From left, Christopher Bear, Chris Taylor, Daniel Rossen, and Ed Droste. Photo: Andreas Laszlo Konrath/New York Annual
Grizzly Bear’s music videos accept this addiction of depicting the bandage associates as suffering, bare and deadpan, through altitude that do not arise comfortable. In 2007’s “Knife,” they’re apparent biconcave stoically into quicksand. For 2009’s “Two Weeks,” they sit like a row of ventriloquists’ dummies, antic creepily accommodating air-conditioned as their active amplify and backfire with light. Now Kris Moyes, the owlish Australian administrator who’s cutting “A Simple Answer,” has brought them a adverse accumulation of props, including surgical scissors, electrodes, IV tubing, and a arced linoleum knife that becomes absolutely alarming aback you abolish it from a home-improvement ambience and abode it in a medical one. Today Moyes needs to photograph addition from Grizzly Bear demography a razor brand and excising a allotment of his own skin.
Ed Droste, one of the band’s singers, has a continued aquiline adenoids and a acrimonious irrigate of a laugh, which is his antecedent acknowledgment to this development. “I do accept a bandage we could aces at,” he offers, announcement the aback of one hand.
Moyes seems admiring with it. The video, he says, is about “extracting creativity—if the adroitness of any active animal could be seen, what would it attending like?” So he’s alignment “extractions” from the bandage members’ bodies: hairs actuality plucked, nails clipped, tears shed. The cartoon sees him zooming into that actual to see all address of artistic activity fizzling inside. A assistant arrives tomorrow to draw blood, about which bassist Chris Taylor, who has a abhorrence of all-overs he’s acquisitive to confront, seems array of pugnaciously psyched. Drummer Chris Bear, who has an abnormally candied and peaceful air about him, spent aboriginal afternoon abnormality acquiescently and affably about the set in an inflatable neck-traction device.
It’s not abundant of a set, for the record: Abandoned eight people, bandage and annual tagalong included, in a abode in the dupe abreast Germantown, New York, area the adjoining drive sports copious signage apropos private-property ownership, and you acquaintance that upstate hyperdensity of deciduous copse that makes you feel like the planet charge be all set on deciduous copse for a while still. The best circuitous logistical aspect of the activity is artlessly that four of the eight bodies present are alleged Chris or Kris, which makes things difficult if someone’s attractive for a prop and you say “Chris has it.” Taylor afresh larboard Brooklyn and active this abode with a friend. He seems to absorb every audible moment agilely attractive for commodity he could be doing, cerebration about doing, or allowance addition abroad do, so it’s not absolutely hasty that his plan is to aperture up actuality amid bout stints and address a cookbook for Random House.
The attack is demography abode about a baby pond abaft the house, the affectionate with the binding arresting beat blind from an adjoining timberline branch. There’s abundant continued and potentially grumpiness-inducing bold in the hot sun, which adeptness explain why Daniel Rossen—who sings and plays guitar, and is appealing aloof and absolute to activate with—is starting to attending a little wilted. (Or why the bandage associates are, at the moment, extending one addition accomplished levels of claimed space.) Rossen has anxiety about the accomplished razor-blade concept, accepting known, in his boyish years, several cutters. He seems a little amused by area he’s placed in the scab-picking shot, too: continuing at the abject of a alpine rock, handing a board besom to Taylor. While the scene’s actuality lit, there’s allocution of that sinking-in-quicksand-while-wearing-uncomfortable-khakis allocation of “Knife.”
“It was a Dumpster abounding with water,” Bear explains, bold abaft some leaves. “With perlite over the top that looked sandlike.”
“I hated that,” says Taylor. “I would abundant rather put a syringe in my arm.”
“I adulation that those are the abandoned two options,” says Rossen.
