Grizzly Bear: Painstaking Pop Craft The advance praise for the graceful rockers' new album reached such a height that the critical backlash began even before it was released. Band members Edward Droste and Daniel Rossen discuss Veckatimest with host Jacki Lyden.

Grizzly Bear: Painstaking Pop Craft

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The Beach Boys' Brian Wilson once called his compositions for the album Smile a teenage symphony to God. But when Rolling Stone magazine compares a band's work to Brian Wilson's, you can be sure it's something to behold. The band in question is called Grizzly Bear. Here's how a review describes the song "Two Weeks."

(Reading) The gorgeous choral harmonies sound like a teenage symphony to God, as conceived by Radiohead-loving postgrads.

(Soundbite of song, "Two Weeks")

Unidentified Man #1 (Singer): (Singing) Save up all the days, a routine malaise. Just like yesterday, I told you I would stay.

LYDEN: The new CD from Grizzly Bear is called "Veckatimest," named for an island off the coast of Massachusetts. And we're going to welcome band member Edward Droste. Hi, Edward.

Mr. EDWARD DROSTE (Musician, Grizzly Bear): Hi, how are you?

LYDEN: And Daniel Rossen joins us from our New York studios. Hi, Daniel.

Mr. DANIEL ROSSEN (Musician, Grizzly Bear): Hi, thanks for having us.

LYDEN: Well, we're glad to have you both here. So, comparisons to Brian Wilson. Not bad for your third album. Were you consciously going for a (unintelligible) vibe?

Mr. DROSTE: No. No - I mean, that's a real honor to be compared to Brain Wilson, that's amazing. I mean, it's funny actually because this record, in some ways, has a lot less harmonies than our last. It's a lot more pared down in some ways in that regard. And I guess it's a little clearer now, so.

Mr. ROSSEN: I mean, we all enjoy singing in the band. So, that might - and everyone gets a chance to sing. So, there are these moments of four-part harmonies that come in, which may be where the comparisons are being made.

Mr. DROSTE: Yeah.

(Soundbite of song, "Two Weeks")

Unidentified Man #1 (Singer): (Singing) Every time you try, quarter half the mile.

LYDEN: Edward, I'm curious about the lyrics in "Two Weeks." You sing about a routine malaise, a momentary phase. What's behind these lyrics?

Mr. DROSTE: Actually, it's just a simple reference to taking time off from all the stresses of life and trying to save up all those vacation days. It's a very simple subject matter, but it has a sort of sad undercurrent.

LYDEN: Could I just ask you about the song "Cheerleader"? I like it, and I just want to ask you a little bit about it. What's going on here?

Mr. DROSTE: "Cheerleader" is sort of about being in the role of having to sort of convince yourself and your loved one that everything's all right even when it's not, being the cheerleader in a relationship even when it's dying.

LYDEN: Let's hear a little bit.

(Soundbite of song, "Cheerleader")

Unidentified Man #2 (Singer): (Singing) Please don't feign the rose, the rose. Always the same, I know, I know. I'm cheerleading myself…

LYDEN: Okay. We're going to do something highly unorthodox here, and I really hope you'll forgive us, but just bear with me, okay? At points, this song almost sounds like Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" deconstructed. And I'd like to hear this song at twice the speed for just a moment.

(Soundbite of song, "Cheerleader")

Unidentified Man #2 (Singer): (Singing) (Unintelligible).

(Soundbite of laughter)

LYDEN: Okay. I mean, could you hear a girl group, like The Ronettes, doing this?

Mr. ROSSEN: Yeah, you could see that. It's a little chipmunky, but yeah, totally.

Mr. DROSTE: Yeah, to a certain degree. I mean, we've - I don't know. I think we all have a certain interest in girl groups and classic soul. And I think the fact that we harmonize so much kind of took us in that direction in a funny way. But I mean, in some ways that doing a sort of soul feel has evolved from past songs. Like we did this cover of "He Hit Me," a Carole King song…

LYDEN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DROSTE: …and in some ways, the feel of this song, I kind of feel it came out of the way we did that song and kind of reinterpreting sort of soul feels from the past.

LYDEN: I'm talking with Edward Droste and Daniel Rossen of the band Grizzly Bear. You guys are a Williamsburg, Brooklyn-based band. I really need to know where you came up with Grizzly Bear.

Mr. ROSSEN: Grizzly Bear was just a funny old nickname that someone had for me, and it was sort of - at the time when I was doing the first album, it seemed sort of hilarious to name myself that since I'm sort of the opposite of that. I'm not very hairy or a giant. So yeah, that's sort of where it came from. It was before - little did I know how popular animal names would be for bands at the time, so…

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #3 (Singer): (Singing) (Unintelligible).

LYDEN: So, a lot of this music sounds complex and really well thought out and planned. How long does it take to perfect one of the more complicated tracks here?

Mr. ROSSEN: This is Daniel speaking. A lot of these songs came together over, really, months. I mean, we don't really record in a standard way. So, especially with this album, some of the songs would come in very barebones form, and we would kind of record and track and overlay over the course of months to really find the full shape of the song.

But in the past, I mean, we've had a real tendency to kind of over-layer and make everything grand and huge, and on this record, we really tried as much as possible, in a song like "Foreground," for instance, to keep it as simple as possible because when we heard Edward sing that, it just seemed so beautiful just as it was, and we didn't want to obscure it and make it too huge.

(Soundbite of song, "Foreground")

Mr. DROSTE: (Singing) Take on another shaft, palms in the middle, hands in the middle. Walk out another road. Something is muffled, another chuckle. This is a foreground.

LYDEN: The advance press of this new CD reached such a height that there was almost a critical backlash. Before the poor thing could even get released, the same Rolling Stone interview that I quoted earlier said it's already a frontrunner for 2009's most-gushed-over art rock sound. What are your thoughts about the music's already been sort of picked over and analyzed?

Mr. ROSSEN: I mean, it can make you a little bit paranoid if you look too much. But I mean, it's great. I mean, I think we're really happy that for the most part, people are really enjoying it. And I think it's inevitable, I guess, if something's out this early.

Mr. DROSTE: Well, it leaked, I think was another major…

Mr. ROSSEN: Yeah, yeah.

Mr. DROSTE: The thing is that it had a good three months for people to sort of pick over it and discuss it. It's not like the traditional release, where it just comes out and you suddenly hear about it via a review, and it's sort of a fresh thing. It's like everyone sort of - a lot of people had already processed it already before they even read the review.

So, the art of the album is changing a little because people can, you know, delete the songs they don't want or put it on shuffle or take it off their computer after one listen to a low quality leak or whatnot. But that said, music can spread further and reach more people around the world, and you know, getting notes from people in India or somewhere far off that we'll probably never get to play at, you know, enthusiastic fan mail from those places is just amazing, and that's purely a product of the Internet.

LYDEN: Edward Droste and Daniel Rossen are two of the members of the band Grizzly Bear. Their new CD was just released this past week on Warp Records. It's called Veckatimest. And you can go to to hear full, in-studio performances with Grizzly Bear. And we thank you both so much, guys.

Mr. DROSTE: Thank you.

Mr. ROSEN: Thank you for having us.

(Soundbite of music)

LYDEN: And that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

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