When Animals Attack

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W hen Grizzly Bear’s first album, Horn of Plenty, was released two years ago, lo-fi fanatics fell all over themselves. That tape-hiss! Those random street sounds wafting in through his open bedroom window! "I was very unaware of the whole lo-fi thing," says frontman Ed Droste, who recorded the album alone with ProTools in his bedroom. "I didn’t know about Animal Collective and all those other lo-fi groups. My inexperience was the main reason that album sounds so . . . crappy."

    Their new album, Yellow House, is more tightly produced, recorded in the quiet living room of Droste’s mom’s house in Watertown, Massachusetts. Filled with thick, lush piles of ambient sound and long, fizzy guitar chords, it reminds me of when I used to be really into sedatives and anonymous sleazy/sweet makeout sessions that lasted for hours on end. Droste spoke to Hooksexup just as he and his bandmates — Daniel Rossen, Chris Taylor and Christopher Bear (total coincidence) — were packing for their U.S.-European tour. — Will Doig


You made your first album during a breakup, didn’t you?

Yeah. The songs I wrote at the beginning of my new relationship are more uplifting and less gloom-and-doom. Not that I think any of them are super-gloom-and-doom. For me, that kind of music is just nice. Cathartic.

Was it a bad breakup?

Breaking up fucking sucks. Everything about it does, especially when you’re caught kissing someone else and you had sort of done something as an excuse to break up. But then it sucks even harder as your insecure side takes hold of you and you think, "Shit, I love him still." Then you beg for him back and he says "fuck off."

Which do you think is harder to sustain in a long-term relationship, sex or conversation?

I think everything is hard about it. You get that one- or two-year initial period, and after that, the initial thrill is just gone. There’s nothing you can do about it. But attraction ebbs and flows, and you have to be okay with that. There are so many questions: Do we really understand each other? Do we really like each other? No matter how much you love each other, you’re going to have to address those issues probably about once a year.

How are things going with your new relationship?

It’s easier to feel excited to see each other because I’m gone a lot. It’s not like every fucking day in your face. Plus he’s nine-to-five and I’m not.

One thing that always seems to be in relationship self-help books that frightens me is the advice that you should constantly try new things in your sex life to keep it interesting. Dress up in costumes! Put a trapeze in your bedroom! It seems to create a feedback loop where if you don’t constantly make your sex more and more experimental, it’ll supposedly become disappointing.

And it’s also like, doesn’t that start to feel a bit forced eventually? Sex has to be a little bit intuitive, a little organic. I don’t really believe that coming home with edible underwear is going to save a boring relationship.

It’s a whole industry. So many different products we can buy to keep our sex lives fresh and surprising.

It’s hard to take it seriously. But Dan Savage recommends it. All sex therapists do, don’t they? They condone everything. They’re like, "Of course you should get a stuffed tiger and both of you fuck it together."

What’s it like being the only gay in a band of three straight boys?
Any towel-snapping or backrubs after the show?

Sadly not. I mean, the boys love attention from dudes, but when it comes down to it they’re sworn to pussy. So much so, one recently indulged in a hot affair with a red-haired French girl who calls herself Pamplemousse. It means grapefruit. She’s so cute.

Are you attracted to any of your bandmates?

I flirt with Chris Bear all the time. Every living organism under the sun wants him. I think I’m past that now, but flirting with him is fun. We grope each other. Lick each other in moments of boredom on the road. Generally speaking, It stems from the fact that we’re comfortable with each other and we’re fucking bored on twelve-hour road trips between Paris and Berlin.

Do they use you as bait to get chicks?

I don’t think that’s a real chick magnet, flirting with cock. Maybe I’m crazy. But now that I think about it, I can’t count how many times I’ve facilitated them getting pussy by being some safe, best-friend go-between — "so and so likes you, whisper whisper, go for it."

And women like that? A gay guy who facilitates?

Oh, they love it, because they all want me first, then they realize they can’t have this jelly. Kidding. I think girls like to know they’re safe, and a shoe-in with such-and-such band member. So I just make sure everyone is game, and then shit happens. More straight guys should hang with gay guys, because it will only improve their game. And gay dudes help girls as much as dudes. Essentially, gays are the key to everything in the world.

Does Grizzly Bear get a lot of publicity through its MySpace page?

I don’t really know. We just have it because that’s become the default way of getting your music out. There are people who have become emo stars just because they diligently added thousands and thousands of people to their MySpace page, which annoys the fuck out of me. If you can add 200,000 people to your MySpace page and then just 20,000 of them buy your record, that’s instant success. It’s crazy. It’s pure exposure. My theory is that if a song is even mildly poppy, and it gets played enough on the radio, you’ll sell a shitload of records. MySpace is that way too.

On Yellow House, the track "Marla" was written as a waltz by your great aunt in the 1930s. Why did you decide to reinvent that song?

Someone had unearthed her recordings and put them on a disc. They’re all unnamed, and her name was Marla, so we just named the song after her. I just thought it had a really neat melody, and would be interesting slowed way down. The original song was sort of light, but also sort of sad, and her story is sad, so we made the song sort of funereal.

What’s her story?

She was a failed musician who lived in New York and drank herself to death. I hope I won’t follow in her footsteps.

Do you know anything else about her?

She was the firecracker of the family. She had four siblings. She was very outgoing, the life of the party, and she liked to party a lot.

It’s such a weird idea. She had no idea that her music would one day, far in the future, be resurrected by her great-nephew, re-recorded and played throughout the world.

Yeah, that’s what I like about it. At least an audience will now appreciate it, since her original audience never did. Think about how hard it was to get music to people back then. Old-school vinyl. The heavier records. Now they’re made out of plastic. It was real wax then.

Now you hear music everywhere. All day long — in restaurants, in cabs, at home, on TV commercials . . .

Which I think is great and bad at the same time. People zone out music now. I think this album, it’s not a fucking Clap Your Hands Say Yeah poppy hooky indie thing that’s going to be immediate. It takes some listening to.

Do you worry people will use it as background music?

No. It could be nice background. I just mean that now there’s so much music, if it doesn’t grab you in one minute people are quick to discount it forever. I’ve been guilty of that too. You download MP3s and you’re just like [snaps] "Not good enough, not good enough . . . "

Did you know you have the same name as the cofounder of the Hooters restaurant chain?

Yeah. We’re distantly related.

Have you ever been to Hooters?

No, but when we were younger, we used to get a Hooters Christmas package from him every year, with Hooters T-shirts and calendars and shit. In my teens, I was kind of curious to go, but they, like, don’t exist in New England.


click to buy Yellow House

© 2006 Will Doig & hooksexup.com