Since the release of debut album ‘Horn of Plenty’ in 2004, Grizzly Bear has gone from a solo project by songwriter Ed Droste to a four-piece with a dedicated cult following and, in recent years, a staple of the indie rock scene, with the Brooklyn outfit’s third album ‘Veckatimest’ receiving widespread acclaim.
Bringing together everything from the omnichord to the banjo, the band’s sound is a blend of traditional instrumentation combined with electronic accents, resulting in a unique take on the rock medium.
With the group now set to headline the Big Top at this year’s Galway Arts Festival, I caught up with singer and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Rossen to talk about the band’s evolution and the noticeable shift in sound that is evident on their latest release ‘Shields’.
Rossen, who was the last member to join the band’s line-up, is clearly not someone who revels in media attention. While the new album has seen the 30-year-old come into his own musically, he is reticent to overly analyse the nuances of ‘Shields’.
With Rossen, Droste, Chris Taylor and Christopher Bear taking a break of several years following the ‘Veckatimest’ tour, it has been suggested that the band’s long sabbatical resulted in a ‘unsettled’ feel to the new album, with some speculating that Rossen’s maturation within the band could have potentially caused some unrest between he and founder Droste.
However, this is something that Rossen is quick to dismiss and he instead attributes the turbulent nature of ‘Shields’ to the members’ own personal battles.
“I think a lot of things contributed, to be honest! I don’t think it was the band so much as what was going on in our personal lives. It was a very difficult time, there was a lot going on. We don’t really get too deep into thinking about the songs in that way though,” he explains.
He does acknowledge taking a stronger role in the direction of the new album, referencing side projects including solo EP ‘Silent Hour/Golden Mile’ as major contributors to this.
He explains that, having recorded his own EP, he had come back with “some strong ideas” about what he wanted to do on the Grizzly Bear record. “It was a long, difficult process but the collaboration ultimately resulted in the sound on the record.”
Rossen says that the sabbatical also greatly contributed to the resulting album and while many bands would have rushed a release to capitalise on the success of ‘Veckatimest’, he is adamant that this was never considered.
“I think it’s just the way we always do it. We spent a lot of time away, living our own lives and then we had to come back and learn how to do this together again. I think there was some apprehension about whether taking so much time off would make it difficult to return to our creative process but other than that, no. We don’t really think about that stuff.”
Grizzly Bear’s detractors have often criticised the band’s exacting standards and Rossen agrees with the suggestion that taking a more relaxed approach to the last album may be the reason it has proved so popular.
“Yeah I can see that. I do think that, with the previous albums, the perfectionism may have created a veneer between us and the audience and made it harder to connect. This album is definitely a little looser. I mean, it’s still quite planned and perfect because that’s what we do, but it is a bit looser,” he admits.
The group’s Galway Arts Festival Big Top gig, which takes place on Friday 19 July, will be the indie rockers’ first visit to the West and the ‘While You Wait For The Others’ singer says that while the touring life can be very rewarding, the recording process can often be a kinder mistress.
“Both have their merits, but touring is really tiring! Also, it’s hard to maintain ‘real life’ when you’re on tour. I mean, people do it, and it’s possible if you take care of yourself, but it is difficult. But then, touring this album, we’ve had an amazing reaction to some songs and that’s always great.”
With a number of side projects on the go, including indie duo Department of Eagles, and Grizzly Bear having previously gone on hiatus, Rossen says that he isn’t sure what the future holds for the band.
“I don’t know what the guys want to do so I guess we’ll see, we don’t know what we’re going to do right now. I want to make a really weird, jazz record, that’s what I want to do!”
Grizzly Bear play the Festival Big Top at Galway Arts Festival with special guests on Friday 19 July. Doors open at 6.30pm and tickets, priced at €33.50, are available from www.gaf.ie or www.roisindubh.net.
To be in with a chance of winning one of two FREE pairs of tickets, check out our competition on Facebook at www.facebook.com/galwayindependent.