Random Rules: Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear

Random Rules: Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear

The shuffler: Ed Droste, singer and multi-instrumentalist from Brooklyn's Grizzly Bear. The Warp Records group broke through with 2006's Yellow House, a meticulously crafted mélange of instrumentation incorporating everything from flutes to synthesizers, wrapped up in layers of atmosphere and gorgeous melodies. Grizzly Bear's latest is the Friend EP, which re-imagines songs from Yellow House and the band's debut, Horn Of Plenty, to revelatory effect.

J Dilla, "Gobstopper"

Ed Droste: I love J Dilla. Every one of the songs on Donuts is, like, a minute, so it's kind of hard to get really attached to one of them. It's sort of meant to be listened to as a whole. The one that I listen to on repeat fairly often is "Two Can Win." I really like that one. See, this track is already ending as we've been talking here.

M. Ward, "Transfiguration, No. 2"

ED: I guess I have to be really honest, right? I heard about him a few years ago and got into this album, but I've never been an active M. Ward listener. My opinion of him is, it's kind of like just eating a random sandwich. It's just there. [Laughs.]

The A.V. Club: What do you think about him touring with Norah Jones?

ED: That's like eating a random sandwich and then having a random smoothie. Or maybe a frappuccino. I think he's talented, but musically, it just hasn't spoken to me. I don't know why. A lot of people I know love it.

PJ Harvey, "Rub 'Till It Bleeds"

ED: This is a song I totally love and have a history with. I was obsessed with female singer-songwriters in high school. Liz Phair, PJ Harvey, all those people. I even went through a minor Tori Amos phase. But I could tell—even when I was sort of clueless—that PJ was the most badass of them all. This song is really intense, and it gets really wild at the end.

AVC: Do you like the new one, White Chalk?

ED: I like it a lot, surprisingly. I think a few tracks are a little too intense, like they can border on grating, but I would have to say that 80 percent of it, I really like. Especially the first song and the title track. It was definitely one of my top albums of the year.

Disco Inferno, "Arc In Round"

ED: I don't know anything about this band. I've listened to it a bunch, but I've never done any sort of Google research on them. I sort of vaguely remember somebody bringing me a disc for it, and I don't know their history or where they're from. But I still like them. This is one of their better songs. You should stream it if you can. It's good.

M83, "A Guitar And A Heart"

ED: I never listen to M83. I have every M83 album on here, but I never listen to them. There's this remix of the song "Run Into Flowers" that Jackson Fourgeaud did that's so amazing that I put on mix tapes all the time. There's a few songs of theirs that I really like, but it's just another something I got on a recommendation and then never listened to. I have no idea why. I actually don't have any negative association. I just forgot about them. Which is kind of a bummer, but it's also cool, because I have tons of stuff on here that I can rediscover someday. Sometimes you just listen to something at the wrong time, and then a year later, it finally clicks. A lot of people have said that about our music, like, "I thought you guys were so boring, and then someone made me listen to it on a road trip a year later, and I really liked it." A lot of people have said the live show made them get it, too. It's weird to me, because I always thought it was a basic pop album, but it totally makes sense that it's not. If you only hear our song "Knife" and are obsessed with it, and then you listen to some other song out of the context of the album—because it's more of an "album" album than a singles album—you won't get it.

Edie Brickell And The New Bohemians, "Love Like We Do"

ED: This actually has some history for me too. Back in the days of tapes and cassette singles, my cousin one summer had the single for "Circle" from that album—I was like 10 years old—and we listened to it obsessively. Then I got the album, and it must have been one of the first tapes I ever bought. That and UB40's Labour Of Love. [Laughs.] I mean, I was in fourth grade. I actually still can kind of appreciate it when it comes on. I remember the animated cartoons on VH1 for it. She's married to Paul Simon. We just met Paul Simon, actually. It was really cool. Weird too, like, "What do you say?"

Les Baxter, "Jungalero"

ED: This is from The Exotic Moods Of Les Baxter. Super cocktail music. I'm really surprised none of my trip-hop has showed up, because I went through a really dorky trip-hop phase in the late '90s, where I was like, "Morcheeba rules!" And I bought all these easy-listening compilations, which is where that comes from. I just found out recently that "Knife" is on a "chill-out" compilation in Australia and New Zealand from Ministry Of Sound—I guess Warp just okayed it. It's so hilarious. Someone forwarded it to me, and it totally had that kind of cartoon-girl graphic on the front, with sunglasses and a cocktail, being like, "Chill out, Summer 2007." [Laughs.] But I like Les Baxter. It's kind of fun. It's good shuffle music. I don't always listen to it all the way through, but when it comes on, it's kind of nice.

AVC: Were you a baggy-pants, wool-hat kind of trip-hop guy?

ED: No, I was more like discovering the fact that I was gay and reading Wallpaper* magazine. [Laughs.] This certainly has turned into an embarrassing journey.

Madonna, "Crazy For You"

ED: See? Here we go. But you know what? I'm not embarrassed to like Madonna, especially The Immaculate Collection. Her hits are great. I totally liked Madonna as a kid. It was my first stadium show in fifth grade. My dad took me with my cousin and my friend, and he was really shocked when she was masturbating on the bed during "Like A Virgin." It was that "cone breast" tour.

AVC: Blonde Ambition? When she had the really severe ponytail?

