As Yet Untitled

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Minus the Bear

Minus the Bear have been as well known for their absurd song titles ("Monkey! Knife! Fight!", "Lemurs, Man, Lemurs," etc.) as they are for the songs themselves. With any luck, that's about to change.

On their newest release, "Menos el Oso," Minus The Bear pairs the frenetic energy of their past albums with new textures, styles, and influences. The result is an album that rocks from start to finish, with enough verve and panache to satiate old fans and attract new.

M+F caught up with drummer Erin Tate by phone just before their appearance at Bumbershoot.

Interview inside.


At 2:44 PM, Blogger Tyson said...

MF: My roommate's in love in with you. She saw you play, and that was it. Do these sorts of things happen often?

ET: (laughs) No, I don't know how often that happens. Generally people pick the singer. I don't know. No comment.

MF: I first heard you guys up at Western. You definitely have an undeniable energy live. Do you guys love the touring?

ET: Definitely. It's one thing that keeps me interested in being in this band, the touring. We're all really good friends -- the five of us are really close, and it's a fun way to get out of town with your buddies. There's stuff that's really horrible about it and days that are really boring, but so many of my favorite parts of my life are from touring.

MF: Before you took a hiatus to record your newest album, you went on a tour with the Straylight Run and Spitalfield that caught you a bit of flack from your fans. Does that bother you at all?

ET: Not really. We just thought it would be a tour that would broaden our fanbase. People who like Straylight Run might not necessarily know who we are. It was an opportunity to get out and play for some different kinds of people. Let them see what else is out there. People can think what they want to think and say what they want to say, it doesn't really bother us at all.

MF: How was the response on that tour?

ET: Fucking amazing. It was really good. It was probably our best tour to date, for sure.

MF: Are you already planning the next album?

ET: Yeah. We've written three or four songs. We try to practice a few times a week, just trying to keep ahead of the game. Making sure we have songs written, because it was three years between full lengths because we were touring so much. Now we're just taking advantage of the time while we're home to write more.

MF: Your newest album, Menos El Oso, is out now. Were you ready and prepared to release it upon the world?

ET: Yeah. I mean, it's been leaked for so long that I already feel like it's out. (laughs) I'm really exited about it; I'm excited for it to be out.

MF: When you say leaked, do you know where it came from?

ET: Not necessarily, no. But it's been all over. People have been emailing us for months now saying, "Your new record is great."

MF: Does that bother you at all?

ET: It's got its good and its bad. It's annoying to set this release date, and hope you can build up some sort of anticipation, but at the same time it's definitely created a buzz for it. You hope that those people who downloaded the album will go out and buy it, or come to a show and buy a shirt or something to help support us as opposed to taking the money out of our pocket and the food out of my mouth.

MF: You've talked in the past about the changes that went into this album, so let's start with writing.

ET: Yeah. The last full-length was all of us writing it, and this record Dave [Knudson, Guitarist] and I wrote a lot of the skeletons of songs, just the basic structures and came up with a lot of the parts. The other guys were really busy, but they came in and wrote their own parts, obviously. But they would come in and help with arrangements. So writing this record was really different because it was a lot of just me and Dave just being down at the practice space together.

MF: Did you like that? You mentioned you love touring -- how about writing?

ET: Oh, it's fun. This record I definitely enjoyed more than anything else I've ever done because we just took different approaches on the way we write songs and how we play music in general. It's fun, sometimes it's really annoying when it's hot and gross, but being in the practice space, being on the road, all of it has its good parts.

MF: On this album, I noticed you guys were more heavily involved in the production work. Did that make it easier or harder?

ET: I don't know if it made it easier or harder, there were aspects that were hard. I mean, since we're essentially doing it ourselves, we were just being crazy about the way things sounded. We kinda drove ourselves nuts. We recorded our last record, including mixing, in two to three weeks; this album took three months. There was at least one person working on the record every day for three months. What made it better was that we know how we want our stuff to sound and where we can make it sound different from everything else we've done. But we're all happy with the way it came out. I prefer producing our own stuff and having control over the sounds we get.

MF: When you have someone working on the album everyday for three months, how do you know when it's done?

ET: We actually set a mastering date. And then we're like, "Ok, this is when it has to be done by." While we were mixing stuff, Matt [Bayles, Keyboardist] would be in the control room, and the four of us would be in the other room doing last minute vocals and percussion. When we were done, we'd run it into Matt and he'd start mixing it. We were definitely tying up stuff at the last minute.

MF: That's got to make for a hectic last few days.

ET: It was crazy.

MF: So for the next album, when it comes around, are you going to do more production work?

ET: I don't really know, we'll see how it goes. It really depends on how the songs come out and how we want them to be treated. If we get ten or twelve songs done, and we feel that this producer would really nail the vibe, then we'd do that. But I can see ourselves doing it again.

MF: Just to go back to your songwriting again, did you look to specifically change your influences or the vibe?

ET: All of us have always listened to a lot of hip-hop, electronic, and that stuff. But there were a few different records that set the tone for the album, ones that we drew influences from. As far as Dave and I being down at the practice space, drinking beer and listening to music, going, "wow, this part is fucking incredible. I wonder if we could something that sounded like that." I mean, from the last album to this record, Dave's guitar playing is insanely different, and a lot of that is due to DJ stuff and weird stuff. We were just trying to come up with sounds and then morph the sounds into guitar lines. Just trying to see what random noises we could come up with and make into riffs.

MF: Albums like what?

ET: Dave listened to The Books, Prefuse 73, Four Tet, Caribou. A lot of weird electronica. For me, beat-wise, I'm a big fan of hip-hop producers like Pete Rock, DJ Premiere, and Dr. Dre. Not that my beats sound like them, but there's a lot of influence there that we try to draw from.

MF: When it comes to writing more songs, are you going to move more in that direction?

ET: The new songs are real weird so far. When we writing Menos El Oso, we were just like, "Wow, these songs are fucking bizarre." I mean, before there's vocals on the songs. Musically, the songs are really weird, but the vocals turn them out to be catchier and poppier than we expected them to be. So far, the stuff that we've written is pretty strange, like nine and a half minute jam songs. We never really know how it's going to come out until it's closer to done.

MF: When it comes to what's next for you and the band, what are you aiming for? Just getting through this tour?

ET: We're looking into things for next year. We're going to Japan in February. And then we'll be out touring all next year, for sure.

MF: Excellent. Thanks Erin.

ET: Thank you.


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