Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
Taken by a merry ol' land of woebegone and some desperate, desolate conditions, Grizzly Bear would build their dens and call the place home sweet home for lack of sudor in attempting to get anywhere different. Some just know when they're home, when a relaxing familiarity is aromatic upon its detection in the breezes. There needn't be anything more than some heart-rending and tearing for Edward Droste, Daniel Rossen, Chris Taylor and Christopher Bear to identify with their surroundings. Those instances and their details are the draperies, the rods and the brackets. The Brooklyn foursome will build around it all - to suit, giving it the walls and roof and blanketing color to provide the essence of a love all loved out, but still remembered as it was, before it was dry as a drought of all its nourishing elixir.
Grizzly Bear, through beauteous harmonies and textures meant for the hides of sleek race horses, gives over a kind of paralyzing manna that has a glow, a shadow and an echo to it. Watch yourself around their music, as it takes you and everyone you're touching at the time captive. It's in watching how these four men man their individual wheels while walking down the streets of Paris, singing their song "Knife" a cappella for our good chaps at La Blogotheque, that you witness all that's sublime in the simple world of things that make us happy. It's a spellbinding act that they spin when they act natural, listening by candlelight to everything Phil Spector and his involved parties put into their walls of sound as if those recordings were a version of the Good Book - bound in swoons and blown kisses sent by telepathy.
There is no pretense to the emotions that they portray, made of battle-tested motives and motions and original manners of coping with the trials that be rain clouds in other definitions. They epitomize and glorify the sentiment that Craig Finn illustrates with the lyric, "She's soft to the touch/But she's hard on the heart," without having to mean a girl, a man, a beast or a rose. We sometimes use words like "haunting" to describe the way songs and bands make us move inside. There are pieces of music and sometimes the people who make them who make our internal organs shift to the opposite side of the rib cage from where it or they are coming from, shivering and wide-eyed.
Grizzly Bear is haunting (sure, for their taut examples of patent histrionics that exist in a realm greater than their origins), but most specifically for what they write about and execute in a collective way. They deal with the subjects - relationships between people, lovers and family - that don't ever go away. One can make an argument that if something is worthy enough to write into a song, it's never going to go cleanly away. There will, despite all of the scrubbing and mopping in the world, always be the ashes and sooty residue from it somewhere in a memory.
A love is never fully removed from a mind, for if it was, then it never existed and the person of today would be changed. From every love - destroyed or maintained and cared for - there is enough value to go through it again and again to make sure nothing was missed from the minutes. A love with haunt without any outside help and then when Droste, Bear, Rossen and Taylor take to its side, as curators of the last remembrances of it, it's immortalized as a haunting touched by Midas and spun into the strings of the sweetest sounding violin.
Another way to see Grizzly Bear for all that they do - for all that they filled 2006 album Yellow House with and beyond - is to compare them to acts that are 100-percent out of man's control. A National Geographic book of birds caught my attention at the bookstore this afternoon and it struck me that this is how I was to write about Grizzly Bear, as an amalgamation of all of these birds combined, to compare the songs the Bear gives us to the very act of flight, the way it makes us inquisitive about life and it's choice to be greater than all of us.
The way these four men work together to make art is the same as when the sparrow stands up from the creaking, grass-lined floor of its nest, hops up onto the edge of it, opens its feathered wings and then lets drift downward with an act that upholds itself as one of the greatest wonders one can witness at any given second of daylight. Just look up and around and there's bound to be a bird coasting through the blue drink of air, not realizing it's at all special. Umm...that's Grizzly Bear.
The Daytrotter interview:
*How excited are you for a.) Coachella and b.) this righteous Feist tour?*
Ed Droste: So excited for both because both are such new experiences for us. Firstly, getting to play the premiere U.S. festival just feels like such an honor. I can't even believe we got a slot at all. I hope it's as much fun as it sounds. I often worry that our music doesn't translate well into "festival/party" atmospheres, but we'll soon find out. And then FEIST, wow, oh wow. I can't wait. Sit down theaters with such an awesome musician and person. Beyond excited for that. Beyond.
*Give me the lowdown on how you four got so damned great at those harmonies we hear. They are not easy parts to pull off. Real people are not this talented. You must be otherworldly. Have you ever felt like that when a song's taking shape?*
ED: A lot of practice. Takes ages sometimes to nail them. I think of my voice as my main instrument since I'm not such an extremely accomplished guitarist, so I am really into doing complex harmonies that are difficult but when figured out so amazing. As for feeling otherworldly, I don't feel that way at all. I think anyone can do harmonies together. Just takes a little practice.
* Have you ever had an out-of-body experience?*
ED: Nice segue. Hah. No, I haven't, but I've seen a ghost at the Union Square movie theater once, and I promise you it was a ghost. Long story, but I wasn't the only person who saw him (it was a him).
* When you guys are over in Europe, do you ever take on alter-egos or different personas just because you can and nobody knows any better?*
ED: We are a pretty low concept band in terms of alter-egos/personas/costumes/schticks. We actually tend to avoid them. There are enough bands out there dressing and acting the part, the world doesn't need one more.
*Who's the morning person in the band?*
ED: Lately, it's been me or Dan. We tend to go to bed earlier than Chris and Chris and thusly wake up earlier.
* What's the computer done for you today? How much time are you around the thing?*
ED: I'm a computer fiend. Thank god I've realized having a blackberry would be extremely detrimental to my life so I've taken a stand against that, plus when am I really THAT far from a computer. But what has it done for me? It's essentially allowed me to communicate with a shit ton of people and organize our trip to Coachella, etc.
*When did it feel like good things were happening for you guys?*
ED: I guess when the first reactions to Yellow House trickled in. It was exciting to get somewhere as a band and feel like maybe you could make a living out of it. Still not quite there yet, but getting closer!
*What and who are you most into right now (this could mean anything)?*
ED: I'm most into being domestic and home improvement. I love HGTV like crazy and my boyfriend and I have been buying plants like crazy making our apartment extra soothing and green.
*I'd love to hear the meaning in Chris' huge ass chest tattoo if he wouldn't mind giving it. Nathan Willet of Cold War Kids has a massive chest tattoo as well. His is aqua blue.*
ED: Wow, definitely can't answer that one. I have no idea really. I think he designed it and just thought it looked cool. I'm sure there is a long meaning he could give you but it's definitely not my place. He has a smaller tattoo on his arm of two arrows in a bow with two sets of initials which is about a friendship of his, but the huge Tat that is front and center, not entirely sure the full story on that one.
*Which songs have made you cry?*
ED: A lot of old choral music and folk songs I heard growing up make me cry when I hear them now because they just remind me so much of a time that is so gone and distant. I miss it sometimes.
*Does what you do -- write songs -- feel like a pretty special gift?*
ED: I'm happy I like what I write and can write songs that it appears some people enjoy. I don't know if it is a gift really. I think it's something you really have to work on. For instance, when I first met Dan, I was immediately intimidated by his songwriting process because it was so detailed, complex and layered in so many ways it was eye-opening to see it not as a gift, but an ever-progressing skill that you work on. Doesn't just come out of the blue for me...well sometimes it does, but a lot of the time I have to really work at it until I like it.
*What is that machine in the "Knife" video processing?*
ED: There is so much insanity in that video that I'm unclear about. The entire vision and execution was the director's and we were just doing what they told us to in front of a green screen and really wondering how the hell this would turn out. Turned out to be both amazing and extremely bizarre, which I liked a lot.
*Say it's movie night, what are we watching for the 100th time?*
ED: Heathers! Such great one-liners in that movie.
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