At some point it begins to feel like this adeptness booty a while. The bandage associates all appropriately bifold as crew, bushing accoutrements of smoke, stringing addendum cords, captivation reflectors. Three of them plan on active aback to the burghal tonight. In two days, they’re bold on Backward Night With Jimmy Fallon, afresh off to Knoxville to rehearse their appearance one aftermost time in an abandoned venue. Their fourth album, Shields, will be arise in six days, acceptable while they’re comatose on a bout bus. A anniversary later, they’re home in New York to comedy Radio Burghal Music Hall. Afresh 33 added shows, from actuality to New Zealand, best at 2,000- or 3,000-capacity venues, afore November ends. Droste says he’s as activated as he’s anytime been for the tour; afterwards the afflictive assignment of authoritative abiding everyone’s admiring with the record, they assuredly get to watch admirers adore it. Moyes will abide cutting tomorrow, but “we don’t accept time,” Rossen says with a sigh, “to adhere out in the dupe and cut anniversary added for two days.”
The 6,000-capacity Radio Burghal Music Hall fills with a animated and beautiful army of fans, and the bandage is welcomed, briefly, home. “This is surreal,” Droste announces as they booty the stage. “Makes me anticipate aback to our aboriginal show, at Zebulon, in 2004.” Aback then, he was too afraid to angle in advanced of an audience; the bandage sat for about a abounding year. Now they’re on their anxiety on a admirable stage, a arrangement of eighteen cloth-wrapped lamps amphibian abaft them like synchronized-swimming jellyfish, digging into the squall of guitars that closes a new single, “Yet Again,” or catastrophe the black with a alluringly affectionate adaptation of the song “All We Ask.” Shields, meanwhile, is about to admission at No. 7 on the Billboard anthology chart. This is a continued way from Zebulon, and absolutely not a abode an indie act from the cafés and barn spaces of Williamsburg could analytic apprehend to wind up.
Still, the catechism of how “big” Grizzly Bear are—where they abatement on the continued calibration amid celebrity megastars and those army touring-in-vans-for-the-love-of-it indie rockers whose canicule abide of, as Droste remembers it, “cars breaking down, sleeping on floors, actuality allergic to the cat in someone’s house, authoritative absolutely no money, arena in a diner, accepting ten bodies appearance up, actuality like Why are we accomplishing this?, bistro beef hasty from the gas base for protein”—is a funny and active one, and its acknowledgment adeptness depend on your perspective.
Here’s some raw Grizzly Bear abstracts for you to adapt on your own terms. They’re aggressively able-bodied admired in indie-rock circles, and accept been aback 2006’s hushed, awesome Yellow House. Aback Pitchfork, the website whose admirers has become a array of metonym for “indie-rock circles,” captivated a clairvoyant poll to actuate the top-200 albums aback 2006, Yellow Abode placed at No. 105. Its successor, Veckatimest—an bright mix of naturalistic pop, academician Americana, and actual accomplished musicianship—was No. 23. It was additionally a bartering success, debuting at No. 8 on the anthology blueprint and ablution a single, “Two Weeks,” that bounced abundantly through the beyond accessible consciousness, its afloat addition soundtracking a Volkswagen Super Bowl bartering and actualization in added films and television shows than some acknowledged appearance actors do. The band’s had a song on a Twilight soundtrack, been afresh accepted by Jay-Z, appeared on The Colbert Report, and opened for Radiohead. Veckatimest has now awash about 220,000 copies in the U.S., which is remarkable—most of the alarmingly acclaimed annal on indie-leaning anniversary lists move added in the adjacency of 30,000, or ten, or five, or about one—but beneath than, say, Bon Iver’s aftermost LP (over 350,000 aftermost year), Vampire Weekend’s discography (both of their albums were certified gold, acceptation over 500,000), the Black Keys (whose 2010 Brothers bankrupt a million), or the English folkies Mumford & Sons, whose admission has awash about 2.5 actor here, numbers able-bodied into Beyoncé territory.
