Turntable Interview: Grizzly Bear
It’s been three years since Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest dazzled fans. Now their wildly anticipated follow up Shields is due in stores on September 18th. The band has released two singles “Sleeping Ute” and “Yet Again,” ahead of the full-length giving listeners a hint at the haunting melodies, anxious rhythms, and dreamy hooks that make up the 10 tracks on the album. The band’s frontman, Ed Droste, swung by Turntable.fm to chat about the writing process, Beyoncé, why he wouldn’t be on American Idol, and why fans should all be writing thank you notes to Santa Claus.
STEREOGUM: Hi Ed!
ED DROSTE: Is this Melissa?
ED DROSTE: I wanted to start with Cass McComb’s “Not The Way” as I was just tweeting about how much I love that song and it felt appropriate, but I can’t find it on here, so I’m still collecting songs for the playlist and you should too, right? That’s how this works?
@woolyknickers started playing “Lovesick (Once Again)” by The Hundred In The Hands
STEREOGUM: I can’t find that Cass McCombs song either.
ED DROSTE: Oh whoa you already started playing something! You get points?
STEREOGUM: If you “awesome” my song, then I get points
ED DROSTE: I’m not publicly doing anything to a song! Haha.
STEREOGUM: No one would know but me!
ED DROSTE: Promise?
STEREOGUM: Pinky swear!
ED DROSTE: Because I don’t shit talk publicly
@edroste started playing “The Jam” by A Tribe Called Quest
ED DROSTE: My queue appears to all be a tribe called quest now. Sorry I feel like SUCH a grandma on this thing. hahaa
STEREOGUM: You get used to it. Then you will realize it’s fun!
ED DROSTE: I could see how it would be fun if there was an audience and the audience kept deciding. Haha.
STEREOGUM: Yeah, are you going to start trolling the Turntable.fm rooms now?
ED DROSTE: No I don’t think so. So do we talk about the song? Or life?
STEREOGUM: We can talk about whatever you like!
ED DROSTE: I’ll leave that to you!
STEREOGUM: Okay, I am not sure I would have pegged your a Tribe fan
ED DROSTE: I like all types of music. Most of the music I listen to is not all the latest ‘indie,’ although I do appreciate a lot of new music
STEREOGUM: What would be the most surprising song on your iPod?
ED DROSTE: but I think that people have a total misunderstanding about musicians thinking that just because they make one type of music, that they must listen to that type of music. ie: you have a beard and make folkish music, you must only listen to that genre, then you see their favorite album is a mary j blige album and are all ‘hey WHAT?” and it’s like come on, don’t you have a wide variety of taste?
STEREOGUM: Well, who doesn’t like Mary J?
ED DROSTE: Well I like all types. I guess I haven’t ever really popped my country cherry, but generally speaking I like all types.
STEREOGUM: Old country is great, but new country is a challenge
@woolyknickers started playing “California (All The Way)” by Luna
ED DROSTE: I think I missed a question from earlier b/c I was focused on typing
STEREOGUM: I asked what song do you think would most surprise fans to find on your ipod
ED DROSTE: I just think if people were to look at my itunes and see my most listened to music they might be surprised to find a LOT of r n b. Aaliyah and Beyonce, random hits from Toni Braxton, etc. as well as stuff like Beach House, classic rock like Fleetwood Mac. Old vocal jazz like Nina Simone, I especially like her slow super depressing stuff.
STEREOGUM: So you and Beyonce have a mutual appreciation society?
ED DROSTE: I guess? Haha.
STEREOGUM: What is it like when you find out Jay Z and Beyonce are in the audience?
ED DROSTE: Wow, we are still talking about this?
STEREOGUM: It just came up because of your love of Beyonce
ED DROSTE: Haha, well you start to get really nervous and then you are like fuck it, I have a lot of people that want to see a good show, not just them so I should be just as nervous as any show and you ultimately just even out and try your best, but I will say the fact that they stood on these chairs or something and were QUITE visible from stage didn’t make it any easier to ignore the fact that they were there.
@edroste started playing “Plain Gold Ring” by Nina Simone
STEREOGUM: Ha! Jay Z said that he hoped indie rock would push hip-hop, do you think it is?
ED DROSTE: I haven’t gotten any points yet.
STEREOGUM: Sorry [hits “Awesome”] THERE’S ONE
ED DROSTE: I have no clue if indie has pushed hip hop. Oooh I’m glad I chose the long version of this, it’s the better one.
STEREOGUM: Do you think hip hop or R & B has influence you?
ED DROSTE: For sure.
STEREOGUM: I confess I don’t get many Beyonce overtones on the new album.
