Grizzly Bear Please Themselves
Published Sep 24, 2012As any band will tell you, months spent on the road with the same three people are enough to break even the most easy-going musician. So it was with good reason that the guys in Grizzly Bear took eight months off following touring duties for 2009's Veckatimest, a record that brought the band to new heights of fame and critical acclaim.
When they reconvened to record their latest record, Shields, the Brooklyn-based quartet decided to ply their wares outside the familiar comforts of America's Northeastern seaboard having previously made three albums of pastoral, harmony-driven indie rock in the region. "We all collectively decided to start recording the album in June and we picked Marfa, Texas," says singer and guitarist Ed Droste. "We kind of just did it to jar us out of our usual routine," adds the band's other singer-guitarist Dan Rossen.
Since morphing from Droste's solo project on Horn of Plenty to include Rossen, bass player Chris Taylor and drummer Chris Bear, the group have jumped straight into recording sessions with little prior discussion. But in Texas they found themselves, and the material they'd each brought to the sessions, out of sync with one another. "We needed to reacquaint ourselves with each other personally but more so musically," says Droste. "It took the whole month there to get back on the same page and figure out what was going on."
They recorded an album's worth of material but left Marfa deflated. "We knew at the end, this is not the album," says Droste. "But it was a necessary process to get back on the [same] musical page, a crucial step in terms of getting to where we got to."
The quartet once again went their separate ways; Chris Taylor released his solo debut as CANT while Rossen offered up an EP of sparse acoustic numbers. In January they returned to Droste's grandmother's house in Cape Cod, where they'd recorded Veckatimest, and quickly hit the ground running.
"The momentum and synergy hit," says Droste. "There was this new sense of really playing with each other's material," and the sessions took on a collaborative approach that allowed for a more relaxed and spontaneous tone. Not overthinking things became their mantra and they were able to salvage "Sleeping Ute" and "Yet Again" from the Marfa sessions. Their interest also shifted away from finding the most technically perfect vocal takes to ones that just felt right. "Whether they were gritty or imperfect, we would just leave them," says Rossen, who singles out Droste's vocals on "Sleeping Around" as an example. "It was such an affecting take."
Finally happy with the record, Droste and Rossen remain unconcerned with how their fans, far greater in number now than when Veckatimest was released, will react to the record. "It's so much of a challenge for the four of us to love it," says Droste. "You don't have time to worry about what people are going to think. I think it's great. Hopefully other people do."