Grizzly Bear | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Grizzly Bear

New Artists for 2006

Jan 01, 2006 Grizzly Bear Photography by Crackerfarm Bookmark and Share

Marked by long-stretching vocal harmonies and monk-like chanting, the music of Grizzly Bear is gentle and pastoral, employing a minimal environment of drums and the occasional banjo, augmented by subtle elements of electronica. What began as a home project for founder Edward Droste in his Brooklyn apartment, has since become a full-fledged band that tours the world. Grizzly Bear released their debut, Horn of Plenty in 2004, and a year later re-released it with an additional disc of remixes by Tim Sweeny of DFA, Castanets, Soft Pink Truth, Ariel Pink, The Double, Efterklang, Hisham Bharrocha, Simon Bookish, Solex, and more. The band is currently at work on their second album, which is due out later in 2006 and sure to advance their career to the next level. We caught up with Edward Droste to discuss—among other things—the band’s quiet success, naming your band after an animal, and Medieval Doo Wop.

Under the Radar: How did the band form?

Edward Droste: The band really had a gradual growth starting out as just me tinkering around my apartment making songs. After about a year, I met Chris Bear and he and I started working together which led to the record deal on Kanine, and also forced us to put together a live show, thus bringing along Chris Taylor and Daniel Rossen. Now we have essentially reinterpreted all the songs for a live show and are writing most everything together for the new album.

UTR: What is the origin of the band name?

Edward: Ex-boyfriend.

UTR: How would you describe the sound of your band to someone who’s never heard the band before?

Edward: Well, there is Horn of Plenty and then there is us as a band and the new album, which is really our current and likely consistent sound. Horn of Plenty I’d describe as intimate, hushed and elusive. It’s not a very immediate album and in many cases has taken almost a year to fully grow on people, but at least it seems to have made a bit more of a lasting impression than just being exciting to someone for a month or two. As for the new stuff, it’s fuller, more complex, and harmony-driven, considering we all sing. Some friends have recently described some of the new songs as Medieval Doo Wop meets ‘50s choral Beach Boys, if that makes any sense. It’s always hard to describe one’s music.

UTR: It seems like the band’s sound has evolved a great deal since you started this by yourself. Do you see what you’re doing now as what you envisioned, or are you completely surprised by what the band has turned into?

Edward: I’m actually pretty surprised, but also really happy. Firstly I never imagined for Horn of Plenty to actually go anywhere, not that it’s a massive success but to me it is considering it was really only meant for myself sort of as a cathartic release after a break-up. The new songs and direction the band took is something I could have never come up with on my own. My bandmates challenge my songwriting and vice versa, so pretty much through and through I’d say I’m just more excited and confident with the new material. Daniel is an incredible songwriter and working with him has been nothing short of amazing.

UTR: The band has been covered in all the major music magazines thus far. What’s been your overall reaction to what’s been written about you?

Edward: Well I’m really happy with it all! I never could have imaged to be reviewed in Rolling Stone and Spin, and to have really any attention at all. I had always feared people would just say, “Ugh, another lo fi record,” but luckily we got pretty much entirely positive press, except for the Yale Herald—damn you Yale Herald!—ha ha. I only hope it continues with the new music. That said, considering all the press, it’s relatively hard to find our CD and I don’t think many people at all have heard of us. We are still a very, very, very small band.

UTR: Short of calling it a mission statement, what is the general idea behind Grizzly Bear? What are you hoping people get out of your music?

Edward: It’s hard to just sum up your music and say, “X is what I want it to mean for people” or “Y is the idea.” I would much rather have a unique meaning for each listener, rather than it be too obvious. That said, I hope mostly people enjoy it and it makes a lasting impression. Pretty much what most artists are looking for I guess. Maybe someone will make sweet love to it. That’s always nice—ha ha.

UTR: Your music does invoke a lot of imagery. What do you think about when you play your music?

Edward: I think I can answer this much better by explaining what I think about when I write it, because when I play it, I’m usually in the mode of performance and it’s sort of like a performing zone I get into. However, if the setting and venue is unique and the crowd really wonderful I am learning to really lose myself in it, but I’m still new at performing, so I’m figuring out what it means to me.

As for when I write it, I most always think about moments from my past. For me the music represents a lot of nostalgia, but not always happy memories, mixed of course with contemporary emotions.

UTR: Where would you realistically like your band to be in one-year?

Edward: A year ago I would have never guessed we’d get to tour parts of Europe, and we did a wonderful Scandinavian tour. I guess I’d like to be able to see more parts of the world, maybe in a year, Australia? That would be fun.

UTR: Which band’s career path do you most admire and would you most like to model?

Edward: That’s a great question. I love where the Magnetic Fields are—a solid, large following, playing great theaters and cool spaces. Bands like them and Wilco are something I aspire to—big, but had a gradual growth. I don’t think we’ll ever be a big buzz band that explodes like Interpol or Bloc Party, not that I’d be upset with that, but I’m not sure it would make sense with our music. I don’t think we’ll ever be really all that “immediate” to listeners. But you never know!

UTR: What are you doing to differentiate yourselves from all the other new bands out there?

Edward: Well first I named the band after an animal because nobody does that. Ha, funnily I didn’t even know who Animal Collective or Wolf Eyes were when I first came up with the name. Such is life I guess. We don’t do much, just hope people see or hear a difference. I don’t think it’s really all that flattering or interesting to try and advertise yourself as “different” because usually I see it as forced and a bit fake, like, “Look how kooky I am, I dress like a gnome and sing like a cat,” etc etc., if that makes any sense. In many ways I think we do just sort of disappear amidst all the hype and bands and when people take the time to give us a chance, our differences emerge.

UTR: If you had to choose, would you rather have wealth and fame, or the respect of your peers?

Edward: Hm, I don’t see anything wrong with bands like Coldplay or big pop acts who blow up and everyone says their music is shit. I really think if millions of people worldwide are buying your music, you must be doing something right. I think everyone enjoys respect, however it’s not something I need in order to survive, so I guess wealth would be a bit more fun, wouldn’t it?

UTR: What’s the one thing you won’t do to help further the success of the band?

Edward: Stab someone in the back. I don’t see anything wrong with bands using mainstream avenues to promote themselves or just in general, self-promoting. It’s really hard to be successful in music and hats off to whoever finds success—but I don’t want to make it because I had to shit on friends or peers. That’s the worst.


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Mean Fiddler
June 6th 2012

Great interview.  We can’t wait to hear the rest of the album!