge people musically or creatively though. I'll always, always be happy to hear a new, great record.
ILM: What does the future for Grizzly Bear look like?
Daniel: I don't think we know. I don't know. We don't like rules. We don't ever put a set timeline on anything we do! We'll finish the tour and then decide. We might want to jump straight back into another record, we might want to take more time away. We tend to work very, very, verrry slowly. Haha! So....it could be a similar situation. The next album could be in 2015 or something like that! Haha. We'll see. I'm looking forward to finding out.