Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear

Scott Gilmore

Saturday, September 8

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:30 pm

$31 - $61

This event is all ages

Grizzly Bear
Grizzly Bear
When Grizzly Bear came to the end of the road with their fourth album, 2012's 'Shields', the future was unclear. No dramatic decisions were made, no arguments were had, but there was a feeling as there always is with the foursome that a breather was required. The band who emerged in 2004 in Brooklyn, New York, have forever functioned as a self-described “democracy”. It's equal and it's fair but it can also take a lot of out of them. And so they went their separate ways and bedded down in different corners. Vocalist and songwriter Ed Droste adapted back to life in Los Angeles, his new adopted home and decided to distance himself from music and the industry, vocalist, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Rossen moved to a remote area of upstate New York and continued to write and record on his own, drummer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Christopher Bear continued playing with various projects and worked on scoring a TV series, and vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer Chris Taylor decided to go West to LA after a one year stint in Berlin. He produced for other artists and made a solo record under the moniker CANT. Taylor, however, got restless.

The band's mediator since the beginning, his feet started to itch after the usual six months of downtime. “I kinda kept writing everyone,” he says. “Telling them that we should start making a record. I wanted to be making music with my band again. I stayed busy, I wrote a cook book, produced other people, but my favorite thing to do was work with my band. I was getting bored over here.” He laughs. While all four members were strewn across their various corners, he took it upon himself to start a cloud account – essentially a dropbox. The intention was to allow the band a gentler entry point for starting to think about coming together again. It was new for them, less pressurized, far more relaxed and a guaranteed prevention measure against creative stalemate. The dropbox was a home for inspiration, mood boards, ideas for music, demos, even songs. It was, however, quite a slow process, starting in March 2015. “Painfully slow,” chuckles Taylor. They did have one song – 'Losing All Sense' – that made it to the record, but Rossen was reticent to call this the beginning of something. The word 'album' was a forbidden utterance at this point in time. “We got into the water with one toe at a time to avoid freaking everyone out,” recalls Taylor. “Yeah this time around we came to it slowly,” agrees Rossen. “Tip-toeing towards a conversation.”

“Chris Taylor started this mother-f-er,” adds Droste. “I'm so grateful to him because I don't know whether it would have organically happened otherwise.” Taylor even bought a guitar after five months of little progress and wrote in Big Sur. The song 'Sky Took Hold' got its start in one of those sessions. Taylor wrote the song 'Systole' during his time in Berlin, and it is his first lead vocal for the band. “I learned guitar so I could write songs for the band,” he says, as eager as he was then to be in conversation about Grizzly Bear. Once that catalyst came, there was still the question of whether or not it was going to work. “I'm of the mindset that I never know if we'll make another album, no matter how good or bad things are,” says Droste. “In a way it's a miracle this album happened because for a while it was to be decided. When it started to come together there were a lot of ideas. Some didn't work. Eventually when things started to work we were like, 'Oh my god it's happening.'"

That relief, that momentum, that sense of a band really relishing the chance to relocate their mojo is apparent on the album, which wound up taking two years to make, via remote writing trips taken variously by Taylor and Droste, and Bear and Rossen, then a retreat to Allaire Studios in New York in June 2016 once there was more of a cohesive collection of songs. That's where they recorded a lot of 2009's 'Veckatimest'. In addition to Allaire, they recorded in Vox Studios in Hollywood and at Taylor's LA studio in Echo Park. Rossen also continued to track parts for the record at his home upstate.

“It was so exciting when it was starting to work,” says Droste. Perhaps what was different this time around was the communication barriers were set free. There was a nakedness to receiving each other's ideas and a lack of tying expectations to particular results. The whole affair was positively zen. “I was coming at it like – I have to be open with everything,” says Droste. “Let's try anything and let it go. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work. Don't be precious or get upset when other bandmates don't like it. Keep trying.”

The resulting fifth Grizzly Bear album 'Painted Ruins' benefits from having the songs develop in a completely organic way. “We had a lot of fun making the record,” says Rossen. “Even though there are serious themes we tried to keep the sound as light as possible. Maybe it's a matter of being a little older and not assuming that there should be so much wrapped up in what we were doing.” That's what immediately bleeds forth when you listen through to the eleven tracks. “Does it sound totally different?” asks Droste, champing at the bit to get the juggernaut started again. “More inviting?”

