Grizzly Bear

Once a one-man bedroom project, Grizzly Bear has outshone all expectations – even those of its founder, Brooklyn, N.Y., resident Edward Droste.

Droste’s early compositions became the band’s 2004 debut, Horn of Plenty, which he now describes as a collection of “meager home recordings.” Over the next couple of years, he added Chris Taylor, Daniel Rossen and Christopher Bear (the latter’s name is pure coincidence, the group insists).

When the band grew to a four-piece, Droste told Pollstar, “the sound was reinvented.”

“Now it’s an extremely collaborative process,” he said. “Everyone writes some things and plays multiple instruments. Chris Taylor produced the new album and engineered it, so that’s why it has a much cleaner grand aesthetic that’s really cohesive, as opposed to the first one that was sort of a lo-fi mess. Everyone has all these elements to bring to the table and it works out really well.”

Grizzly Bear’s collaborative nature was particularly evident at the band’s recent live shows, where Rossen took on nearly half the lead vocals and Taylor managed a revolving array of musical knickknacks.

Photo: Sean Pecknold
Sasquatch Festival, The Gorge Amphitheatre, George, Wash.

The group’s concerts usually feature a mix of tunes from both albums, and recreating the band’s piecemeal studio creations onstage can be a challenge.

“There are some songs which we still have not been able to figure out the best way to do live,” Droste said. “With only four people and when we track so many tracks and there’s so many layers on each song, you want to do the song justice.

“You don’t want to completely re-create it exactly the same. We like to do sort of reinterpretations for the live show … Of course the tone and general structure is the same but they can vary from night to night and, you know, there’s room for improvisation.”

The group had planned to launch a headlining North American tour last fall after releasing its acclaimed sophomore album, Yellow House, but changed its mind when offered a support slot for TV On The Radio.

“We just couldn’t pass that up. It was amazing; it was so much fun to play,” Droste said. “Their audience was really kind and great, and playing to such huge crowds at all the sold-out venues – venues we would never get a chance to play at on our own. It was really, really awesome.”

Despite Droste’s modest predictions, Grizzly Bear’s recent tour sold out many of its tour stops, including a two-night finale at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City that received a glowing write-up in the New York Times.

“The last time we sort of headed out on our own, about two years ago, we’d be happy if, like, 40 people came,” Droste said, laughing.

Grizzly Bear is booked by Ground Control Touring chief Jim Romeo, who took the band on nearly two years ago after its initial self-booked trek across the country.

“I wouldn’t really call it a headlining tour,” Droste said of the group’s first outing. “It was sort of like we’d get thrown on any spot they would give us. But we did it all on our own and I guess Jim was impressed by that.”

Romeo concurred, telling Pollstar that he appreciates acts that “have a little bit of their own touring under their belt, and kind of know what it’s like to get out there. Some bands just play two or three shows and want to do a full national tour and have someone else book it for them.”

Romeo said the group’s potential was obvious early on, even if its live set was still coming together.

“At the time, they were playing shows in New York and I was hearing reports of how good they were becoming live. Everyone felt that they were definitely heading in a direction of a more cohesive thing and it was all going to work itself out with a good record and a solid lineup.”

Grizzly Bear’s upcoming tour plans include a handful of April East Coast dates and a slot at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Indio, Calif. They’ll head to Europe in May to make up for two weeks of dates canceled last fall due to a family medical emergency and the theft of the band’s van and equipment.

The group will come home in time to play the Sasquatch! Festival in George, Wash., and Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival later this summer. Another North American trek is in the works for fall.

When asked if Grizzly Bear aims to keep up a full-time touring schedule, Droste didn’t hesitate.

“I think that’s kind of what you have to do. I don’t think there’s any choice,” he said. “It can be really exhausting, but every time we tour it gets a little more comfortable. Someday we’ll have a bus.” –