James Murphy, Ed Droste and Chris Bear (no further caption needed)
Chris Bear and some robots in Tokyo, Japan
Grizzly Bear on the cover of Blurt Magazine
“Knife (Girl Talk remix)” - Grizzly Bear
Pittsburgh mashup artist Girl Talk reworked “Knife” into a dance jam that would later see the live accompaniment of the band during Pitchfork Music Festival 2007. Excellent dancing ahead.
“Little Brother (Electric)” - Grizzly Bear
“Little Brother (Electric)” comes from the band’s Friend EP. Recorded in between Veckatimest and Yellow House the EP features reworked versions of previously released material and the band’s close friends reinterpreting material as well.
“Little Brother” first appeared on Yellow House with it’s quiet strings and lulled melodies that so aptly fit the cinematic landscape we previously discussed this week. But, for the Friend EP the track truly lives up to its electric namesake, sweeping listeners into an explosion of percussion and guitar, strengthen Rossen’s refrain of “my god that’s not the way.”
Though Friend was an EP release, there material provided here, whether in CSS’ electric reworking of “Knife” or Band of Horses’ take on “Plans”, even the most casual of fans will find something to enjoy. It was the release that preluded the band’s long hibernation in recording Veckatimest, giving fans one last taste of what was to come.
You can check out the full roster of “friends” and try to identify them below:
The Grizzly Essentials Mixtape (click through)
Grizzly Bear is one talented foursome, with side projects (Department of Eagles, CANT, Daniel Rossen), cookbooks and collaborations occupying their time when not together as a band. We initially thought about devoting our final day solely to these side projects, but decided against it. Maybe one day someone will want to talk about Daniel Rossen or Chris Taylor for a week. Instead, we’re shining just a small light on these side projects through an online mixtape we created of our favorite Grizzly tracks, including covers and the week’s picks from each album.
Our final posts of the week are coming later, but we wanted to kick off our last day with something fun. We’ve had such a great time sharing Grizzly Bear with you and want to thank everyone for reading and your positive comments. We also want to thank Hendrik for letting us take over for the week, especially since we are a duo. Don’t worry, we’ll keep the Grizzly Bear chatter and ridiculous blingees going over at Grizzly Bear Galore.
- Kerry & Lauren
It wouldn’t be a true Grizzly Bear Galore takeover without a blingee.
“Sun in Your Eyes” - Grizzly Bear
Veckatimest was the culmination of many years of hard work, endless days of touring and promotion that took Grizzly Bear’s success to new heights. But with such major success comes the questions, “Well, what happens now? How will they ever top Veckatimest?”
Many would be eager to jump right back into the songwriting process, but for Grizzly Bear long-awaited down time was definitely needed. Writing, recording, releasing, touring became a strange mantra for the band (If you’re looking for numbers, count ‘em: Yellow House in 2006, Friend EP in 2007, Veckatimest in 2009 and even Department of Eagles’ In Ear Park released in 2008) who hadn’t really taken stretch of time to themselves in roughly five years. Yet even in their downtime the guys stayed productive: Ed got married to his long-time partner Chad, globe-trotted and shared his travels on Instagram, Chris Taylor debuted and toured his solo record Dreams Come True under the moniker CANT and Daniel released his first solo EP, Silent Hour/Golden Mile.
After about a year and a half of rest and restoration, the band retreated down to Marfa, Texas where they wrote and recorded an abundance of material. However, they didn’t quite achieve the “this is it!” quality of a record because they weren’t fully reacquainted with one another just yet. So naturally a few months down the line they would end up back in the old house in Cape Cod where Yellow House was conceived. Taylor explained in an interview with FaceCulture his feelings that a recording process should be a “living thing, not a clinical thing”—which is why it makes sense that the pastoral environment of Cape Cod provides a sense of ease for the band; they are able to work at their leisure without the pressures of a confined studio space—a type of recording process that is translated sonically in their records.
Their debut Shields track, “Sleeping Ute” swept me off my feet with it’s large-and-in-charge nature. It was as if Grizzly Bear threw open the door, slammed the track down on the table and demanded that you throw away any preconceived notion of music you thought they made. Finally, this track, like much of Shields, conveyed the excited energy of their live performances into an a record. Despite my excitement for Shields, even I (the self proclaimed die-hard super fan) was left feeling a little troubled and insecure with the release of “Yet Again” a few months later. It was a different stroke from “Sleeping Ute” and something about it just didn’t sit right with me. After a considerable amount of time has passed since Shields release date, I ultimately realized that I wasn’t uncomfortable with “Yet Again” because it was a lackluster song or that it didn’t have the strength like “Sleeping Ute”, but rather my mind was adjusting slowly to the new methods Grizzly Bear took to create Shields. The songs are charged by tension: one moment I feel like I’ve been left on a limb but yet before realize I it, I’m being swept up again in it’s chaotic furies.