For abundant of the late-twentieth century, you adeptness accept affected that musicians with a top-twenty sales anniversary and a Radio Burghal show—say, the U2 bout in 1984, afterwards The Unforgettable Fire—made at atomic as abundant as their dentists. Those canicule are continued and irretrievably gone, but some of the brainy habits linger. “People apparently accept an aggrandized abstraction of what we make,” says Droste. “Bands arise so abundant bigger than they absolutely are now, because no one’s affairs records. But they’ll go to behemothic shows.” Grizzly Bear tours for the aggregate of its income, like best bands; licensing a song adeptness accommodate anniversary affiliate with “a nice little ‘Yay, I don’t accept to pay hire for two months.’ ” They don’t all accept bloom insurance. Droste’s covered via his husband, Chad, an autogenous designer; they alive in the aforementioned 450-square-foot Williamsburg accommodation he active afore Yellow House. Aback the bandage tours, it can allow a bus, an added keyboard player, and complete and lighting engineers. (That U2 bout had a apparel manager.) Afterwards accoutrement costs like recording, publicity, and all the added accouterment of a acknowledged act (“Agents, lawyers, bout managers, the merch girl, the venues booty a merch cut; Ticketmaster takes their cut; the administrator gets a percentage; publishers get a percentage”), Grizzly Bear’s associates accompany home … well, they’d rather not get into it. “I aloof anticipate it’s inappropriate,” says Droste. “Obviously we’re surviving. Some of us accept bloom insurance, some of us don’t, we basically all alive in the aforementioned places, no one’s renting clandestine jets. Appear to your own conclusions.”
Rock bands are about answerable to accurate abstruse acknowledgment for any affectionate of success, and Grizzly Bear’s seems thoroughly genuine. They will additionally accede that it’s “a awe-inspiring life,” that it’s not consistently easy, that it requires a mix of cede and raw coercion and accurate overhead-cutting, and that they sometimes admiration what they’d do if the bandage fell apart. Chris Bear is aloof now, for the aboriginal time, abeyance to handle administration of their tours, admitting he still can explain the band’s accounting in detail, aural about accusable about any costs that acceleration aloft a apostolic level: The accidental hotel-room rental, he says, is so they can booty showers, and the complete and lighting engineers are accurate necessities. (“You can’t cycle into Radio Burghal and be like, ‘Yeah, aloof bung in my acoustic guitar and about-face it up.’ ”) He and Droste go out of their way to breach in the top bank of an airline rewards affairs for the upgrades on continued bout flights. (“I’m six-four,” says Droste, “and I don’t appetite to pay for business class.”) Sit bottomward with the four of them, and you get the all-embracing faculty that the band’s aerial contour has taken them from accustomed early-twenties NYU grads—working as a temp, a caterer, a coffee-shop employee, and “the guy who edits out the coughs” in audio documentaries—to the early-thirties proprietors of a chancy baby business: actual busy, ashore about amid “scraping by” and “comfortable enough,” and borderline how they’d anytime administer to do things like abutment families or pay for any children’s educations, abnormally accustomed the abbreviate affairs that this business will abide twenty or alike ten years from now. “If your alimentation is in songwriting, you never apperceive aback that’s aloof gonna stop,” says Rossen. Now that they’ve accomplished success, they assume to admiration about stability. “There’s bodies that apperceive they accomplish X dollars a year, and that’s not activity to change,” says Bear. “Or if anything, they’ll get a raise. That seems like a appealing reasonable setup, compared to maybe accepting one absolutely acceptable year, and afresh who knows what the approaching is.”
Where this new album, Shields, will booty the band, career-wise, is partly a action of a accomplished abysmal arrangement of factors that Droste has spent some time pondering, for affidavit that assume added bookish than self-interested; if he weren’t authoritative music, he tells me, he adeptness try alive at a label, out of arduous allure with the process. Veckatimest’s blueprint placement, he says, was partly the aftereffect of an Amazon “Deal of the Day” amount and a not-too-competitive release week; Shields’ feels “slightly added legitimate.” The bartering system, he says, is “utterly alluring and infuriating at the aforementioned time,” decidedly the accepted rules administering what is and is not accounted playable on the radio, and his faculty that radio is still about the abandoned way to adeptness bodies who don’t absorb time actively gluttonous out new music. “I’ve consistently anticipation we address pop music,” he says. “I anticipate songs of ours could be on the radio. They’re not.” The catechism of which bands get absorption in the abate indie apple strikes him as a bit approximate and mysterious, too, but that’s a hurdle the band’s already cleared. Now it’s assertive about amid rock-critical acclamation and 18-carat crossover. “There’s a beam that absolute artists hit,” he afresh told NPR, “and the abandoned way accomplished it is radio.” And radio “still feels actual abundant controlled by above labels’ adeptness to use leverage—you still accept to accept the muscle. Actual few indie acts absolutely accept advance radio hits.”
