By Mathew Wilkins
VANCOUVER – A lot of things can happen in five years; long time lovers split up, authors finish novels, five-year-olds learn their ABCs. As time tightens its grip on us, so often chaos does as well, with change and possibility as the inevitable byproducts. And so when a lofty five-year hiatus stood between Grizzly Bear’s 2012 album Shields and last August’s Painted Ruins, the potential for a drastic sonic change went from idea to expectation in the minds of fans worldwide with every silent year. But who and where is Grizzly Bear now? A time out of this magnitude is sure to impact and alter not only the band’s music, but the members themselves.
“[Shields] was tough. When it was good it was great, but this time in our lives we didn’t want to experience that level of intensity again,” says guitarist and vocalist Daniel Rossen of the band’s most recent trip to the studio. No longer bound by the same record contract that surrounded Shields, Rossen and the band felt they had more time to flesh out and solidify unfinished ideas, rather than those already near completion brought to the band (usually) by singer Ed Droste and drummer Chris Bear, or Rossen. The good news: a far more democratic songwriting process moving forward. The bad news: “Unfortunately I don’t think there are gonna be any B-sides released for this one… We focused on the [songs] we knew were going to work.”
Flash forward to October 12, the day Moonlight director Barry Jenkins released a chopped and screwed version of Veckatemist and Painted Ruins, much to the surprise and delight of the band. With Grizzly Bear’s history of having done work on the Blue Valentine score, BeatRoute was obviously curious as to whether a collaboration between Jenkins and Grizzly Bear would ever be on the horizon.
“That’s more up to him but I would love that… The fact that he’s even interested in our music is a great thing,” says Rossen.
The rest of Grizzly Bear’s future is uncertain; with a year left on their most recent tour and “no firm career trajectory in mind ever,” there’s no telling when or where the band will go next. Yet the years between Shields and Painted Ruins have effectively changed each member in profound ways, both musically and personally.
“We’ve been doing this for so long we have our own musical vocabulary,” Rossen says, describing their sonic style as something automatic and almost unconscious.
These changes shine through in Painted Ruins and hint at the continuation of a constantly evolving and maturing sound, giving us all hope for a bright — albeit unclear — future. But perhaps it’s this directionless, unplanned process that allows them to pick up where they left off so easily, impervious to time’s tightening grasp in just the right ways. If that is indeed the case, rest assured that Grizzly Bear shows no signs of losing their knack for uncertainty, as evident by Rossen’s closing remark about future Grizzly Bear projects: “We’ll see where we’re at when the tour ends.”
Grizzly Bear perform December 7 at the Orpheum TheatreGrizzly Bear, Orpheum Theatre