The “new” Grizzly Bear was initially challenging to me because it’s the combination of the “experience” quality received in Yellow Houseand the new, unfamiliar static charge of the Shields, blending seamlessly to become what I later realized was the record that embodies everything that has excited me about their music over the years. After doing some research, I discovered most of their material in the past was largely completed before it was brought to the shared table. This time around, the material way less fully formed which allowed them to work more collaboratively in creating something democratically. They were able to reinvent, push and transform their sound in that is obvious to the listener, but still leaving the unique Grizzly Bear trademarks. The best example is probably “Sun in Your Eyes”, which Rossen and Taylor both claim was the most challenging song they’ve ever recorded. Rossen said the song was initially very daunting and he “couldn’t fathom it coming off in a way that made sense”. But Taylor refused to let it go, “Every day I feel like we would hang out and I would bring it up at some point. I remember harping on that incessantly. I was just so excited to hear what would happen if the right idea fell into place and what it could become and, you know, it [later] became my favorite song on the record.”
It’s remarkable to see the growth of Grizzly Bear since Horn of Plenty’s debut in 2004. With their twenty-something year old days behind them, Grizzly Bear have made rightful transition into the matured sound I always hoped they would: achieving fluidity, finding new ways to challenge themselves and their listeners and still maintaining the qualities that I (and countless others) have and will continue to cherish throughout the years.
Lauren’s Favorite Track: “Speak in Rounds”
More details on how to attend/tickets using the link above!
In addition to much high praise that came with the release of Veckatimest, it would only makes sense that Jay-Z, Beyonce and Solange would saunter in unannounced to their Brooklyn Waterfront Show in August 2009. In a later interview with Fuse TV, Jay-Z gives major props to Grizzly Bear and explains why their music is changing the landscape.
Check out the Fuse clip (in addition to Beyonce and Solange jamming out at their show in Brooklyn) below:
(Photos courtesy of Amelia Bauer)
Here is a behind the scenes glimpse at the Veckatimest recording process at Allaire Studios in Upstate New York. Below is a brief video documentary about their final leg of recording in a church:
“Ready, Able” - Grizzly Bear
Veckatimest was a huge turning point for Grizzly Bear. Prior to the release of this Yellow House follow up, the band was chosen as stateside openers for Radiohead, declared Johnny Greenwood’s favorite band and took their yet unreleased material to national television. It was clear the band had amassed a larger audience since Yellow House and many were eager to hear what was ahead. When the reviews finally started coming in and the album peaked at number eight on the Billboard Top 200, it was obvious Grizzly Bear had broken out of the bedroom.
Instead of going with the massive “Two Weeks” (massive as in appeared-in-a-VW-Super-Bowl-ad massive), I chose one of my favorite singles, “Ready, Able”. Kerry and I started a tradition with this album where we would listen to their new material together and I still remember hearing this for the first time and being totally awestruck. Grizzly Bear has always been capable of leaving me speechless, but there’s such an understated beauty in a listener’s patience when it comes to “Ready Able”. Just when you think you have the track figured out its dynamic changes completely, quite similar to the band themselves over the years.
Despite my undying love for Horn of Plenty, I’ve always admired the growth Grizzly Bear has shown with each release. It’s utterly astonishing that Ed Droste was once afraid of his own vocals because if his vocals on “Ready, Able” don’t give you chills “Cheerleader” surely will. My own growth has been echoed with the band as they’re one of the few bands I’ve stuck with since high school. I loved Coldplay, I loved punk Christian rockers Relient K and I loved Animal Collective, but I have yet (and doubt I will) fall out of love with Grizzly Bear.
Like I said earlier this week, Grizzly Bear has always created material that is open for listener interpretation and they’ve done so intentionally. Droste expanded on this in an interview about Veckatimest with Pitchfork,” one of my favorite things is when I’m listening to a song and I find my own meaning in it that I can relate to and I can create my own relationship and bond with the song.” This track echoes that sentiment and also is a good example of why I love this band so much. Grizzly Bear doesn’t need to outright tell us what they mean on “Ready, Able”, and in doing such each listener has their own experience with the track. I could expand with you on what I think “Ready, Able” means, but I’ll let you take a listen for yourself.
