For those of you who have been living in a padlocked Tupperware container paperweighted down by an ogre for the past few weeks, Grizzly Bear is playing at the Michigan Theater this Saturday night and it is going to be quite the show.
Why? Because Grizzly Bear is the indie-buzz band right now. With the group’s release of Veckatimest this past May, which cracked the top 10 on the U.S. Billboard Charts (no insignificant feat for an experimental psych-folk outfit), the band has quickly reached the forefront of the art-pop scene. Thanks in no small part to Grizzly Bear’s 2008 tour with Radiohead, rave reviews and infectious single “Two Weeks” (the catchiest thing to hit the waves in recent memory), the little band from Brooklyn has quickly developed into an almighty indie presence.
Just three years ago, Grizzly Bear became the paradigm for independent music, recording the bulk of equally phenomenal Yellow House in vocalist Ed Droste’s mother’s house. The record mirrored the quaintness of its makeshift studio, lulling along majestically like an enchanted pirate ship, quietly wowing without ever grappling for attention.
Veckatimest builds on the cathedral-like atmospherics of its predecessor, dolloping clearer, poppier harmonies on top of lush, sonically varied, quilt-like arrangements. The band balances out its exploratory side with a newfound sense of immediacy and accessibility. The result is pure ear candy, and it has elevated Grizzly Bear’s status in the music world exponentially.
Chris Taylor is the mastermind behind Grizzly Bear’s bottomless sound. In addition to being the band’s bassist, he has produced its last two albums. Taylor also plays a central role in crafting the band’s eclectic, jazzy aesthetic, often filling in on clarinet, flute and saxophone. And if all that isn’t enough, he contributes on keys and electronics as well. Simply put, the man is made of music.
The Daily spoke with him on the phone last week, and after talking to him, one would be hard-pressed to conjure the image of a hyper-talented multi-instrumentalist. Taylor exudes modesty.
When asked how he achieves such an iconically rich bass sound on Grizzly Bear’s albums, he responded, “Uh, I don’t know, I didn’t know it was that unique. I just sort of go for what I like. I really like Joy Division, y’know?”
He referred to his mid-’70s Rickenbacker bass and added, pleasantly stumped, “I have sort of a special bass head I guess, maybe that’s part of it.”
Belonging to a band with such a lofty sound, Taylor certainly doesn’t seem to have overly lofty ambitions. In response to what he would most want a fan to say to him to consummate everything he’s trying to do with his music, he said: “Sort of just saying ‘thank you for making music’ … for whatever personal reason they have. If they appreciate the fact that you did it, I think that that’s a really high compliment.”
While the world may have found something extraterrestrial in Grizzly Bear’s practically tactile soundscapes, Taylor just seems to be doing his thing. When asked to use one adjective to describe his music, he casually dropped “rock-pop.”
As for the cereal that most accurately embodies his band? “Rice Krispies.”
He’s a man of simple pleasures. When asked what job he’d most like to have if he weren’t a musician, he responded without hesitation: “Salt farmer.”
“A salt farmer on the Mediterranean or something … I love salt, I love cooking a lot. I’d make salt for people.”
Moreover, he seemed happily oblivious to Veckatimest’s mammoth 86 out of 100 on Metacritic (the Internet’s leading art criticism aggregator), a score denoting universal acclaim.
“I didn’t know about that … oh, nice! Cool,” Taylor said. “Yeah, I don’t really follow that stuff. I don’t really have time for that. Does it faze me? I don’t really know. Can I check non-applicable?”
The guy’s a diplomat too. He politely declined to reveal of whom in the world he’s most jealous. And when probed to divulge what he thinks is the most overrated album of all time, he plead the fifth as well: “I don’t really like the idea that something is overrated,” he said. “I think it’s cool that people have their thing that they get into.”
He elaborated: “I mean, y’know, Josh Groban’s Christmas album sold so much … I might not listen to his Christmas album, but I know how many people really probably really loved that. Y’know? My mom would’ve loved that, totally.”
As far as touring with Radiohead, he describes the band as “surprisingly nice.”
“They’re totally friendly, down-to-earth people. … They’re probably one of the least snobby bands I’ve ever met … especially given how snobby they could be. They really could be super, super snobby and they’re just not.”
He goes on to describe any indie kid’s wet dream: “They would hang. We bought this little hibachi barbecue grill, and, uh, we would have barbecues. They would have dinner with us and stuff. On pavement.”
Taylor’s music tastes are as refined and all-over-the-map as his own band’s music, but he loves Radiohead and Neil Young.
Discussing his favorite concerts of all-time, he talks about being 19 and getting “stoned accidentally for the first time” at a Radiohead show at The Gorge in Seattle, his hometown.
“I sort of got like a contact high cause so much weed was being smoked and I didn’t smoke weed … oh man, that was so great,” he said.
Taylor also highly recommends Arthur Russell, an obscure avant-garde cellist who factored in the origins of ’80s house music, giving a particular shout-out to his compilation album Calling Out of Context.
And he cites Abner Jay’s True Story of Abner Jay as his essential breakup album.
But perhaps most importantly, Taylor declares Zingerman’s “the best deli he’s ever been to, hands-down.” He’s particularly fond of the pulled pork sandwich.
As simply as the Grizzly Bear bassist likes to put things, the sound he helps create isn’t simple in the least. And watching the band replicate this baroque aesthetic live should be nothing short of awe-inspiring.
Because, when it comes down to it, Taylor’s comparison of the band to Rice Krispies couldn’t be more spot-on. They may not be showy, but put the band in milk — or in an enclosed concert venue — and they are sure to snap, crackle and pop. Which is what they’re bound to do Saturday night at the Michigan Theater.