ED DROSTE: I had a song that deeply loved that almost made the album and it was very much influenced by R&B and the whole band LOVED IT BUT the problem was we just couldn’t find a proper chorus that worked with these verses we tried and tried until the last possible week we could to write a chorus that worked but finally we just surrendered it.
STEREOGUM: This feels like kind of a tease. I would love to hear it. Are you planning on releasing it?
ED DROSTE: I know. It’s a bit sad but that’s part of the album writing process. Not everything makes it. It was very minimal. It was mostly just a voice. It was pretty exciting stylistically and it could have fit the album in a weird way HAD WE made an amazing chorus but we didn’t so c’est la vie.
STEREOGUM: You released a bunch of tracks that didn’t make the album
ED DROSTE: Yes there are lots of songs that didn’t make it.
STEREOGUM: As a songwriter is it sort of nice to be able to get the tunes out there even though they aren’t proper Grizzly Bear tunes?
ED DROSTE: Part of me wonders if I’ll release the demo form of that song and just call it a demo under another name as it’s a song Chris Bear and I wrote together. I like the idea of releasing songs out there and letting them exist outside the album format
STEREOGUM: Do it! I want to hear it and I’m sure others do too
ED DROSTE: But I LOVE the album format so much too
STEREOGUM: A cassingle may be in order
ED DROSTE: In many ways I think our new album is our most ‘album’ album yet or in some ways, sort of like Yellow House I guess. Stylistically different, but Veck was at times a collections of songs you could shuffle. This to me feels like it needs to be heard as a whole. That’s my take. And I’m sure people will skip around, unclick the songs they don’t LOVE etc, but that’s my personal take on it. It’s my favorite thing we’ve ever done
STEREOGUM: Yes, this new album (sorry to people who haven’t heard it yet) it feels like a whole, not a collection of singles
@woolyknickers started playing “Thinking About You” by Frank Ocean
STEREOGUM: Was it hard to pick a song to release first?
ED DROSTE: yet at the same time I feel like it’s the most forward album, wait, let me rephrase. It feels the most direct and charged and at the same time accessible, maybe not in a singles way, but we don’t think in terms of ‘singles’. But I feel like we let down a barrier with it
STEREOGUM: Which is a bit ironic considering you called the album “Shields”
ED DROSTE: There’s no longer this deep rooted desire to cover our vocals endlessly with layer upon layer, which ultimately keeps the listener at bay. The vocals are more exposed. One track. It’s more verbose. We decided to let things be as they were more, let the imperfections find a home amongst the arrangements.
STEREOGUM: So if it’s your most exposed album, where did the title come from?
@edroste started playing “Cyan” by Kindness
ED DROSTE: I don’t like over analyzing things like titles and lyrics because I think if someone has the album they can come up with their own interpretation, which is far more important than me telling them what it means. I like when a listener finds their own meaning in a song, then it resonates more with them. And I think while the songs have moments where the lyrics are indeed more explicit than past efforts
STEREOGUM: So you want listeners to find their own meaning in your lyrics. It’s a mirror more than a shield?
ED DROSTE: There is always room for interpretation and the title is the same way. I don’t like to just say: THIS IS IT. And then everyone references an article that says, “oh they said the title means this.” So I think if you have the album, and you listen to the lyrics or read them (they are printed inside) you’ll find your own interpretation of the title.
STEREOGUM: Except, of course, Yellow House.
ED DROSTE: Right, well in the past we WERE explicit and it got annoying, so there’s a part of this too, where we were like, let’s just NOT talk about the title. Hahahahaha. It’s not a place, so let’s just let it be what it is and let people decide what it means for them
ED DROSTE: ps. this song is great. I chose it tho hahaha.
STEREOGUM: Yeah, I don’t know Kindness. I’ll give you the point for introducing me to them. Where do you find new music, generally?
ED DROSTE: Friends. The interwebs.
STEREOGUM: Do you go out to shows very often?
ED DROSTE: I’m afraid I don’t. It’s a bit of a shame as I love live shows.
@woolyknickers started playing “Tusk” by Fleetwood Mac
ED DROSTE: DID YOU PLAY THIS B/c YOU KNOW I LOVE FLEETWOOD? I LOVE FLEETWOOD MAC
STEREOGUM: This song has been in my queue forever. It’s kinda the best
ED DROSTE: Have you ever seen that amazing youtube video of Stevie Nicks singing backstage?
ED DROSTE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HguL2bIri1Q
ED DROSTE:THE BEST THING EVER
STEREOGUM: You are very fast Googler. Wow, Stevie Nicks is so young! Have you ever covered a Fleetwood Mac song?
ED DROSTE: No, and I never would
ED DROSTE: Just too sacred. The only way I would is if they ASKED ME TO and it was something they curated and they reached out to me otherwise: HELL NO
STEREOGUM: I may start a petition to get Stevie Nicks to ask you.
