Grizzly Bear On Candor, Democracy And Too Much Music The Brooklyn band talks about its division of labor and how to break through the indie ceiling.
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Grizzly Bear On Candor, Democracy And Too Much Music

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Grizzly Bear On Candor, Democracy And Too Much Music

Grizzly Bear On Candor, Democracy And Too Much Music

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: It's been sounding like that for the past couple of days.



Why don't we step outside for just a minute where it's quieter. So I've come to the 9:30 Club. It's this classic rock venue in downtown Washington, D.C. And the band you hear getting warmed up there is Grizzly Bear. And in a few hours, this wooden floor at the 9:30 Club is just going to be this sea of people. The concert's been sold out for a while.

Grizzly Bear, they're these four guys from Brooklyn who have just been growing in popularity. Their last album, it hit number one on the Billboard Indie charts. Now they've got a new album out call "Shields" they're on tour. The group seems to be on this journey, navigating all the pressures in this modern age of music and really figuring out what it means to be an indie band today.


DANIEL ROSSEN: I'm Daniel from Grizzly Bear.

Hi, my name is Edward.

CHRIS TAYLOR: Chris Taylor.

CHRISTOPHER BEAR: And I'm Christopher Bear.

GREENE: OK, so we've got two Christophers in the band. And then the two lead vocalists are Daniel Rossen and Edward Droste. We were all chatting at the club a few hours before their show last week. It was Edward who started the band back in 2004. And I asked him how it all began.

EDWARD DROSTE: I was feeling a little bit of like the post-college confusion malaise. And I had taken guitar lessons in high school and started messing around on it and writing songs. And through very stereotypical low-fi bedroom, pop story where you just start of like I'm going to make songs in my bedroom. And then I met Chris Bear through a friend. And I had a bunch of songs, he was intrigued and he sort of came in at the tail-end of the first album.

And then, basically, even though the first album was essentially just me, when that came out, almost immediately we became a band. And from then on, it just totally changed to no longer became a bedroom situation.


GRIZZLY BEAR: (Singing) Oh goodness, mercy mine, soldier on but please not so long this time...

GREENE: I'm also struck, because when you guys perform, you're lined up, just a line together. It feels very democratic.

ROSSEN: It is.

DROSTE: Pretty democratic, yeah.


ROSSEN: It's good to have like three other very different creative minds around that push you, as opposed to just being left spinning your own wheels. And the ultimate goal for us is always to make an album that all four of us love and are excited about, which is one of the biggest challenges of all. I mean we're not even thinking about the world or how it's going to be received, or whether fans are going to like it.

It's just like if the four of us can agree on it, then mission accomplished.

GREENE: Is there a song on the album where you really feel like that comes through?

DROSTE: It's like the last song that was really interesting sort of journey of passing hands from person to person.

GREENE: Yes, remind us what song that is.

ROSSEN: This song is called "Sun in Your Eyes." The beginning of "Sun In Your Eyes" is sometimes I would just ask Ed to go to the piano and just play whatever he thought of. And the very first riff of that song was something that he just went and played at the piano, those first few notes.


BEAR: (Singing) You've fallen once, you'll fall again. And lean on...

ROSSEN: Over the course of a few weeks, started playing with it and then wrote a melody to it. And then Chris Bear played these kind of strange jazz chords at one point, and I went over and recorded those. Then we incorporated that into the middle of the song. And it just kind of kept developing in this weird way. And then Chris Taylor took it, kept kind of chipping away at it and adding bits here and there.

By the end, it was the kind of song, like, no one of us could ever have conceived it on our own. It was just really thrilling in that way, where it's like it almost felt like listening to somebody else's music, rather than making your own record.


BEAR: (Singing) Look on your face. The burden's on your back. The sun is in your eyes. Stretched out, far and wide. The light that scorched the sand...

GREENE: As you guys get - have been getting more popular, we're sitting here, you have two sold-out shows in Washington, D.C. Jay-Z came to one of your concerts. And he kind of joked about why is everyone asking why I'm here. I'm here because great music and I like it, and these guys are doing great things for kind of indie.

But the tradition of indie means independent. It means, you know, underground. As you bigger, I mean do you lose that sort of identity in some ways, of being underground and independent? I mean you guys have huge crowds.

TAYLOR: If you're just referring to the record label situation. We are still on an independent record label and we do run our own ship. Now an indie band doesn't really make much money selling records, so you have to be on tour a lot. It's just in order to make a living, you know. I guess if everyone is buying records, maybe indie bands wouldn't have to tour as much.

So things like Spotify I think, you know, although they expose people to music, it doesn't really do anything effectively for the band, unless that person decides to buy a ticket to your show.

DROSTE: You can get a record and legally buy it for sometimes as low as six or seven dollars. And I'm like, that is some mozzarella sticks at like your local diner.



BEAR: (Singing) Yet again, we're the only ones. No surprise, this is often how it's done...

GREENE: Is this as far as you can get, having sold-out your other 9:30 Club. Is there any way to get kind of the next step and explode?

DROSTE: You got to be a Bieber.


GREENE: Got to be a Bieber.

DROSTE: I do feel like there's a ceiling that independent artists hit, and the only way past it is radio - commercial radio. And like, it's not like it's our aspiration. We don't write music with that intention at all. You shouldn't have to, but that is how one reaches people that aren't as curious and going online and looking for new music. That is how you reach people that you may just never reach.

GREENE: And that might mean doing a song that you kind of know would make it on the radio.

DROSTE: It would just have to be by chance. We always write music for ourselves and what we like...

GREENE: You would never make a song knowing it was for...

DROSTE: No, that would be a total false intentions and I think it would ring really insincere to us. And I feel like the audience would be able to tell what's going on here. You know what I mean?


GREENE: We're actually going to be hearing a lot more music this week, as MORNING EDITION explores the challenge of making money in today's music industry.

As for the guys from Grizzly Bear: Edward Droste, Daniel Rossen, Chris Taylor and Christopher Bear, they played on into the night at 9:30 Club. And you can hear that full concert at

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.


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