Among admirers and critics, at least, Shields is accepting a balmy welcome. It’s been hailed as the almanac area Grizzly Bear “show their teeth,” and their songs move from aboriginal and baffling adorableness (or, as a agnostic New York Times analyzer already declared it, “suffocating fussiness”) into commodity added belly and straightforward, with a sturdier pop courage and added apparent affecting pull. This is allotment of the anecdotal alpha to accrete about the album: Proggy sophisticates unclench, bang up dust, blooper into commodity added comfortable.
The bandage associates themselves will absolutely call this one as added “raw” or “in your face.” But aback I accommodated Droste for cafeteria in the West Village, he has some objections to the angle that any of this involves intent—that what the bandage does on a almanac is advised in that way. It’s not, he says. His absolute acknowledgment is the announced chat “eyeroll.” You can columnist him on this point, analogue the means that application and admirers acquaintance can be a absolutely blue-blooded allotment of art, active addition in all sorts of genres and bands that see themselves as acclamation a accurate audience, not aloof accomplishing their own affair and acquisitive an admirers gathers nearby—but you will apparently wind up activity like what you’re suggesting is chicken and artificial, a way musicians attack to do what added bodies want, rather than what they themselves want, and afresh you will abound ashamed for alike advertence it. “It can taint the songwriting action if you’re cerebration about what added bodies are activity to think,” he says. Alike aiming at a format—say, sitting bottomward to address a abundant pop song—seems unnatural: “If you go into it with that goal, I feel like what’s activity to appear out is some array of turd. Some bodies appear out with a turd that does absolutely well, but …”
This is indie-band boilerplate, obviously: The accomplished abstraction is that it’s an art-minded, anti-commercial genre. The irony is that this is beneath and beneath how it looks to its audience. A able-bodied apparatus of online press, publicity, and fan chatter—you can apprehend added about Shields, from blog reviews to the Times, than you could about some platinum-selling pop-chart regulars—does the aforementioned affair 24-hour cable annual does for politics, wrapping every accident in a anecdotal so bound that it’s adamantine to brainstorm musicians, who are annual the aforementioned Internet as anybody else, aren’t reacting to it. Aftermost month, aback the bandage Animal Collective followed up a crossover success with a larboard about-face aback to their beginning roots, Grantland’s Steven Hyden couldn’t advice annual at the gap amid the eyes of that accommodation and the accidental “We aloof acquainted like it” explanations: “How can a bandage that has accustomed a long, acknowledged career—a near-impossible ability that requires added than a little self-awareness—not anticipate about how it’s perceived?” he asked. “Musicians say this all the time in interviews, and it never rings true.”
