Grizzly Bear, more so than Animal Collective, is the art-rock ensemble most likely to inherit the throne currently occupied by Radiohead. Comparisons among the three don’t stretch far beyond a shared approach to redefining the relationship between experimentalism and pop, but there’s something about Grizzly Bear that endears the quartet to aesthetes and casual fans alike. Veckatimest, Grizzly’s follow-up to 2006’s acclaimed Yellow House, presents a winning mix of post-rock instrumentation, laptop flourishes, folksy moments, and soaring melody. It’s a good cap to a year or so of considerable victories: Opening for Radiohead on tour, playing Paul Simon’s celebrated residency at the Brooklyn Academy Of Music, and performing with The Brooklyn Philharmonic in February. Before Grizzly Bear’s stop at the Cedar Cultural Center on Sunday, Decider spoke to co-frontman Daniel Rossen (who also plays in Department Of Eagles) about the new record, simplicity, and playing in Cape Cod, Mass.
Decider: Coming off of the success of Yellow House, what was different about making Veckatimest?
Daniel Rossen: Yellow House was an opportunity to offload songs that had been stewing for a long time—songs that Ed [Droste] and I had written previously—whereas a lot of Veckatimest was written spontaneously. This album was far more collaborative too. The whole band built the arrangements from the ground up.
D: Have you guys developed a particular working process?
DR: It’s always changing. The singles, “Two Weeks” and “While You Wait For The Others,” had time to breathe in a live setting, though a lot of songs were much more patchwork—us recording whatever parts we felt like at the time, which is how Yellow House was done. Ed and I wrote a lot of lyrics together, which we hadn’t done before—for instance “Dory,” where we’re trading verses. There are all kinds of different formations of writing and recording. It keeps us open.
D: Did you have a collective goal from the outset?
DR: We have such a tendency to layer and layer, to put every idea on every track, so we made an effort to strip things down a bit—to have bare vocal performances and purely instrumental parts. We also pushed ourselves toward songs with more of a steady beat. A pop approach is tough for us because we’re very improvisatory. We tried to temper that with a little bit of simplicity.
D: Ed has said the first Veckatimest songs started on a weekend trip between him and Chris Bear. Are such trips a band ritual?
DR: We’ve always taken trips out of town to rehearse, record, and write. I mostly write at home, but Ed especially likes to get out of the city to focus. We don’t like pressure or timelines. We like to be in a casual environment where everyone is happy with their surroundings. It’s not like being in Brooklyn—if you’re somewhere beautiful like upstate, you can walk outside to take a moment. It’s a big part of our functioning.
D: You recorded some at a church in Brooklyn. Where else was Veckatimest recorded?
DG: We went to Cape Cod, to Ed’s grandmother’s house. It’s a little old cottage near the ocean, and we set up in the living room next to the fireplace. We recorded a lot of the quieter material there, but we did the bulk of the record in upstate New York at Allaire Studios. We couldn’t afford the actual facilities, but a friend let us set up in a beautiful, cathedral-sized wooden room overlooking the Catskills, and Chris Taylor set up his mobile rig. It was the first time we were able to record loud together, to just really play as a band, which resulted in some of the more thrashing stuff on the record.
D: It seems like you’re pretty fortunate to have an in-band producer like Chris Taylor.
DR: Definitely. To be able to record anywhere is incredible. I don’t think we could do it in a real studio. The only time I’ve ever recorded in a studio was the first Department Of Eagles record, which I wasn’t really happy with. I’ve only had good times recording with Grizzly Bear, out somewhere random where it doesn’t feel like you’re recording at all.
D: The Radiohead tour, the Paul Simon performance, the band’s stalwart reputation… Does it feel like it’s all happened rather fast?
DR: I actually feel we’ve had this nice, steady climb. From the beginning people said Yellow House was a real slow grower, that it took a lot of time to get it, and what’s happened for us over the past couple of years has mirrored that. It’s been a lot of small steps leading to these bigger, really exciting things. I don’t think we could’ve handled a lot of that stuff if it came any earlier. Something like the Radiohead tour was so surreal—it’s this unbelievable honor that I can’t believe even happened.