Interview: Grizzly Bear

In 2010 you couldn’t pick up a credible international music mag without some rock journo panting excitedly over Grizzly Bear. Usually such sweaty adoration is reserved for pretty posterboy rock crossovers like Kings Of Leon and Brandon Flowers, not some low profile, lo-fi psychedelic folk rock band from Brooklyn. Used to defying norms – Grizzly Bear is the only non-electronic band signed to Warp records – their 2006 album Yellow House grabbed early attentions, but it was the moody, thickly atmospheric quality of third album Veckatimest released in May 2009 that made the quartet’s swampy sea of sound more accessible. Comprising of Edward Droste, Daniel Rossen, Chris Taylor and Christopher Bear, it must have been a bad day; at last year’s Splendour In The Grass, JUICE squeezed in between founding members Edward Droste and Christopher Bear and received a verbal mauling befitting the band’s moniker. Ouch….

Interview Muna Noor
Transcript Emma Lee

How are you feeling about the reception towards the album?
It’s been a really good year and I think we’re all just very excited that the album did well. It was surprising to see it take off and it’s been fun doing all the shows and seeing things grow and stuff like that.

Veckatimest was released in 2009, are you guys working on any new material?
Not yet but we’re going to in fall and winter (2010). We’ve just been touring so much we haven’t had time. Once all the festivals end….

Did you register some kind of tipping point?
It’s been really gradual, we’ve had 3 albums and 2 EPs, and lots of tours with bigger artists. Each time we do a new tour with an artist, or a collaboration, it helps the profile. It hasn’t been a hype-overnight thing. It’s not like you start out and a month later everyone knows who you are. It feels kind of organic.

As a band you seem to enjoy the collaborative effort having worked Dirty Projectors and Beirut and seeing CSS and Band of Horses cover your work on Friends.  Is there anything in particular you’re attracted to in terms of collaborative work?
I like it when people have completely different tastes in music and ideas within the band so you’re kind of approaching the common goal of writing a song together but from total polar opposites, it’s really interesting to see what comes of that. Sometimes it can be a disaster, sometimes it can be really great!

The band has performed with an orchestra on more than one occasion. Are there any modern composers whose work you guys enjoy?
We worked with a composer called Nico Muhly….
Christopher: I really like some of John Adams’ stuff.
Edward: I like Benjamin Britten – that’s 20th century (laughs).

Are soundtracks classical music for the 21st century?
Soundtracks? No. (Laughs.)

Er okay then…. So what have you been listening to lately?
The new Beach House album, the new Tame Impala album….
Christopher: I really like the new Caribou album.
Edward: I like the Drake album, the new Dream album, the new Erykah Badu album. I could just go on and on….

What is it about New York right now that it’s hatching all these incredible new bands that are making really good music?
Hasn’t it been 10 years now that people have been asking about the New York thing? Think about it, the Strokes and everything?

Er sure, but it’s a completely different kind of sound now.
It’s true, it’s a little bit more experimental. There’s a huge appetite for live music there so a lot of bands move there in hopes of getting discovered. There’s tons of venues, and tons of people that go out all the time to shows.

Do you think that’s what a city really needs for a really interesting music scene? What do you think really makes a band?
Just playing a lot.
Christopher: We started out booking our own tours hoping that the word would spread but the internet has done a lot for millions of bands. It’s really helped take things to the next level and you know….

This isn’t your first time to Australia. Have you managed to see much of it this trip?
Yeah, we all came with friends or significant others and we took time and some people travelled to Tasmania, some of us travelled around the Gold Coast. We also got to play in Perth. I took some time after and went to New Zealand – we had a really good time.

What kind of stuff did you do?
In New Zealand, I went jet boating, paragliding and helicoptered into glaciers. It was really rad. I had a really awesome time.
Christopher: I was slightly less adventurous, I just went up to the very Northern tip of New Zealand. My girlfriend’s parents were in a small town called Mangonui and there at the time so we stayed there and had very relaxing beach time.

JUICE was jetted here by Air Asia X. If you could jet anywhere in the world, where would you be packing your bags for?
I really want to go to South-East Asia. I’m trying to plan a trip there and I’d love to go to Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand. The only place I’ve been in Asia is Japan and I loved it.
Christopher: And it just feels like a place that’s a lot more difficult for bands to tour.
Edward: Where do you live? What city?

Kuala Lumpur….
I’ve actually heard that there are a lot of indie rock music fans in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur has the famous towers too.

Spot on! Yeah, a lot of sponsorship money is needed to bring in bands, so organisers and promoters bring in DJs instead. It’s a lot cheaper with just one guy and some turntables. Any chance of Grizzly Bear doing a DJ set?
If someone wants to fly me over to do a DJ set, I’ll go! I can’t guarantee it’ll be as much fun as a show though (laughs).

JUICE chilled on the couch with Grizzly Bear then got to see them on stage live at Splendour In The Grass in Woodford in Queensland, Australia. We were flown there by Air Asia X. Air Asia X flies to Gold Coast near Woodford daily. Book your flights to Gold Coast or any other Air Asia X destination by clicking to Go get your Grizzly Bear love at