The four piece's most uptempo record to date, "Shields" represents a synthesis of Grizzly Bear. Having tried out new writing styles and combinations, the Brooklyn, N.Y. band demonstrates versatility and a willingness to experiment. But make no mistake, experimentation is not completely king; the band organizes its opuses to the point of near obsession, squeezing interest and surprise from these heady tunes.
I recently interviewed Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen about their process, live show, video plans and upcoming tour.
Will Kyle: How has Grizzly Bear evolved?
Ed Droste: "Horn of Plenty" featured messy performances looped in this unique, beautiful manner to create an intricate, less-performed aspect. Our early live show featured a lot of improvisation and a kind of intentional messiness. We were just having fun and enjoying being loose.
When we were younger, we, the more technically trained members of the band, pushed away from playing in an overly technical way. It felt good to play messy. Now we just think more about songwriting and recording rather than technique, but somehow, we're more precise now.
Can you talk about your process between records?
Droste: In the past, we've gone off on writing retreats. We tried that again for "Shields," but I think we hit our stride when we all just got together and tried new ways of collaborating.
For instance, Dan and I wrote songs from the ground up, which was unusual for us; Dan would often write by himself, while I would write with Chris Taylor. This time, we got to a point where we decided to try some new things that were spontaneous and off the cuff. We wanted to make sure that it wasn't overwrought in any sense.
Overall, we were having fun discovering new ways of working together, which was when we discovered we were tapping into something worth getting excited about.
When collaborating, do you write in the studio as you record, or do you tend to experiment without the tape running?
Droste: We don't have any true studio time, so it's all the same thing. We go off on retreats and we work together and hang out. Sometimes we're recording, sometimes we're not. Especially on this last trip, we tried to keep things as casual as we could, remain willing to try anything and record when it felt good.
How have fans reacted to "Shields" as you integrate its new songs into your live show?
Daniel Rossen: The audiences have been really stoked. The new album injects a bit of energy into the live show, which makes it really exciting for us to play.
It also feels good to curate a setlist that ebbs and flows between the upbeat tracks and the more mid-tempo, ballad-type songs. I feel like we have a lot more material to work with now and so take people on a bigger journey.
What video plans do you have for "Shields"?
Droste: We have two videos coming out. "Yet Again," which is pretty much done, should be out soon. Just yesterday we were upstate shooting the second video, "A Simple Answer," which we're in. We weren't in "Yet Again," so depending on our time, we may or may not be physically in them, but we will definitely be making more either way. We're also always looking for intriguing new directors.
What have you two been listening to?
Droste: I've been listening to the Lower Dens a lot recently. They are going to be on tour with us.
Rossen: Chris Taylor introduced me to a New Zealand musician named Connan Mockasin. It came out last year. It is really strange stuff. He has a really high voice, really jazzy and bizarre, but it's great!
Any cities you haven’t played that you're excited to play?
Droste: We're going to play New Zealand for the first time. It's always awesome to play a place we've never been. Speaking of which, we've never played St. Louis. Someday hopefully we will make it out there.
Please do! What was it like to pre-release your record on NPR?
Droste: It's nice for the audience to hear the record before all the reviews come in so they can form their own opinion independent of release-date comments.
Rossen: Also, our records take a little time to get into. I'm glad for the sake of the first shows that people are able to hear the songs a little bit and wrap their brains around them before they come see us play.