Minus the Bear on Vinyl: "It's Nice to Have Something to Hold in Your Hand"
Seattle-based indie rock quintet Minus the Bear emerged back in 2001 with a handful of quirkily-titled tunes -- like "Hey, Wanna Throw Up? Get Me Naked," "Lemurs, Man, Lemurs," and "Pantsuit... Uggghhh" -- but they've always been a serious band. They hit the studio before ever playing a show, crafting songs that were polished and highly technical, with complex finger-tapped guitar riffs, catchy melodies, and angst-tinged vocals, perfect for an all-night cuddle sesh with your high school love or a moonlit drive through the suburbs of your hometown.
After over a decade of recording and touring, evolving their sound, and amassing a following, the band most recently put out a full-length album of acoustic tracks, including eight re-imagined versions of previous fan-favorites, as well as two new songs, simply titled Acoustics II.
Currently on tour in support of Acoustics II, Minus the Bear will make their South Florida stop this Friday at Revolution Live in Fort Lauderdale, supported by Seattle's ambient indie rock trio Slow Bird, along with Sweden's INVSN, formed from members of the now-disbanded hardcore band Refused.
During an early stop in Cleveland, MTB keyboardist Alex Rose chatted with us about the tour lineup, the band's evolution, and his thoughts on the future of music.
New Times: You're currently touring with INVSN and Slow Bird. How did you link up with those two groups, and what's it been like on the road so far?
Alex Rose: Slow Bird, I met almost a year ago. I offered to record some demos for them, and it turned into an album project. Some of my band members heard them and thought they'd be a good match to take on tour. INVSN was, we sent a list of submissions, and we were familiar with them, and Dennis [Lyxzén] from INVSN's previous band, Refused. We thought it'd be an interesting package to take out.
We just met INVSN, and you know, we're only a few days in but, we're becoming friends -- they're Swedish. It's all been pretty good so far.
You've been a band since 2001. How has your hometown of Seattle informed your music over the years?
Seattle's a good place to be creative. There's lots of rainy days, people tend to stay in and write music, and reflect. It's an amazing city visually, too.
I joined the band a few years later. I'm from New Mexico, which is where I met Cory, our bass player. Erin [Tate] is originally from Minneapolis, and he moved to Seattle. The lead guitarists, Dave [Knudson] and Jake [Snider], are from Washington. I was their sound guy first, and then Matt [Bayles], their old keyboardist had left to pursue production. I was kinda already in the band, so I stayed on board. We all work in Seattle now.
Your last studio album, Infinity Overhead has been called a "return to form" for the band. What do you do after that?
There's always been a progression of sound. We tried something different with Omni, with a new producer and a more eclectic thing. I think we're still moving in a certain direction, but we went back to our producer [with Infinity Overhead] who's worked on most of the records, which is Matt, who used to play keys. I think we got back to our original process. As far as the sound, I think nobody's quite sure what happens next.
Omni was described as sort of more poppy and danceable. Would you say you were influenced by the rise of EDM culture that's going on right now?
Not really. I mean, I think it's more of a... We were more looking to like '70s sort of pop and funk and things like that. There's nothing really electronic, we didn't use any programming to do it. It's more of an organic feel. At least, that's what we were going for.
What are you working on now musically?
We just did an acoustic record that just came out. The reason for this tour is for the acoustic record. It's got two new songs, and we kind of re-imagined old ones. It's acoustics, stripped down. We'd done an acoustic EP a few years ago, and decided to do another one. People seem to dig the acoustic versions.
I think we're gonna take some time off after the tour and see what comes out of us for the next record.
Are there any contemporary people you've been listening to on your free time?
I've been liking Tame Impala, Empire of the Sun. I like, you know, poppy stuff. The new Daft Punk, too.
There's been a lot of noise lately against music subscription services like Spotify, most recently David Byrne speaking out against the changing direction of the industry. What's your take as an indie band that's sort of crossed boundaries into the mainstream? Can musicians still make money?
I don't think there's really a way that we can change how people prefer to listen to music. We've been in a lucky position that we can tour and support ourselves that way. So, you know, we kind of view everything from Napster to file trading as kind of promotion to get people into the band. It helps, it'd be nice, if everyone bought records, but I think if you're expecting that you're living in a fantasy world. We view it as an easy way for people to get into us. If they really like it, they can buy the record at the show, or buy a T-shirt. We're lucky that we're able to play shows. I feel bad for the artists that can't. That's really what's happening, and there's not much we can do about it.
Is this little vinyl resurgence that's going on just a trend, a temporary nostalgia thing, or is it a real comeback?
It's going to be a niche thing, but it's a good one, and a lot of our fans like it. We had one of the top vinyl releases in the country. When Infinity Overhead came out, I think it was the number one vinyl release that day. So, we're happy to put it out, and we include some digital downloads with it, too... With so much going digital, it's nice to have something to hold in your hand.
Minus the Bear. With Slow Bird and INVSN. 7 p.m., Friday, November 1, at Revolution Live. Tickets cost $28.50 via Ticketmaster. Visit jointherevolution.net.