ED DROSTE: Please do, but make sure we get to duet b/c that’s like my DREAM COME TRUE
STEREOGUM: You just need to go on American Idol! All the finalists sang with her last year
ED DROSTE: Oh jeeze, American Idol
@edroste started playing “You Always Start It” by xxxy
ED DROSTE: I really want to have a dinner party with her and Parker Posey and Grace Jones and Chloe Sevingy and as many strong female personalities as I could find and see what would happen.
STEREOGUM: Can I come to that dinner party?
ED DROSTE: U sure can!
STEREOGUM: Sweet! Would you perform on Idol if they asked you?
ED DROSTE: Hmmmm that’s an interesting question
STEREOGUM: What if Nicki Minaj was judging?
ED DROSTE: I have to say probably not. You know we haven’t entered the public sphere of consciousness, so it’d just be the biggest wet fart ever, the viewers would be like WTF IS THIS. Our fans would probably judge us. Seems like a lose lose situation.
STEREOGUM: But your fans would probably judge you.
ED DROSTE: I mean if we were at some point where people knew us on a greater scale and we were trying to get the word out about a new album, it’s clearly a huge venue for such a thing, but it doesn’t make sense for us. I wouldn’t really judge anyone for doing it tho. I think it’d be amusing or cool. I’d actually love to see a random indie band on there playing
STEREOGUM: Is The Wanted indie?
ED DROSTE: I think I saw Florence (I know she’s on a major and pretty mainstream) perform on that dancing show and someone was doing interpretive dance to it and I thought it was pretty hilarious and great and funny.
STEREOGUM: Hahaha that would be awesome.
ED DROSTE: I’m pretty sure I didn’t dream that. You can google it
STEREOGUM: Okay. Well, she was definitely on The Voice, but that show doesn’t have much interpretative dancing
ED DROSTE: I always forget how huge she is.
STEREOGUM: Do you watch reality tv?
ED DROSTE: Sometimes! Depends on the time of year, where I am, etc. I don’t do Idol much anymore. I did a lil’ in the beginning, but it’s so slow and the commercials are so annoying.
@woolyknickers started playing “Vocal Chords” by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
STEREOGUM: Yes, this interview is NOT sponsored by Coca Cola
ED DROSTE: Oh i forgot about these guys I like them. This mix of songs has no rhyme or reason to it.
STEREOGUM: That’s my favorite part of these interview is the extremely random playlist
ED DROSTE: I would totally continue this onward, past 7, if I wasn’t getting calls from Australia on the dot, so just a warning, if you have specific questions.
STEREOGUM: I am warned! Right: Professional Journalism Two Minute Warning.
ED DROSTE: 22 minute warning. You live in LA?
STEREOGUM: I live in Brooklyn, but I’m in Portland
ED DROSTE: Oh weird I don’t know why I thought you lived in LA
STEREOGUM: No idea. I live in Williamsburg. Do you hate Williamsburg?
ED DROSTE: It still says I have zero points
STEREOGUM: I AM CLICKING AWESOME.
ED DROSTE: I don’t hate Williamsburg at all. It’s just another neighborhood in New York. In fact I quite enjoy it, lots of my friends are here. Lots of great food, close to Manhattan
@edroste started playing “Right Down The Line” by Gerry Rafferty
ED DROSTE: God I Love this song. Turning my volume up on this one.
STEREOGUM: Who is Gerry Rafferty?
ED DROSTE: Oh Melissa
STEREOGUM: I KNOW
ED DROSTE: You need to do some Googling
STEREOGUM: Well I was busy googling Florence and the Machine on a dance reality show
ED DROSTE: Haha
STEREOGUM: Googling: A Scottish singer songwriter best known for his track “Baker Street”
ED DROSTE: Yeah but this song is THE Jam
STEREOGUM: Right I have friends who are obsessed with Harry Nilsson. This sounds similar, or at least in the same vein. Harry Nilsson, American singer songwriter, best known for “Lime in the Coconut” and the theme to Midnight Cowboy. I googled it for you.
STEREOGUM: [are you still there?]
ED DROSTE: Yes! I didn’t know what to say. Haha. I was all ‘fair enough’
STEREOGUM: Fair enough!
@woolyknickers started playing “Alameda (Alternate)” by Elliott Smith
STEREOGUM: Your band tends to record songs in unexpected venues (not studios). Where did you record your latest?
ED DROSTE: Indeed we do.Well we tried to start it in an old army barrack in Marfa, but it was a bit of a false start. We arrived with loads of songs, but we weren’t in the right headspace for it. We need time to get reacquainted with one another both personally and musically.
STEREOGUM: you don’t hang out every day?