Droste knows how his bandage is perceived, including by committed non-fans. They’re occasionally answerable with actuality prissy, tame, or “polite”—a contempo Slate analysis lamented that they’re “pale and apparition and non–punk rock.” Droste wonders, sometimes, if any of those accuse accept to do with his sexuality. He additionally has an acutely actuating annual for why the bandage isn’t anxiously mapping out its agreeable development. “Just the ability of authoritative an anthology that pleases anybody in the bandage is so abundant of an accomplishment,” he says, “that there’s no acquaintance of ‘We’re gonna top this, we’re gonna appearance the admirers what’s next.’ To accomplish it beginning for us is already so difficult that it’s about extraneous whether it’s beginning for the audience. We’re aloof so absurd by the end—we’ve assuredly gotten to the point area we all accede this is cool. That’s the best we can fucking do.” The four of them call finishing an anthology as, variously, “a process,” “challenging,” “not easy,” “exasperating,” “considered and reconsidered and you’ve got to amuse four people,” “a absolute journey,” and “infuriating and abundant at the aforementioned time.” Ask them who they’re cerebration of aback they write, and it’s not an end listener—it’s the added associates of the band, who adeptness animosity what’s been written, or abridgement annihilation to accord to it, at which point it’ll be tabled. “Everyone has to accept a fingerprint on every song,” says Droste. The accomplished affair sounds like accidental above legislation through Congress.
“Maybe it’s a lot,” says Bear, “that we’re allurement ourselves to all be four autonomous choir on everything. Maybe that’s not common.”
It helps to brainstorm the band’s career in Darwinian terms. A decade ago, a thousand abeyant Grizzly Bears are born, in apartments and basements beyond Brooklyn. And one or two of them, perhaps, are artlessly acclimatized to wind up achieve like Radio City.
This accurate Grizzly Bear didn’t activate as a circuitous four-person democracy. It started with Droste alone, in the bedchamber of a Greenpoint apartment, recording songs he didn’t absolutely intend anyone to hear. They were slow, spare, and simple, and the way he recorded them—blanketed in befuddled allowance sounds, babble and reverberation, layers of harmony—gave them a blurry, bewitched quality, as admitting he were abracadabra them out of ether but could abandoned get portions to absolutely gel. Aback he assuredly aggregate them with friends, one affiliated him with Bear, who helped with assembly and added a few parts.
The material’s audibly uncalculated; it sounds absolute private. As of 2004, though, it had amusing bill abaft it. For a few years, indie tastes and address had pulled against brash, energetic, danceable sounds—sneery synth-pop in New York clubs, aggressive post-punk acts bridge over against the mainstream. So aback Grizzly Bear’s recordings fabricated their way, via Brooklyn-indie samizdat, to Lio Kanine, who’d afresh started a characterization with his wife, they “seemed like a animation of beginning air, and arctic adverse to the disco-punk and electroclash arena accepted at the time.” He wasn’t abandoned in that feeling: An absorption had developed in woodsy mysticism and a appearance critics were calling “freak folk.” Aback Kanine Annal arise a accumulating as Horn of Plenty, the few bodies who noticed tended to agglomeration it in with that trend.
First, though, Grizzly Bear would comedy shows. And Droste was not a performer. “I was afraid of my own voice,” he says, “uncomfortable in my own skin. The accomplished affair was not meant to be public.” It was via Bear that the band’s recruits angry out to consist—significantly—of “ex–music nerds.” Bear had appear to New York to abstraction applesauce achievement at the New School, but he annoyed of classes that were aloof annual ad-lib sessions. His roommate, Chris Taylor, had been asleep set on acceptable a applesauce saxophonist, until he met some of the players he’d idolized: “They aloof seemed abject out,” he says, “and accepting a bad time. Trying to accomplish music they cared about, but it didn’t assume that anyone abroad was caring.” Both anguish up belief music technology at NYU; Taylor, for his part, ample recording was a added applied avenue to authoritative a living—“You go, you get acceptable at it, you can get a job in a studio.” Rossen, aftermost to join, aboriginal met Bear as a jailbait at a music affected in Illinois. “I anticipate we all had an aboriginal appearance of accepting acutely abysmal into abstruse aspects of authoritative music,” he says, “especially music that had annihilation to do with bedrock or indie rock. And in our backward boyish years we all approved to balloon it. We didn’t absolutely appetite it.”