Indeed there's a deep warmth, a flirtatiousness to the sonic ideas, and a sense of playfulness that's perhaps the most surprising of all. It's a direct reflection of the joy they experienced while making it. It chimes with collective exhales, and the genuine love that came from reuniting with old friends. “You forget that you have this great thing going on with us, even though it can be really difficult,” says Droste. “When we finally got together it felt like there was a musical chemistry that was as real as it was when we were kids. That was thrilling in a way that was still the case,” adds Rossen. You could almost say that the band's propensity to chuck lots of ideas at the wall to see which ones stuck was the closest an established act can get to tapping into that energy that exists while recording a debut.

For all four members the results of the sessions were unexpected. Droste points to 'Mourning Sound' and closing track 'Sky Took Hold'. “That song was fleshed out in a very different way, then one day they added an ominous horn section that repeats and it changed the whole thing for me,” says Droste. “That's what I love about working with them. They just have ideas I would never have, and vice versa. It's a challenge to be in a democratic band with strong opinions but I also thank god because we get all these different creative ideas that don't come naturally. It's very much four people. It always has been. It always will for as long as we continue on. These are the three people who continually surprise me.”

Rossen came up with the title 'Painted Ruins'. As usual, the band are more comfortable leaving the visuals, the lyrics, the themes to the listener's imagination, so you can take from their art what you will. “I don't relate to a lot of explicit storytelling music,” explains Droste, before making up something on the spot. “'Her name was Jenny and she broke my heart and then I went on a cruise...' Ok, don't know Jenny, haven't been on a cruise!” Instead 'Painted Ruins' has a different meaning to each member of the band. “It's the idea of dressing up something that's falling apart and making something out of a situation that's crumbling,” says Rossen. “In a way that's how a lot of this music came together. Some of it was a pastiche and it found its way into a cohesive form.”

There's also clearly a connotation with the general breakdown that's happening in the wider world, which can also be mirrored in the band's lives as they reached their late thirties. “We all were hoping to achieve a sense of personal decay or breakdown representing a larger whole or situation, not necessarily writing topical music but writing personal music that could represent larger strife,” adds Rossen. For Bear, the album is about personal reflection. “Observing yourself,” he explains. “Seeing how you're interacting when you're going through change. It's not a breakup record or a social commentary record, there's a lot of sides to the human experience.”

'Painted Ruins' isn't a passing pleasure, it's a body of work intended to be lived in. Its psychedelic grooves, challenging composition and pensive lyrics require repeated listens and develop significance, attachment and deep-rooted appreciation over time. That said it strays from getting too intense or introspective. Some of the tracks take on a more personal bent. The likes of 'Wasted Acres' and 'Neighbors', the former of which is about Rossen's life in upstate New York. “That tune started as a simple and direct lyric about collecting firewood with my dog,” says Rossen. 'Four Cypresses', on the other hand, with its refrain of “it's chaos but it works” is more political, though the band would prefer to keep the overtones less explicit.

Droste has been a staunch advocate for politics online via social media these past few years. The band recognize the importance of that but don't feel that it necessarily needs to be written into the music. “As soon as the Election was over I thought about how valuable it is to be able to connect with other people through music,” says Rossen, who's anticipating touring this record more than anything. “It's even more valuable in this political climate, where you can impart a sense of shared experience, compassion, empathy or just humanity. You look at the news every day and it feels overwhelming and truly bleak, you feel like giving up. There's a huge value in the ability to make something that connects with other people.”

Having met with so many accolades that would have been deemed unfathomable to them in the early days, you wonder what Grizzly Bear set out to achieve with another album. They opened for Radiohead on their debut (“a total mindfuck” according to Droste). They played Radio City Music Hall on their last record 'Shields'. Are there any tangibles they'd love to chase? “I'd just like to reach new people,” says Droste, simply. “I want to grow. A lot of writing has to do with selfish reasons. Getting shit out of your system, self-therapy. My favorite thing of all is the performing and the connection.” For Rossen, it's all about the music. “If we can continue working together and enjoy what we're making and feel that it's vital to us, if we can do that in a sustained way that's about as much as I can hope for.”

Taylor, on the other hand, wears his heart firmly on his sleeve. “I'm excited that I'm better friends with everyone in the band than ever,” he says. “Life is too short not to enjoy what you’re doing. We’re in a lucky situation.”
Scott Gilmore
Scott Gilmore
Head up to California's San Fernando Valley and you might hear a few odd noises fluttering into the deep blue skies. Nestled amongst the moans and groans that shake the foundations of every whitewashed house in Van Nuys, and the clapperboard clanks emanating from the area's endless movie studios, is a beguiling blend of library music, cosmic Americana, and sunblushed new age noodling.