ED DROSTE: And we were naive to think we could just jump into recording an album after not having seen each other for around 8 months.
STEREOGUM: Wow that is a long time apart. Is that the norm for you guys?
ED DROSTE: I mean I had gone to Mexico with Bear (chris) for a month to write songs….but other than that, I hadn’t really seen Dan or CT much. We had never really stopped since we started as a band and I think after all the promotion of Veck we needed some tinge to just pretend we weren’t in a band anymore. We had never really taken that much time before
ED DROSTE: But if you actually look at our LAST show, it was October of 2010 and I resumed writing music with CB in Feb of 2011, so it wasn’t like the CRAZIEST break EVER of not thinking about music. It just took a long time, because, one, we sort of had a little bit of growing pains so to speak which in the end worked to our favor I believe, and two, I got married and vanished on a honeymoon after Marfa.
@edroste started playing “One In A Million” by Aaliyah
ED DROSTE: CT did “CANT,” Dan wrote an EP, Bear did Bear things, so that also prolonged things, but by the end of Marfa, which was June of 2011, we had recorded 12 songs to a fairly fleshed out place, but we just knew it wasn’t right. The space we were working in was sort of wrong.
STEREOGUM: Did you at least get to see the Marfa Mystery Lights before you left?
ED DROSTE: It was hot and cavernous and had a weird energy. We were working out shit, which sounds dramatic, but it wasn’t really, it was more just going through a period of growth together, which every band does with each album. Anyhow, we left and we were a little deflated, but we knew we would do it, but we weren’t sure WHEN. But Xmas rolled around and it was suddenly like there was a giant bon fire under everyone’s ass. Everyone was rearing and ready to go.
STEREOGUM: Was it Santa Claus?
ED DROSTE: Yeah Santa lit that fire. Haha
STEREOGUM: So your new album was a gift for all the good boys and girls
ED DROSTE: Yeah, but we sort of threw all pre conceived notions about writing out the window and were like fuck it, let’s try new ways ie: new approaches ie: me and Dan writing from the ground up, which is NOT usual. Or me starting something and Dan taking it and ending up taking the lead and vice versa. There was an openness that didn’t exist before that I think only came from going through that weird Marfa time. And as a final result we felt a new level of comfort where we were able to really just play around with each other in a new and exciting way. And ultimately the hardest thing for us to do is to make an album that the four of us are excited about b/c we are all so different and have such different tastes.
STEREOGUM: So where did you end up recording?
ED DROSTE: So we actually ended up back at Cape Cod! Haha.
@woolyknickers started playing [REDACTED] by [REDACTED]
@edroste started playing “I Drove All Night” by Roy Orbison
STEREOGUM: Whoa that was weird
ED DROSTE: Sorry, I nixed your [REDACTED]. Couldn’t deal. Don’t print that.
STEREOGUM: Okay, I won’t
ED DROSTE: PROMISE?
ED DROSTE::D Thanks. Plus I was excited for some Roy
STEREOGUM: So was it weird being back on Cape Cod?
ED DROSTE: A little bit, but we’ve been going there since our first album! Horn of Plenty. We went there like a week after I met Dan to rehearse for our first tour ever that we booked ourselves, so there is a bit of a comfort and familiarity to it. We chose marfa thinking the new heat and desert would be inspiring and it was cool, but it was the wrong time of year. Haha, it was literally like 104 every day and wildfires like crazy.
STEREOGUM: Yeesh. Do you miss anything about those early days of being a band?
ED DROSTE: I do miss having no pressure to put on a good show, b/c we never really thought anyone would come, so we’d be excited if 10 people came and you’d sometimes surprise yourself with what you’d come up with b/c you’d just play around in a really weird unrehearsed way. Not that I want to go back to playing for 10 people.
@woolyknickers started playing “David” by The Radio Dept.
STEREOGUM: HOPE THIS SONG IS OKAY, ED
ED DROSTE: Thumbs up. But yeah there was a sense of adventure and youthfulness that’s just sort of what comes with starting out.
ED DROSTE: And also being in your early twenties
ED DROSTE: SHIT. I’m getting my AUSSIE CALL. I gotta go!~
STEREOGUM: Bye, but admit it: IT WAS FUN
ED DROSTE: Totally! ::D My next song is great.Keep listening. I’m ignoring the moderator from Australia
@edroste started playing “Tonight You Belong To Me” by Patience & Prudence
STEREOGUM: Oh I LOVE THIS SONG
ED DROSTE: Talking to Sam from Australia
STEREOGUM: Have you heard TWINKLE? The Smiths covered her.
ED DROSTE: No
STEREOGUM: Golden Lights is a cover of her. Check her out.
ED DROSTE: I gotta GO!
ED DROSTE: Haha
Shields is out 9/18 via Warp.