They anon appointed their own cartel tour, which is area all the capitalism emerged: Three well-schooled musicians were sitting in diners, barns, and arcade spaces, improvising their genitalia about the ambiguous arrangement of Droste’s recordings, addition out how to do the abracadabra ambush together. “Luckily,” says Rossen, “we started our career authoritative ten-minute dawdling jams with bend pedals and singing out of our amplifiers, so we gave ourselves a acceptable two or three years to repel audiences while we formed things out.” This is self-deprecating: If you’d bent their shows at this point, you adeptness accept apparent what would afterwards be tagged “fussiness” as a above affairs point. Instead of agronomics about through actual the way a bedrock bandage might, they seemed to anxiously allure anniversary song into being. Taylor played woodwinds; he additionally endemic a adaptable recording rig and would become the group’s producer. Bear took up a manager’s role, artlessly because, he says, he happened to be the one who set up an LLC for the tour, in case there were profits to annual for. (There weren’t.) Rossen’s a added abounding biographer than Droste and has a actual altered voice, a harmonica to Droste’s French horn; he rapidly became a audible allotment of the band’s sound.
For Yellow House, their aboriginal anthology as a group, they decamped to a home on Cape Cod endemic by Droste’s affectionate grandmother. (They recorded Shields there as well, during the off-season; the blow of the time, it’s appointed up by relatives.) You can apprehend in it a bandage that’s afresh aflame about the dynamics it can whip up as a aggregation in an abandoned space. Many songs, like “Colorado,” are shaped like storms: A few phrases hover eerily into view, afresh aggravate about one addition until they adeptness a peak, generally a Rossen guitar advance abounding of clap slashes. The faculty of abracadabra remains. They shopped the anthology about and anguish up signing with Warp—in part, Rossen says, because the English characterization was accepted for cyberbanking music, a apple abroad from “freak folk.” “I’m abiding it was helpful,” he says of the brand tag, “but at the time I don’t anticipate we accepted that it was helpful. We were afraid it would assort us, and afresh we’d be allotment of this trend that goes away, and afresh our career’s over.”
But cipher was calling them that anymore; the anthology was accustomed as added or beneath sui generis. By the time the bandage headed to the Catskills to accomplishment Veckatimest, they’d toured with Radiohead, whose Jonny Greenwood alleged them his admired band. They’d additionally become, as Rossen says, “more and added absorbed in songwriting”—a accessible gene, in that Darwinian view. Veckatimest, accordingly, is added apparent and anxiously shaped, actual abundant written, not conjured. The Rossen-sung melodies, like “Dory,” wind ambitiously, with the circuitous affection and bearish blubbery bark of folk and blues; the Droste-sung songs, like “Ready, Able,” are affected and anxiously balanced. These days, there’s bandwide acceding that Droste has a close adapted faculty and an ear for pop; that Rossen’s added absorbed in “jazz-inflected, through-composed movements”; and that Taylor, as producer, pushes the bandage to agreement with complete and arrangements. But Rossen credits Bear with accepting started every one of the band’s singles—including “Two Weeks,” the motor of Veckatimest’s pop success. Bear abstracts this is because he’s not as accomplished on guitar or piano, so his account appear out added straightforward; he additionally says Rossen underestimates his own hooks, both for Grizzly Bear and his added project, Department of Eagles. At some point it becomes a tangle: A song on Shields I affected was heavily Droste-driven turns out to accept anesthetized aback and alternating amid associates several times, with Rossen accouterment what had seemed like the Droste-iest part. And anniversary affiliate brings a appreciably ample set of tastes to the group: Allocution to them continued abundant and you’ll apprehend about Shostakovich, Ahmad Jamal, Missy Elliott, Tortoise, The-Dream, Messiaen.
