- Grizzly Bear performs a two-night stand at BSP Kingston on August 15 and 16.
The pace of album-making by major pop acts in the 1960s was frantic, to say the least. From 1963 through 1966, the Beatles released seven studio albums; between 1965 and 1966, the Rolling Stones released six while Bob Dylan cut the groundbreaking electric trilogy of Highway 61 Revisited, Bringing It All Back Home, and Blonde on Blonde; and from 1962 through 1966—a four-year span—the Beach Boys made a staggering 10 LPs. But today it's not uncommon for bands to go years between full-length releases. Why, though, is this the current paradigm, especially when recording technology is far more accessible and affordable for artists than it has been during the pop heights of the past? Perhaps bassist/multi-instrumentalist and producer Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear, whose band will perform at BSP Kingston on August 15 and 16 in support of Painted Ruins, their first album of new material in half a decade, can help explain.
"Well, for us, it's been five years since our last record [2012's Shields] came out," says Taylor. "But for the first two of those years we were on tour. After that, we were feeling like we needed a second to get into more of normal life for a bit. So we decided to take a year or a year and a half off. And then that turned into a couple more years. The whole cycle of 'make a record, go on tour, make a record, go on tour'...It's a fun job, but it can become discombobulating. It's good to be able to go be a normal person for a while."
Fair enough. Especially when one considers the amount of action the acclaimed, Brooklyn-born band packed into the early part of its nearly 15-year existence. Grizzly Bear began circa 2002 as the solo project of singer, guitarist, and keyboardist Ed Droste and debuted with 2004's Horn of Plenty. Although Droste plays the majority of the instruments on the disc, it also features Chris Bear (real name), who would become the group's permanent drummer. As Rolling Stone began trumpeting Horn of Plenty's amalgamation of psychedelic pop, experimental, and lo-fi folk, Taylor joined the band and they started playing out. Sensing something was missing, however, the unit added singer and guitarist Daniel Rossen immediately before hitting the road for two months and recording 2006's Yellow House.
The sophomore set caught the ears of Pitchfork and the New York Times, who tagged the hazy, home-recorded effort as one of the year's best. It also got the atention of UK giants Radiohead, who tapped Grizzly Bear to open for a leg of their 2008 US tour and cited them as a favorite act. 2009's more ambitious Veckatimest, named for a tiny, uninhabited island near Taylor's mother's Cape Cod home, came next, followed by more marathon world touring and the making of Shields. And then began the long hiatus, which saw Rossen pursuing a solo career and performing with side project Department of Eagles. The period also found Taylor living locally, in Germantown, for a year. "A friend and I decided [the Hudson Valley] would be a cool home base for a while so we moved there in 2014," says the bassist. "I live in LA now but I really miss it out there, especially at this time of year."
So it's fortunate for Taylor, then, that he, along with his bandmates, will get an upstate fix when the second and third dates of the Painted Ruins tour take them to our area. "We've been developing a new look for the stage, and we'll be playing most of the new album along with some older tunes," he says. "It's been a while since we've played, so we're really excited. It's been good to take a break, but playing shows is still the best part of what we do."
Grizzly Bear will perform at BSP Kingston on August 15 and 16 at 8pm. Tickets are $40. (845) 481-5158; Bspkingston.com.