grizzly bear


We hear how the East Coast art-rock­ers re­lo­cated to the West Coast and got their mojo back.

It’s a tale as old as time: band burns out on tour and calls it quits, scat­ter­ing as far away from each other as pos­si­ble. But for East Coast art-rock su­per­heroes Grizzly Bear the mag­netic pull back to one another proved too strong to re­sist. Laura Bar­ton meets them re­lo­cated in LA to hear, ba­si­cally, a love story.

Late au­tumn 2012, and the Brook­lyn quar­tet Grizzly Bear ar­rive to play the Bruce Ma­son Cen­tre in Auck­land, New Zealand. It will be the fi­nal show of that cy­cle, the end of a gru­elling 90- day run of dates in sup­port of their fourth al­bum, Shields, dur­ing which, as singer Ed Droste, re­calls “one by one each per­son cracked”. It was, he re­mem­bers now, a “wild” night, a per­for­mance played with a kind of end-of-sea­son fer­vour. For sev­eral min­utes mid-show, the band’s tour­ing key­boardist Aaron Arntz dis­ap­peared into the thick of the crowd. “Be­cause when he cracked he de­cided his new thing was just to run around in cir­cles in the au­di­ence when he wasn’t do­ing any­thing,” Droste ex­plains. “And the se­cu­rity at the venue didn’t think he was part of the band and tack­led him.” Droste feigns mak­ing a plea for his re­turn over the mi­cro­phone: “‘We can’t con­tinue with­out our fifth guy… please…’ There was ac­tu­ally a five-minute pe­riod of like ,‘No, se­ri­ously, please…’” When Arntz fi­nally reap­peared it was with a torn shirt and a look of di­shevel­ment. “And we were like, ‘OK,’” says Droste. “‘End. Of. Tour.’” The band flew back to the US. Droste headed straight to his grand­mother’s house in San An­to­nio, Texas, to spend Thanks­giv­ing with his fam­ily. Daniel Rossen (gui­tar, co-lead vo­cal­ist) and Christo­pher Bear (drums) re­turned to their sig­nif­i­cant oth­ers. Bassist Chris Taylor took a cir­cuitous route to Up­state New York, where he had rented a house to write a cook­book. “So I take a plane from New Zealand and a cab across town to Penn Sta­tion,” he re­calls, “and then take a train up­state for two-and-a-half hours and then take a taxi to the house, then un­lock the house and it was empty. And I put my suit­case down, go into my room and grab my car keys and just go drive. I’d just drive around up­state by my­self, lis­ten­ing to Joseph Camp­bell lec­tures. Like I couldn’t land. Like I can’t be this alone right now. Like fall­ing off a so­cial cliff. And it was like that time and time and time again.” What hap­pens when a band de­cides to take a break? When, run ragged af­ter 10 years, they de­cide to step away from the rhythm of record­ing and tour­ing, leave their la­bel, and make no tan­gi­ble plans to ever make mu­sic to­gether again? In 2014, af­ter four suc­cess­ful al­bums, a laud­able rep­u­ta­tion for hyp­notic pop har­monies, and a grand tour fi­nale play­ing Syd­ney Opera House, Grizzly Bear did just this. “We needed dis­tance from be­ing ‘a guy in a band,’” ex­plains Rossen. “We needed to find a re­newed ap­pre­ci­a­tion of: ‘Why do we do this at all and what makes it en­joy­able?’” In that dis­tance sev­eral things hap­pened. For Droste, there came a re­cal­i­bra­tion of his per­sonal life, di­vorc­ing his hus­band of three years and mov­ing West. For Bear, it would bring fa­ther­hood and solo work scor­ing sound­tracks. For Taylor, it meant pur­su­ing his role as a pro­ducer and, like Droste, a re­lo­ca­tion to Cal­i­for­nia. And for Rossen it was a chance to try his luck as a solo artist, head­ing out on the road across the US, to the UK and Aus­tralia. But then, a cou­ple of years ago, the four be­gan to con­tem­plate the idea of mak­ing mu­sic again – though there were of course some un­cer­tain­ties to an­swer: what hap­pens when a band gets back to­gether? When the peo­ple and the places and the cir­cum­stances have changed, do the songs change too? Will their way of mak­ing mu­sic to­gether shift? Af­ter all this time, and all this space, will the same de­sire and im­pe­tus still be there?

Mid-sum­mer, 2017, and the four mem­bers of Grizzly Bear are strolling through the An­gelino Heights area of eastern Los An­ge­les, past elab­o­rate Vic­to­rian houses and hu­mon­gous cacti, the air sweet in the heat of the day. Fighter jets rip through the sky over­head, Bill Withers plays from an up­stairs win­dow, and in a back street with a view of Down­town, the band stop to con­fer. There is a gen­tle­ness to the way they in­ter­act to­day that is strangely mov­ing –

Bear ne­ces­si­ties: (be­low) live at Ra­dio City Mu­sic Hall, New York, 2012; (right) Droste at a rally for Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Bernie San­ders, New York, 2016.

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