Subtle Vertigo is 28 year old LA native Scott Gilmore's first album for International Feel, the Balearic powerhouse helmed by the one and only Mark Barrott, and it's a record set to send a certain kind of listener into a tailspin. If you daydream about sunsets at La Torre, have considered dropping a hundred quid on that Aficionado, or keep a stash of Alfredo cassettes in a replica of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, you'll have found the perfect accompaniment for summer 2017's indoor barbecue season.

Just remember one thing, though: its creator doesn't necessarily think of it as a Balearic album. "I was never familiar with that genre prior to meeting Mark," he tells me down the phone from his house in LA County. Given how infused the LP is with the sort of Ibizan haziness transplants us from the outer reaches of Sunderland to San Antonio in a split second, that might seem a little surprising. Then again, isn't the whole point of the Balearic ideal that it is, in effect, a genre-less genre?

"When you make music," Scott says, "you can see past that, and the minute you hear something you take the genre thing with a grain of salt. I don't think of music like that. I just try and listen to it, and see how I feel about it. I tend to describe music more for its qualities."

"Bucolic" is one of the most prominent qualities you'd attach to the music made by this slightly reserved, unfailingly polite, sleepy-sounding Californian, who's slim back catalogue only stretches thus far to Subtle Vertigo and last year's SFV Record's released Volume 01. That record—sitting somewhere between Matt Mondanile's work as Ducktails, forgotten late 70s private press bedroom psychedelia, and Haruomi Hosono's seminal Pacific album—is the sound of an aimless wander through fields in early-spring. Subtle Vertigo, then, is its late-summer nocturnal equivalent. Just you, the cicadas, and the endless sprawl of city limits melting into wooded nothingness.

You'd think, from his output, that Scott Gilmore spends a lot of time trekking through fields, baring the brunt of grass-burn and nettle-rash, but he tells THUMP that he's far more likely to be found sat in the sheltered cool of the studio. Despite the sizeable population, Scott sees LA and its near-infinite sprawl as, "a city of homebodies." He mentions that down in the valley, there's a distinct lack of public spaces. "Most places are are designed for you to walk into just to buy things." That creeping commercialization, plus the place's notorious traffic problems and non-navigable enormity mean that Scott feels like he works outside of any city-specific music scene, more than happy to stay out there in the relative seclusion of the peripheries.

Gilmore's music found its way to Mark Barrott's Ibizan bolthole via LA-based online radio station Dublab. "I gave a CD of my work to a friend who DJs on there," he says, "and then Frosty—the co-founder of the station—heard it and he began a correspondence over email." The pair would discuss new material that Scott had been working on, with Frosty eventually sending it out to a few labels on the artist's behalf. One of those labels was International Feel, one of those rare imprints that's been selective enough with signings over the years to attain the much sought after "buy on sight" status.

"He'd heard the majority of the tunes on Subtle Vertigo and asked me if I thought they were done. Some were, some needed work, and we'd go back and forth with ideas. Try this, try that, add that, add this," Gilmore says of his working relationship with the globe-trotting DJ and producer. "He's got a great ear, and wants a great product. He really cares about what he's putting on vinyl."

You can see what attracted Barrott to Gilmore's music. Album tracks like "Europe" and "Flight Through Grey" might have been conjured into being a few thousand miles away from the crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean but they've still got an unmistakably International Feel-ian touch about them; light, melodious, somehow simultaneously of "now" and plausibly a hitherto unheard relic from a bygone age.

Whilst it touches on a variety of sounds—be it the pop-library of early Air, or the kind of crisply autumnal folk treasured by selectors like Moonbots, Siba K, and Andy Pye—Gilmore's latest never slips into pastiche or plasticity, a reflection of its creators on-off relationship with music itself.

A question about influences on the LP saw us skirting around the anxiety of influence, an idea posited by the literary critic Harold Bloom. Scott assured me that the reason he "wasn't listening to any music," during the making of Subtle Vertigo wasn't due to any Bloomian sense of consciously avoiding the potential pitfalls of unconscious absorption, but was instead a simply practical matter. "You need to give your ears a rest because when you're playing and mixing, you have to listen so closely," he says, sensibly. So much for high-minded theory-mingling. Even now, though, he rarely finds himself putting a record on after a day's work, telling me that Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier" is the only thing he really listens to.

And all that—the near-hermitude, the non-listening, the single-mindedness of approach—has resulted in one of the year's best records to date. Scott Gilmore makes music for the moments late nights bleed into early mornings, when skies begin to shift, when you're left alone in your own liminality.

Subtle Vertigo by Scott Gilmore is released on June 16th by International Feel

- from thump.vice.com