Edward Droste and Christopher bear
on Grizzly Bear’s collaborative method Most of the band has relocated to California since the last
Why did this record take so long to come together? DROSTE: I think it was partially in response to the stop-start thing that happened on the last record, where we were kind of pushing ourselves to do it, and as a result, most of the songs that we did during that period ended up being B-sides or not making the cut. We really learned from that experience and said, ‘Let’s wait until everyone’s all on the same page and everyone’s feeling recharged and ready,’ and it just ended up taking a little longer this time. BEaR: At that point, we still kept it pretty loose and just started passing demo ideas and small little snippets back and forth in a pretty casual way. Since the four of you were spread out around the country, you spent some time sharing ideas as files over a shared internet folder; how did that influence the process? DROSTE: I think it was just a really good way to get the ball rolling. Even when we were all in the same city, we would go off on these two- or three-person retreats and we’d email things over to each other, so it was almost the same as when we all lived in New York. But this was a good way to be like, there are ideas happening, let’s put it out there.
How did you get from those scraps of ideas to the songs on the album? When do you know a song is ready?
DROSTE: Most of the songs on the record did have moments where we didn’t really know whether it would actually make it. Usually what happens is one person comes up with some sort of reinvention of it, or a new flavour to it, or a new ending outro, and then suddenly everyone really gets it. So you sort of slowly see the songs get to that point one by one. The more of those that come, it shows that everyone’s jumping into a track and giving it their all. When people come in and give it their own flavour and put it on its head in a way that you didn’t quite expect it to in the beginning, that’s when we know the song’s really going to go somewhere.
it sounds like there are more loops and samples on this record, like on “Three Rings” – was that the result of the original idea sharing?
BEaR: Generally, we’re trying to push and try new things that we haven’t been able to do before, or use new sounds, and I think that’s always exciting for us. On “Three Rings”, that was just a percussion idea that I had done and it got looped and Ed and Chris sort of used that as a jumping-off point for a song. That was one of those things that was a very, very small thread of an idea meant to be sort of used as a tool; we ended up using some things like that all around.
record – how did that affect the writing and recording?
BEaR: We all spent a good, large chunk of our lives living in New York, and felt for various reasons like it was the time for all of us to try something different. Out here I feel less of a grind – I’m just still exploring and amazed by this place that feels very different to me. We’ve talked about that sense of adventure and excitement about living in a new place, and maybe subconsciously some of that comes through in the music. Though we certainly didn’t set out to make a record with a California sound [laughs].
DROSTE: It’s sort of like when people ask how did the political atmosphere affect the album. We’re not usually a band to, in the lyrics at least, overtly discuss topical matters and write very literal lyrics about them. It’s like how you can find pieces of politics within the lyrics – you can maybe find pieces of a California feel that seep their way in, but we weren’t necessarily consciously thinking to ourselves, let’s make this sound sunny or something like that.
What’s good and bad about having such a democratic band?
DROSTE: We’re constantly challenging each other and pushing each other to be the best we can be. There’s just a lot of ideas and perspective, and we all have different tastes and vibes, so it sounds like us, but I think we’re always pushing each other to do new things.
The disadvantage is that if it’s a democracy, sometimes things you really love fall to the wayside, or it can be a little slower. But it’s worth it in the long run to have everyone excited and contributing, it makes playing live much more fun because everyone’s into it, and it also makes for better albums, because you’ve got four very strong opinions. We are all very critical, in a nice way, of what we’re making, so a lot of stuff hits the chopping block for good reason.
There’s a lot of attention on the early-2000s New York indierock scene right now, including the oral history Meet Me In The
Bathroom, where you all appear. What does it feel like to look back on those days now?
DROSTE: It was a really fun time to be there and to be making music surrounded by tons of people. I remember going to early Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Liars shows in Brooklyn and feeling this really cool energy. It felt great to be there and have so many amazing musicians around; it felt really supportive in the people we worked with and collaborated with. Now I go back and no-one’s there, a lot of them are here [in
California]; it’s funny bumping into Dave Longstreth at the supermarket. But I’m so glad to have been there at that time.
Bear necessity: “We’d email things over to each other”