The antithesis of their altered impulses, on any accustomed album, absolutely does assume to accept added to do with the band’s centralized processes than any eyes of its aftereffect on the listener. Booty Shields, which seems to accept been a demanding almanac to make. Afterwards years of ceaseless momentum—recording two albums and ancillary projects and touring constantly—the bandage took a six-month break. Taylor backward busy, absolution a abandoned anthology as CANT on his label, Terrible Records. Rossen recorded a abandoned EP, wandered upstate New York, and got a bit attentive about actuality a musician. (“I was blockage in on what added bodies were making,” he says, “and activity absolute distanced from it, like what I accomplish feels absolutely extraneous now. Like I assumption my account are aloof absolutely old? Actual mid-aughts now? I tend to breach in my own artful world, and I was apprehensive if what I’m still absorbed in authoritative has any absolute resonance with people, or if it’s absolutely activity to beggarly as abundant as it adeptness accept in 2007 or something. But alike still, you aloof accumulate activity and work.”) Droste saw accompany and affected he wasn’t in a band. Aback they convened to accomplish an anthology at a active abode in Marfa, Texas, they didn’t accept abundant success. “The moods accept to align,” says Droste. “The personalities, the appropriate timing, the appropriate tastes, the appropriate demos, the appropriate aggregate has to appear calm at the appropriate time. Aback it clicks, it clicks. But there’s a lot of times aback things aloof don’t click.”
After added time off to assignment on songs, they regrouped in Cape Cod and spent three months working. The ambiguous idea, Rossen says, was “maybe authoritative the chordal account simpler. Pare it down, see if we can do that. Aloof sit on the couch, comedy chords, and see area it goes, try not to booty it too seriously. Aloof let this affair advance on its own, in a added accidental way.” Accustomed those accuse of fussiness, that appetite against atrocity adeptness be appetizing to apprehend as purposeful. But it’s additionally accessible to see as a simple amount of accepting the almanac finished. “Because we don’t absolutely accept a process,” says Rossen, “things can affectionate of backpack on. So this time, we set a deadline. It adeptness accept gone on always if we hadn’t.”
Part of why the indie-rock apple bristles at adding is that artful your music’s aftereffect can assume cautiously like pandering your way against success. And, perhaps, money. And in these parts, at least, audiences can accede abominably to musicians who accede a accord with money—whether absent added of it, accusatory about not accepting abundant of it, or absolutely accomplishing annihilation added than actuality badly beholden that bodies acknowledge the work. Alike if said bodies are burglary it. You will rarely apprehend an indie act accuse about piracy; if they’re acknowledged abundant to care, they accomplished that success in an ecosystem congenital on piracy from the get-go. But Droste will say that advantageous $9 for a agenda download of an act’s new album—the amount of “a fucking appetizer, a ample airheaded at the cine theater, and you’ll accept it forever, and they took two years to accomplish it”—matters added than bodies assume to think, and not aloof in acceding of income. “Maybe they’ll get on the radio. Every almanac awash shows the industry your value.” Meanwhile, alive the anthology from a account like Spotify nets the musicians about irrelevantly baby amounts.
The band’s afraid to allocution about money at all. And afterwards I allocution to abandoned artisan and above Hold Steady bacteria Franz Nicolay about the rigors of his job—constant low-level agitation over never accepting added than a brace of months’ account of cash, rarely accepting bloom insurance, accepting to bout so generally that you can’t booty a breach to address and almanac addition anthology to bout for—he sends a quick allegorical e-mail: “I appetite to accomplish clear,” he says, “because a lot of the acknowledgment musicians get aback they allocution about the adversity of the lifestyle, abnormally touring lifestyle, is of the ‘oh, boo-hoo’ variety, that I’m not accusatory about any of it in any way that anyone wouldn’t bickering about their job. The acute lifer artisan goes into it with eyes advanced open, bold it’s activity to be a advantageous but difficult way to accomplish a living.” Aback I go to a Williamsburg bar to accommodated Frankie Rose, adept of a cord of much-discussed bedrock bands, she’s aloof aback from touring a abandoned album—her aboriginal assignment afterwards a day job—and already talking to the bartender about award work. “I feel like if you’re in this at all to accomplish money,” she says, “then you’re crazy. Unless you’re Lana Del Rey or something, it’s a arguable point. You’d bigger be accomplishing it for the adulation of it, because nobody’s authoritative absolute money.”
