When your band is referred to as the American equivalent to Radiohead by critics and fans alike, the world takes notice of your absence. For Grizzly Bear, a band whose reputation was forged by both the music blog-industrial complex of the mid-2000s as well as their exploratory affection for restless rumination, that four year hibernation quickly metastasized into rumors of disbandment.
For most, the very pressure to make a return would compromise the recipe for a smooth resurgence. Enter Painted Ruins. Grizzly Bear's follow-up to 2012's Shields (and major label debut) hardly picks up where the foursome left off. In fact, Ruins is the direct result of letting go — perhaps the very ingredient that an indie rock band needs to stay sane in 2017.
While in the middle of their North American tour, we caught up with bassist, producer, chef, and all-around master of chill Chris Taylor about Painted Ruins and what it means to have fun as a band.
Metro Times: The last time Grizzly Bear toured it was 2013 and in support of Shields, which Pitchfork hailed as your most "compositionally adventurous" record. It was looking like it might be Grizzly Bear's last. What has changed since you last hit the road?
Chris Taylor: It's been enough years that I think a lot of things have changed. I mean, not only the world and the political situation, the country is a different place now. You can feel that. That's one side of things. Then another side of things is the music industry has changed pretty considerably. But it's still fun.
MT: Considering those changes, do you feel like you had to make adjustments as a band to reformat your creative process to re-enter the industry while making Painted Ruins?
Taylor: Well, the fact that I engineer and produce all the music helps, so we don't have the usual constrictions of studio time. Basically we just worked on making sure that we had all the songs finished before going to record. We didn't have to worry about writing them or wondering if they were any good or if someone doesn't like a song. Those questions were already settled by the time we got there. Now we can operate whenever it feels best.
And I think we found a way to work with each other in a way that was generally more effective. I think we've grown up and matured as a band and as people more importantly. We're able to make music that excites us without driving each other crazy all the time. After being a band for this long, there's two ways you can go about it. You can just continue to grow apart or you can find ways to better support each other. I'm happy to say we have taken the latter path.
MT: Painted Ruins emulates an anxiousness reminiscent of Radiohead's recent record, A Moon Shaped Pool. Though described as your most accessible record, was this element of anxiousness a conscious tone or more so a subconscious response to the pressure that comes with a "comeback"?
Taylor: We feel pressure every time we make a record. It's no different than any other time. There's new reasons for new kinds of pressure every time you make a record. But I would disagree. I think we have a lot more anxious and tense moments in other records than on Ruins. The urgency you're picking up on is maybe our version of playfulness. It's more like expressive and exploratory and more extroverted in a way. That's sort of fun for us. That's not anxious. You're welcome to read it however you want.
MT: You've probably gotten pretty comfortable not touring. Now that you're back on the road is there anything you miss?
Taylor: I miss surfing. I live in L.A. I miss jam writing. Riding my motorcycle. I go camping a lot. These things are what I love doing the most when I'm home. I like to be in my studio and work on music there. It's kind of challenging making new music on the road. You have to really work it into the day. At home I get to work on music and play outside. That's really what makes me really happy.
MT: In addition to being a bassist and producer, you've also co-written a cookbook, Twenty Dinners. Is there a correlation between the music and food or do they serve different appetites?
Taylor: I think that the connections between making food and making music are pretty endless. The process and the outcome, and how you can craft that process and produce a different outcome with limitless subtlety in the direction you want to go. I can work on music or work with food for 12 hours and just be totally happy. There's only so much you can really control about it. You just have to enjoy what happens.
MT: Do you have an earliest memory of music?
Taylor: I can remember being really excited about Bruce Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A. I had it on cassette tape. We lived in an apartment and I was listening to it on a little stereo in my room. I think I would have been about 5 or 6. I remember being really excited listening to it and stomping on the floor. The neighbor yelled from below saying, "You can't do that," coming upstairs and knocking on the door. I remember that pretty clearly.
MT: Ed Droste recently confessed to Vulture that he didn't think Grizzly Bear would be a band in 2017. In terms of legacy, how do you view the longevity of Grizzly Bear's music?
Taylor: I want the music to live forever. I know that a lot of the process of making music is a very thoughtful process. I think thoughtful music has maybe a better chance of sticking around longer. I feel super lucky that anyone at all has heard of my band. That's not lost on me. It's a wild thing. I start to think about just one person coming to your show is a fucking honor. We've played shows for one or two people multiple times. That was a long time ago, but it's not guaranteed someone is going to come see your music or care about it all. The fact that anyone cares about it, I feel like for me, is mission accomplished.
Grizzly Bear will perform on Tuesday, Nov. 28 at Royal Oak Music Theatre; 318 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-399-2980; royaloakmusictheatre.com; Doors at 7:30 p.m.; Tickets start at $35.