Grizzly Bear

Jul 01, 2006 Summer 2006 - The Dears
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“You haven’t made it until you’re in the Winchester Daily Gazette,” says Ed Droste. The 27-year-old singer/guitarist and founding member of Brooklyn-based Grizzly Bear is explaining what fame is, according to his parents. Despite the band having been written about in some of the world’s biggest music publications, which have taken notice of Grizzly Bear’s experimental and elegiac folk, Droste’s mother and father are holding judgment until their son is featured in the local New Hampshire paper. It would be quite a personal achievement for Droste, whose band is set to release Yellow House, its second LP, and first as a full band.

Droste began Grizzly Bear in his Greenpoint apartment in 2002 as a one-man band of sorts, mixing acoustic guitar with field tapes, drum machines, and vocals recorded on a small handheld device, yielding curious and slow-moving ambient musical landscapes. But never did he intend to become an acclaimed recording artist in the process. The early demos that lead to  2004’s debut Horn of Plenty were seen primarily as “a cathartic release for shit that I was dealing with at the time,” says the singer. “It was like writing in your diary.”

Drummer and vocalist Christopher Bear—whose last name, by the way, did not serve as the inspiration for Grizzly Bear’s moniker, that distinction goes to Droste’s ex-boyfriend—is the only current member to have appeared with Droste on the debut, having co-written one song and handled some of the production, as well as “some drums, and some vocals here and there,” according to Droste. Singer and guitarist Daniel Rossen and Bear’s friend Christopher Taylor, a bass, woodwind, and electronics specialist, were added for the live show, and it was out of reinterpreting songs from Horn of Plenty for a live setting that the band began to take shape.

The resulting growth and maturity leading up to the recording of Yellow House is apparent in the album’s riveting opener “Easier.” Whereas Horn of Plenty was somewhat gentle, even pastoral, the new album is a vibrant, immediate work, buoyed by the presence of its four songwriters. Taylor, according to Droste, “recorded and basically produced” the whole thing. “I think a lot of the new songs on the album are really hooky,” says Droste. “Like the last song on the album, ‘Colorado’—the vocal thing at the end—we call it the Lauryn Hill track, because it totally sounds like I’m getting all R&B and stuff,” he laughs. “People probably wouldn’t interpret that.”

Then again, they might. People have found a number of ways to interpret Grizzly Bear’s music. “Everyone manages to classify it somehow. We’ve gotten the stamp of a million different things,” says Droste, who is apprehensive to embrace the folk tag that always finds its way into the different descriptions. “When I think of folk, I think of random Scottish sheep-shearing songs. I think of a totally different hardcore folk.” Droste also admits to taking pleasure in hearing the different readings offered by people of his songs. “On the first album there’s a song called ‘La Duchess Anne.’ And some interviewer was like, ‘So is Anne like an ex-girlfriend of yours?’ and I’m like, ‘Actually, it’s the name of a bed and breakfast that me and my ex-boyfriend stayed in,’ but whatever. It’s pretty funny.”

Recorded in his childhood home, hence the title, Yellow House served as a farewell of sorts to the place where Droste grew up the son of a music teacher and a school principal—it was recently put on the market. Having been part of a musical family—his aunt is a cellist, and his grandfather served as a music professor at Harvard for nearly forty years—it’s somewhat curious that Droste didn’t take to recording music sooner. Following high school, Droste traveled abroad through parts of Europe and Africa, doing community service, before trying out a small liberal arts college in western Massachusetts. When that proved too stifling, he moved to New York “on a whim,” he says, and worked for a documentary film company, where he first learned about Pro Tools, “which is sort of how I began to tinker [with] recording my own stuff for the first album.” After getting into NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study to pursue creative writing and literature—and ultimately a career in journalism—the inspiration to begin writing songs “just sort of appeared,” he says.

For now, Droste will forgo the life of a writer for the sake of Grizzly Bear, but fortunately for him, his work with the band suggests a number of outlets beyond the usual recording and touring. “I’d love to do a soundtrack, or have a song on a soundtrack,” he admits, adding, “There are a lot of video directors I’d love to work with. I’d love to work with Chris Cunningham, or someone like that, but they’re so expensive—you have to be Björk, or something.” And by “something,” Droste no doubt means someone featured in the Winchester Daily Gazette.



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