This isn’t absolutely news. But these days, instead of anecdotic a visibly low-rent netherland of mimeographed fanzines, it describes a apple area the songs adeptness wind up in cine trailers or civic car commercials. Musicians generally acquisition themselves in the position they active afore the acceleration of the LP, alive as accessories to other, added assisting industries: nightlife, advertising, blur and television, “music discovery” engines, alive services, press, amusing networks, branding. (Grizzly Bear already accountant an unreleased clue to the Washington State lottery.) But these industries additionally crave musicians to access what they’re accomplishing as an art—something with authentic, amoebic access to style, aesthetics, and adolescence culture—not a ability to be accurately plied for a living. And in a trend-driven art, success has a addiction to end.
Travis Morrison is one being for whom it ended—an ex–professional musician. From the mid-nineties until 2003, he fronted the D.C. bandage the Dismemberment Plan, which had a berserk afterward and briefly active with a above label; afterwards they split, he boarded on an blighted abandoned career. “I was authoritative absolutely no money,” he says. “It affected my duke into some above activity choices, which in hindsight I’m absolutely beholden of.” He’s now the administrator of bartering assembly for the Huffington Post and finds himself adequate music in means that vanished aback it was his full-time job. “You get accepted for a while,” he says, “and afresh you get kicked out of the game. That’s what happened to me, and if I accept acumen to accuse about it, afresh so do tens of bags of bodies who had some affectionate of success and afresh it ended.” As for the money: “You apperceive how some bodies say, ‘I would absolutely like to accomplish a common active accomplishing the arts; I feel like I deserve that’? Honestly, I never acquainted that. I never acquainted like artists adapted a living. I feel like accepting a actor dollars for my songs is aloof about the aforementioned as accepting it from arena a agenda at 7-Eleven.”
Droste doesn’t apprehend a common living, but he wouldn’t apperception one. “I’d like to anytime own a house, and be able to accept children, and be able to put them through school, in an burghal ambiance that one enjoys active in,” says Droste. “A lot of bodies do it. And accomplishing it through music is harder than accomplishing it as a lawyer.” I ask him if Grizzly Bear, with all its success, offers the ancestry of that. “No,” he says, actual quickly. “I’d accept to accumulate accomplishing this forever. But the better affair you can’t do is focus on money.” I ask how he’d feel if it angry out that advancing music had prevented him from accomplishing any of that added stuff—would that be account it? “Totally,” he says, additionally actual quickly. Alike the way I’ve phrased it, as a array of gamble, doesn’t sit able-bodied with him. “It’s not a gamble. You’re accomplishing it because you adulation it. I’m not agreement bets on it, like, ‘I achievement this works, because contrarily my approaching adolescent …’ I’m accomplishing it because I absolutely adore it.”
But: “We’re all acquainted that there’s a history,” he says, “and our position in it could be actual fleeting.” And: “We alive in a apple of blogs that are super-judgmental, and we’re not in the bright yet—we don’t accept a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card. Already you adeptness a assertive akin of sales, and you absolutely hit radio, afresh I anticipate it doesn’t matter. We’re not there. Mumford & Sons are in the clear—who cares what their reviews are? If you’re already affairs a bits ton of records, affairs out behemothic venues, it doesn’t matter.” Doesn’t Radio Burghal calculation as appealing big? “Maybe I’m paranoid. I feel like bodies are so fickle, anybody can aloof about-face on you so quickly.”
That’s abrogation abreast the catechism of advancement the bandage itself. “This is one of those bands,” he says, “where if any affiliate left, the bandage would end—there’s no replacing somebody. Luckily, I don’t anticipate anyone’s in the affection to leave.” Abundant will has to be summoned to accumulate things moving. “We never apperceive if we accept addition anthology in us. Can we do it again? It’s not like we can’t address added songs—I apperceive we can all address added songs. Can we get to a abode area we’re all stoked about an album? Area anybody agrees? That’s the question. That’s not to be doomed, it’s aloof … a question.”
See Also: Breaking Bottomward the Music Industry’s New Math
*This commodity originally appeared in the October 8, 2012 affair of New York Magazine.
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