Grizzly Bear - Biography
Anyone who enjoys the music of Grizzly Bear, and there are many who do, might owe some gratitude to whomever is responsible for breaking singer Edward Droste's heart. Break-ups have been the cause of many of the most beloved songs in history, but rarely does a relationship-gone-sour manifest itself in such a creative and memorable way. With Droste's deeply personal home-recording experiments as their launching point, Grizzly Bear have taken off and become one of indie rock's most treasured bands, releasing Yellow House in 2006 and finding themselves on many year-end best lists. Since then, they have toured with Radiohead and their follow-up to Yellow House is one of the more heavily anticipated albums of 2009.
Droste had been writing songs over the span of fifteen months and recording them using a hand-held tape recorder in his Greene Point, Brooklyn apartment. The beginning arrangements were eventually fleshed out with the help of friend Christopher Bear, a native of Chicago who brought plenty of experience to the new partnership, having dabbled in laptop electronica and jazz music in the past. Naming themselves Grizzly Bear (which had nothing to do with Christopher's last name), the duo compiled an album's worth of material and named the collection Horn of Plenty. Though it was originally intended to be heard only by the musicians themselves as well as friends of Droste, the album began to quickly circulate throughout the underground music scene of Brooklyn. Droste and Bear were soon being compared to the likes of Sigur Ros and Animal Collective, and the album was officially released in 2004 on the Kanine label. Making the decision to pursue the band full-time, they brought in Christopher Taylor, who could play reeds and woodwind instruments as well as handle the bass and electronics. Completing the line-up was Daniel Rossen, who not only played the guitar and sang, but added his own original and unique compositions to the band. Through their extensive touring, they began to build notoriety and an avid fanbase.
In 2005, Horn of Plenty was re-released as a double disc, the second disc being a set of remixes by Dntel (from the Postal Service), the Soft Pink Truth, and Final Fantasy, among others. While working on the second Grizzly Bear album and first with the new line-up, Droste compiled his early home recordings and released them as an EP called Sorry For the Delay in 1996 on the Audraglint label. The EP featured Droste's typical somber style of craftsmanship, and a druggy, slow-crawling rendition of Yes' “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” Over the summer, the band signed to Warp Records, home to Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Maximo Park, and James Lidell.
For their second LP, Grizzly Bear chose to stick to their tried and true method of home-recording, setting up shop in the living room of a yellow house owned by Droste's mother just off Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The warm and inviting sound of the aptly-named result, Yellow House (2006 Warp), is a surprising but natural progression from its predecessor. In fact, the album is full of surprises; the sudden hand-clapped stomp that emerges from the initial softness of “Little Brother;” the swirling cyclone of sound that temporarily takes control over “On a Neck, On a Spit;” the charmingly melodic coda of “Knife.” Every one of the album's ten songs offer the listener something that is both strikingly impressive and wholly unique. The one song Grizzly Bear did not write, “Marla,” is still an original choice of cover, as the funereal waltz was written in the 1930's by none other than Droste's great-aunt. Yellow House was released to rave reviews and cemented Grizzly Bear as one of the premier indie acts of their generation.
The band went on tour for most of 2007, taking a month off here and there, supporting Feist and playing several dates with Beach House. On November 6th, 2007, they released the Friend EP (Warp), a collection of re-imaginings of several Grizzly Bear songs and a couple of new ones. The band re-recorded tracks from Horn of Plenty and Yellow House and let a few of their friends take a stab at their songs. Guests include Band of Horses, Atlas Sound, and CSS. After a three-month break from touring, the band resurfaced on March 1st at a show with the LA Philharmonic at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Following a performance of “Knife” on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, the group decided to use late night television as a medium for debuting new material. On April 21st, they appeared on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, where they played the brand new song, “While You Wait for the Others,” a highly melodic number that was marked by Grizzly Bear's originality, but also carried the accessibility of popular music. The lead vocal was sang by Rossen, but the three backing members also helped carry the song with beautiful harmonizing. One month and three days later, they showed up on the Late Show with David Letterman, where they debuted “Two Weeks,” an even poppier-sounding song with a catchy vocal melody by Droste.
The band were relatively quiet for the next three months, re-emerging to play the Lollapalooza festival on August 1st in Chicago, a bill they shared with Rage Against the Machine and Radiohead. The latter band selected Grizzly Bear to open for them at five shows, the first one in Indiana on August 3rd. Following the short tour, Rossen's side project recorded an album that featured both Taylor and Bear. Rossen had been collaborating with co-founder Fred Nicolaus since college and they had already released an album together, as well as a couple of EPs. The group, named Department of Eagles, appeared on Conan O'Brien on October 1st and released an album, In Ear Park, on October 7th, 2008, on 4AD. Department of Eagles don't seem to pose any threat to the future of Grizzly Bear, however. And, if the two songs debuted by the latter band on late night television are any indication, their proper follow-up to Yellow House should be just as enjoyable as anything they've yet recorded.