ED: Blonde Ambition. I still have the T-shirt. Yeah, I was really into the way she was switching her hairstyles from curly to ponytail, and I was hoping she'd do curly, but I got one of the ponytail nights. She looked a lot better with the curly hair. I only saw a few stadium shows—that and U2 and Janet Jackson.

AVC: When was your cut-off with Madonna? Was there an album you didn't buy?

ED: I guess Erotica was the last album I bought, which was like '92 or something. I think some of her newer stuff is okay, but I hated Ray Of Light. That was when she was taking vocal lessons and she sounded super-trained and annoying. When I hear that song "Ray Of Light," it sounds so tonally off to me. When she's shrieking in that part, I hate it. But the new one, the dance-y one, the one produced by Jacques Lu Cont, is fucking amazing to me. There are some really good songs on there, like the ABBA-sampled song. I haven't had a very close relationship with Madonna's music for a while, but there it is.

Lizzy Mercier Descloux, "Wawa"

ED: This is a song I've never listened to. It's from that New York Noise compilation somebody gave me a few years ago that's all dance music from the New York underground, 1978 to 1982. And, uh, that's all the information I have for you. [Laughs.]

AVC: That's a decent compilation. It has Liquid Liquid on it, right? DNA?

ED: Yeah, it sounds cool. I should listen to it more. I do like this kind of stuff, I'm just not as educated on it as I should be.

AVC: It's also got Dinosaur L on it. Some of you guys must be Arthur Russell fans.

ED: Oh, yeah, I love Arthur Russell. I think everybody in the band really loves Arthur Russell, actually. I have all of his stuff on here.

The Dirty Projectors, "Ponds & Puddles"

ED: Yay! This is off The Getty Address. I love The Dirty Projectors. We toured with them. Their new album is definitely up there as my favorite of the year.

AVC: How much of your iTunes is made up of people you know personally?

ED: God, probably 15 or 20 percent. I have so many Dirty Projectors songs. And he's really prolific, so I probably have, like, 200 songs of his. Let's see. Oh, it's only 96, but still, that's a lot of Dirty Projectors songs. I have all their Daytrotter sessions. I'm sort of like an extreme fanboy. Touring with them, I never got sick of seeing them. Rise Above is so amazing. It's an acquired taste, though. My boyfriend can't stand it. I don't fault him for it, but I also think he's kind of unenlightened. [Laughs.] Just the whole girl vocals in the background with him singing, and the changing tempos and chord progressions—everything about it is so… I guess the only word I can use is "fresh." It's the freshest shit. [Laughs.] I just feel like I haven't heard a lot of people doing stuff like that, and it's really exciting to me.

AVC: Would Grizzly Bear ever try tackling a concept album?

ED: I don't think so. That's not really our style. I don't know if we're organized enough.

The Microphones, "The Glow"

ED: I really like The Microphones a lot. I don't have an interesting story about it, I just enjoy it. It's one of those things, like, "Yeah, he's cool." I saw him live recently at this really small bar called Pete's Candy Store, in this back room that is literally, like, capacity of 40 people. I saw him play a solo show there that was totally packed. It was when The Glow, Pt. 2 came out, which is the album where I discovered him. It was really good, because he was into audience participation, like, "You sing this part." And then somebody told me he moved to Norway, which is the last I heard of him.

Sigur Rós, "Untitled No. 4"

ED: This is the one I really like from the "parentheses" album. It's super-tearjerker-style—like, end of Vanilla Sky. Tom Cruise is with Penélope Cruz and their realities are shattered. [Laughs.] I can't believe how big this band became. It's amazing to me that a band with 10- or 15-minute songs that just use made-up words became so popular. But I guess it's the whole tug-at-your-heartstrings thing that appeals to everybody. I don't have a lot of abrasive music, so I can't do a lot of the shit-talking that you're probably looking for. It's all permanently deleted, because I'll download it and then go "Ugh!" and delete it.

AVC: Speaking of soundtracks, one of your songs just popped up on Reaper. How did you like that?

ED: Yeah, that was our first-ever licensing thing. We were really excited about it. I wish we got more soundtrack offers. Maybe Band Of Horses just makes better music, but they get on every fucking commercial and TV show. Maybe it's their label. I don't know what the deal is, but as you know, that's the best way to make money as a band. Record sales are pretty negligible, and touring doesn't support you for very long, so we keep being like, "Yes! Let's get a commercial! More TV shows!" And then it's like, Reaper on The CW. I mean, it's a good show. I don't mean it like that. That's just all we've had. I think we almost got a detergent commercial in Latin America, but that fell through. They were going to use a remix from Horn Of Plenty. If any licensors are out there reading this Random Rules… I mean, we're not going to do Wal-Mart, you know. Gotta draw the line.

AVC: Wilco sold out. Why can't you?

ED: Yeah, but for Volkswagen. It's different. It's so weird, because it comes down to, "Do I personally support the company?" But then it's also bullshit, because like, let's say we do a Nike commercial, which is fine, but they probably use sweatshops somewhere. It's all equally fucked-up. But some have a more visible reputation for being a bad company, like Wal-Mart or McDonald's. And Hummers. Like, "You will be chastised on blogs for life if you give them your song." I wouldn't give it to them anyway, because Hummers are dumb. But I wish, like, a banana company would ask us to do something. Something innocent, like a nice fruit commercial, or Yoplait. Like Animal Collective and their crayons commercial. That would be nice.