Kerry’s favorite track is also “Ready, Able” (check out the video below):
In a 2007 interview with Public Radio International, Grizzly Bear discuss the bizarre music video proposals that Encyclopedia Pictura pitched for “Knife” before deciding on the winning idea below:
“Plans” - Grizzly Bear
Yellow House (or otherwise known to me as the record that spawned my deep love for Grizzly Bear) is an impressive step forward from the dark, hushed bedroom recordings of Horn of Plenty. Grizzly Bear performed three shows as a trio (sans Daniel Rossen) to premiere Horn of Plenty in a live setting. These shows came with a severe lack of confidence from the group, who performed seated in front of an audience of friends. According to Chris Taylor in Mono.Kultur Magazine #29 from 2011, “Even at the very, very first rehearsal with just the three of us—Ed and Chris and I—I was like, ‘This is not going to work. I can’t really play guitar. Ed, you can’t really play guitar. We need a guitarist and I know this guy.’ […] So basically, we were keeping it cool and not really pressuring Dan into it, but it was like ‘Dan is totally the guy we need to play guitar. He writes these beautiful songs, beautiful harmony parts and cool arrangements. He’d be perfect. But we don’t sound good enough for him to even remotely be interested.’ So I said, ‘Let’s play for a bit and hopefully we’ll get good enough so we can invite him to a show, you know, make him jealous that he’s not apart of it and then he’ll be apart of it.’ And that’s basically how it went.”
Even after Rossen became the last piece of the puzzle needed for the live setting, the group had still never written or worked together as a collaborative effort. Rossen, who had already been producing various EPs under Department of Eagles at NYU with Fred Nicolaus beginning in 2000, was familiar with his own approach to song writing and was able to lyrically bring material to the table with Droste. There is a unique divide between Droste and Rossen’s approach to songwriting, yet the two were able to approach each other’s content to make this consistent body of work that flows without the urge to skip a track. Yet, I’ve found that the most remarkable aspects of the record is how is it so complexly layered with multiple vocal tracks and other decorative elements, such as woodwind pitch drops to imitate a bass providing the listener with a lush, larger than life auditory experience that would propose a difficult (yet continuously successful) challenge to re-create in a live setting.
We all know that strange affinity, the deep entrancement you feel with a piece of music that connects with you more than any other album has done before; you love it so deeply, yet it feels so impossible to describe to others. To illustrate the specific experience I’ve had with this record is a challenging one, but perhaps the simplest way to describe it is that it’s a record that commands your attention from beginning to end. For me, Yellow House time and time again has taken me on that sublime journey through my own mind. This specific experience is also what inspired Derek Cianfrance to write the what later became premise of the 2010 film Blue Valentine: “I found [their music] to be so cinematic. I would drive around with my family in the car, Yellow House on repeat, and see the world of Blue Valentine. Like the movie in my mind, I found their music had classic roots yet it was extremely modern. […] I began writing the script while playing it in the background and I never once had writer’s block.”
Perhaps it’s the way the album takes me to “an easier time” when everything feels like it’s in shambles, the way it slows my brain down and forces my consciousness to slip into the unknown. Or possibly it’s their ability to translate the layered chaos into a completely new and refreshing live experience. Time and time again I have tirelessly retreated back to this record because it provides the comfort and stability that set the standards for future Grizzly Bear records to come.
Lauren’s Favorite Track: “On a Neck, On a Spit”
(Below is a special La Blogotheque Take Away Show Performance)
Above: Grizzly Bear live in 2004 (photos via catmampbell)
Grizzly Bear was created to be a live band with Chris Bear and Chris Taylor joining Ed Droste for a handful of shows before adding fourth member, Daniel Rossen.
Even with the inclusion of this necessary fourth member the band was still forced to figure out their live show and band dynamics on the road. This included stops at a diner where patrons, “glared at us like we were making devil’s music,” and a college campus where a school official told the band, “the music was hurting the employees’ ears and asked us to leave the campus.”
These initial roadbumps were solved by the time I saw them in 2007, with no one in the sold out Andy Warhol museum crowd complaining about the noise. Even so, the band was still relatively early on in their career doing much of the “roadie” work themselves, including asking early arrivers to watch their merch table. While these early shows lacked their current bells and whistles it was apparent that Grizzly Bear was made to be heard live.
Experiencing a band live is meant to transport and dazzle you to a place that computer speakers, headphones and even your record play cannot. The most memorable of live performances of are the ones in which the audience feels as much as part of the performance as the band. It was apparent even from their touring beginnings that Grizzly Bear created an otherworldly experience for concert goers, changing up their material for live settings, adding something extra and creating moments that won’t soon be forgotten. One of these moments is found below when the band performed “On a Neck, On a Spit” for the Pittsburgh crowd.