Grizzly Bear on Whether an Indie Scene Still Exists

Grizzly BearEXPAND
Grizzly Bear
Tom Hines
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The band Grizzly Bear, while still going strong (indeed, with an excellent new album release this year, Painted Ruins), more often than not gives me a sense of nostalgia. It's not just because the group's lush soundscapes seem like they were plucked out of a distant dream, but because Grizzly Bear played a central role during my musical upbringing.

I came of age during the indie-rock revolution of the early to mid-aughts, when bands like Animal Collective and Arcade Fire and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and, yes, Grizzly Bear, were all emerging. That was a time when I would play tunes from those groups using my first-generation iPod and friends would say, “This is awesome — where are you finding all of this stuff?”

Answers like "Pitchfork" and “Coachella” were, more often than not, met with blank stares.

And that was what was so cool about it. We were late-teens music know-it-alls, disillusioned by the suburbs of L.A. So those late-night adventures into the seedy all-ages venues of Hollywood and the Sunset Strip to see bands like Grizzly Bear gave us life. We listened to the same bands, bumped into familiar faces at shows, and had identified a cultural zeitgeist years before the indie sound became mainstream.

Recently, when I saw that Grizzly Bear is coming to Denver to play two sold-out shows at the Ogden Theatre on December 3 and 4, all of those memories and feelings came floating back.

It made me wonder: Does an indie scene like the one I experienced as a teenager exist anymore?

I hopped on a phone call with Grizzly Bear bassist Chris Taylor to get his perspective. As it turns out, Taylor has made some similar observations, only he was able to shed more light on how technology plays a role in scene-building. Here's an excerpt of our conversation:

Chris Taylor: You know, it's funny, because it feels like a lot of those bands that you're talking about [from the mid-2000s] came out with albums this year...but it also seems harder to me to make a career as a new band. There's just so much stuff coming out all the time. And there's just not a lot of cohesive conversation around some kind of scene developing out there, as far as I've heard.

Westword: Okay, that's the same sense that I have. Back in the 2000s, we never called ourselves hipsters, but there was this pretty cohesive community, and we all went to the same shows. I was wondering if you sense that community existing anymore, because I don't, really.

Yeah, I don't either. And I think it's kind of strange. I don't really know what to make of it. Maybe that's a product of the Internet, and we haven't figured out how to mend things together.... It just seems like people are inundated with so much info from their phones that even the mental/concentration capacity available for listening to a record all the way through seems more rare now.

[As Grizzly Bear], we still concentrate on making a whole, cohesive album, which will make a certain kind of listener more excited than another. Maybe there's a possibility for some kind of through-line there: bands that make albums. That would be a cool scene to be a part of.

From left: Chris Taylor, Christopher Bear, Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen.EXPAND
From left: Chris Taylor, Christopher Bear, Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen.
Tom Hines

You would have a ready subscriber in me if that became its own clique or movement. I just don't know if that applies to eighteen-year-olds now — the Snapchat generation, or whatever you want to call them.

Yeah, and I can't help but feel a bit like the old guy. I'm 36 now. And we've been a band for thirteen years, which means that when some kids were three or something, maybe their parents were listening to us — because now there are fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds coming to our shows. There's this wave. Maybe the kids are finding stuff their parents put on their iPods or something.

It gives me a lot of hope. They're not all Snapchat. And there are no [Grizzly Bear] hit singles, really. We're inherently a kind of heady band. There are always going to be kids making different paths for themselves [from the mainstream], and it's not the majority of our audience, but it's cool to see those kids. Because when you're sixteen and you get into a band — like when I was sixteen, I was obsessed with John Coltrane and Nirvana and Radiohead — that doesn't change. Those are my lifetime obsessions. So that's a very special time to mean something to some kid when the world is very confusing.

That's an interesting theory — that you could maybe see scenes in the future among adolescents who are looking for a deeper, more meaningful experience. Or even a scene around albums as opposed to ready-to-stream, one-off singles.

There's always going to be a market for a more thoughtful, quality product. There's always going to be people who want to hear an album rather than bumping hit singles for a week.

We don't seem to be able to make hit singles — although we had one song that did super well, but that was super random. That's not the kind of music we make generally.

Yeah? Which song was that?

“Two Weeks.” It just kind of happened, and it never happened again.

Oh, yes, from Veckatimist. Was it strange to hear “Two Weeks” sampled by everyone from Chiddy Bang to G-Eazy?

Yeah, that was trippy. And it still feels a little funny to play it every night, because it's clearly the single. But I still think it's a cool song. It's fun.

Have you ever toyed with the idea of not playing it at a show, just to see what would happen?

I'd love to do that, but Ed [Droste] is a real crowd-pleaser.

Grizzly Bear headlines the Ogden Theatre on December 3 and 4. The band will probably play "Two Weeks."

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