Progress report Grizzly Bear: What the hell are they up to?

With a new album imminent, we take a look at what the band have been up to since ‘Shields’.

Four years have passed since the release of ‘Shields’ – Grizzly Bear’s fourth studio album – and finally (!!!) it looks as if the wait for a follow-up may finally be coming to an end.

The band confirmed late last week that their latest LP is ’90 percent done’. Progress on the new album officially began back in June, when the band first entered the studio. This flurry of activity came after the four-piece reunited for their first live performance in two years at a Bernie Sanders rally, in which frontman Ed Droste asked the crowd “can you feel the Bern!?” over electric guitar strums.

While the band’s second album and commercial breakthrough ‘Yellow House’ was born out of the song-writing partnership of Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen, the band’s 2012 LP, ‘Shields’ was a true collaboration between all four members of the experimental Brooklyn band. It should come as no surprise, then, that the band’s four members have used their time off from Grizzly Bear duty to scratch a few creative itches.

It would appear sticksman Christopher Bear has spent a lot of time in front of DJ decks in the years since ‘Shields’. The drummer - who was first recruited by Ed Droste to record the band’s debut album ‘Horn Of Plenty’ - kicked off his 2014 by releasing a genre-bending mix for Brooklyn-based Terrible Records. It could perhaps hint at an electronic edge to Grizzly Bear’s new album? Who knows.

Supposedly recorded in an airplane en route to Australia, the mix includes snippets of Marvin Gaye, Miles Davis, Bill Withers and Stealers Wheel’s classic single ‘Stuck In The Middle With You’ throughout its eighty minute run time. If nothing else, it’s an interesting insight into the Grizzly Bear drummer’s record collection.

Chris Bear then emerged almost a year later, in February 2015,with a remix of ‘Lady M’ by fellow New York band Blonde Redhead. He described working with the band as “a true honour”. “I loved the melody and percussive world that was happening,” he said, “and I thought that stripping it down to create an icy landscape would be an interesting direction”.

Guitarist Daniel Rossen has been even busier. With both Grizzly Bear and Department of Eagles (a collaborative project with Fred Nicolaus) on hold, Daniel spent 2014 on a solo tour of the US before making a brief yet triumphant stop at London’s Union Chapel. Along with a hatful of tracks from his solo EP ‘Silent Hour/Golden Mile,’ he also made time for outings of Grizzly Bear songs ‘Easier’ and ‘Sleeping Ute’.

Daniel and Chris also found the time to pay tribute to The Grateful Dead earlier this year shortly after the legendary Californian rock band announced their last ever tour. The pair collaborated on covers of ‘Terrapin Station (Suite)’ and ‘High Time’ for a compilation record released in aid of Red Hot Organization, a charity dedicated to raising awareness for HIV and AIDS. They were joined on the album by Grizzly bandmate Ed, who partnered up with Little Joy’s Binki Shapiro for a cover of ‘Loser’.

With the rest of his band mates pursuing new sonic pastures across the globe, bassist Chris Taylor took the logical step of using his time off from Grizzly Bear to release….erm, his very own cook book. Natch.

Written alongside photographer and ex-chef Itahi Schori, the book, entitled ‘Twenty Dinners’, is available to the most hardcore of Grizzly Bear fans for 28 quid. As it turns out Taylor is as handy with a frying pan as he is a bass guitar – the book was praised by actual, real-life food critics, who highlighted its “unfussy but elegant recipes”

He’s not the first person to trade great beats for great eats either (sorry, not sorry) – Alt-J’s Gus Unger-Hamilton opened a café in London Fields last year, while Kelis only went and trained as a saucier at Le Cordon Bleu! Perhaps this new foodie direction bodes well?

Selfie gram from upstate NY. Album 5 is coming along amazing though! Super excited! Xxxo!

A photo posted by Ed Droste (@edroste) on

So, what does all this tell us about Grizzly Bear’s upcoming, nearly completed fifth record? Are we to expect a Grateful Dead inspired album of remixes with a recipe for Chicken Provencal in the liner notes?

The band’s vintage fusion of indie, psychedelia, folk and pop feels more likely, but in the last few years each of Grizzly Bear’s members have taken themselves firmly out of their comfort zones. Perhaps the band are ready to alter people’s perceptions yet again? It’s likely.

Only time will tell, but it’s certainly great to see this multi-talented gang of New Yorkers back to doing what they do best. As with any Grizzly Bear release, their next album could go absolutely anywhere. And if it does turn out to be a concept album about an epic five course meal, there won’t be a complaint from us.

Tags: Grizzly Bear, Progress Report, Features

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