Minus The Bear
Beach Slang, Bayonne
Tue Mar 14 2017
Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm
$29 (fees included)
This event is 14 and over
Goes Great With: Foals, Spoon, MuteMath, Cursive
Intricate guitar work and brilliant rhythms that push the boundaries of "indie music"
Doors @ 7 | Bayonne @ 8 | Beach Slang @ 8:45 | Minus The Bear @ 9:45phttp://www.granadatheater.com/event/1407490/
Formed in Seattle, Washington in 2001, Minus the Bear was initially composed of guitarist David Knudson, bassist Cory Murchy, and drummer Erin Tate who eventually recruited keyboardist/sequencer, Matt Bayles and vocalist/guitarist Jake Snider. Once in the same room they realized they were on to something special - and the band quickly earned a rabid and rapidly growing fan base ranging from teenagers to middle-aged parents. "I know every band says they can't explain their music, but I really can't say that we sound like one specific thing," Murchy explains. "We don't follow a particular scene or genre and hopefully that shows."
Acoustics revisits their prolific career with interpretations of songs plucked from their past exploits, including Planet of Ice - which saw the introduction of keyboardist Alex Rose. It was in secret that the band entered the new Redroom studio in Seattle to bang on some acoustic guitars, tambourines, swizzle stix, snare drums, organ pipes, and vocal chords. The final product should please the old guard and new fans alike.
With Planet of Ice, the band allowed negative space and an airy openness to permeate their music; from the distinctively danceable opener "Burying Luck" to the syncopated sample-driven "Knights" to the album's epic 9 minute closer "Lotus," which evokes acts like Yes and Pink Floyd, minus the self-indulgent tendencies. Although all the musicians in Minus the Bear are technically talented - as anyone who's seen Knudson's unique approach to the guitar which features two-handed tapping and live looping already knows - Planet of Ice showed the band focusing on songwriting instead of showiness.
With Acoustics they had an opportunity to fully demonstrate their restraint as they stripped down songs to their core appeal, and revealed the attractive fundamentals that form the bedrock behind the original recordings.
In true Minus the Bear fashion, the band are taking their acoustic interpretations on the road, where they'll perform songs from Acoustics as well as exclusively sell physical copies of the EP, otherwise available digitally at major online digital outlets. Upon wrapping up their tour prior to the holiday season, the band will take a short break before heading into the studio to begin recording their next full-length.
"I started developing a decent following in Austin," he says, "but most of the time when I would play, the press would say something like 'Local DJ Roger Sellers,' or 'Roger Sellers is playing a late-night DJ set.' I think it was maybe because my live set involves a table full of gear, a drum set and headphones, but the average person probably knows more about DJing than I do.'" To combat the misunderstanding, Sellers printed up stickers reading, "Roger Sellers is Not a DJ," and eventually adopted the alias Bayonne, changing his name without altering his approach.
And it's a good thing: Primitives, Sellers' debut as Bayonne, is a rich, complex work, the kind with no clear rock parallel. In its winding, maze-like structures are hints of both Steve Reich and Owen Pallett, each instrument working a single melodic pattern over and over and over, as Sellers threads his soft, reedy voice between them. On songs like "Appeals," the effect is hypnotic: notes from a piano crash down like spilled marbles from a bucket, as Sellers' ringing-bell vocals swing back and forth between them. The end result is spellbinding music, meticulously-crafted songs where each tiny piece locks into another, and hundreds of them joined together create a breathtaking whole -- like dots in a Seurat, or tiny bones in a dinosaur skeleton.
Sellers' journey to Bayonne began when he was two years old, situated in front of Eric Clapton Unplugged at his home in TK. "I'd just watch it over and over again," he laughs. "I would get paint cans and bang on them, trying to imitate what I saw in the video. My parents got me a drum set when I was 6 years old and I became obsessed. I wanted to be Phil Collins for so many years as a child. He was my hero. I feel like you can hear that a lot in Primitives, that big drum sound, because so much of the way I play was learned from Phil Collins." Though Sellers studied classical piano as a child and music theory in college, rather than developing his skill, he found both to be deadening. "It became homework," he says. "It made me come home and not want to write. That's not at all how I'd thought about music -- it had always been something fun -- almost like a kind of therapy. It was an escape, not a chore."
Instead, Sellers struck out on his own, buying a looper and slowly amassing a stockpile of tiny melodies. "I found out that I could make these songs really spontaneously and have this really good idea without having to get into the studio to capture it right away. Most of these songs came out of me just fucking around, hooking up keyboards and experimenting." The experiments cohered into music that is beautiful and densely layered. The composition of the individual musical phrases may have been spontaneous, but assembling them to create Primitives was anything but. Instead, Sellers constructed the songs from a collection of loops he'd built up over the course of six years. Some of those patterns were created on stage at his shows, where Sellers threads melodies together in real time, augmenting them with live drums and vocals. Others were written during downtime, improvising at home. Once he had the basic melodies, he had to figure out how they went together, and how to layer them meticulously to make songs that were rich in deep detail but still immediately engaging.
You can hear all of that in "Spectrolite"; taut apostrophes of guitar enter first, pinpricks of barely-there sound that blink like Christmas lights. Bone-dry snare enters next, but the guitars keep echoing their same hypnotic phrase; it's followed by grumbling bass and, finally, Sellers' airy, high-arcing voice; each piece follows their charted course again and again, but as the song goes on, it gets more engrossing -- it gives the effect of slipping slowly into warm water. "That one came from an older loop that I had," Sellers explains. "It was about a stone that my girlfriend at the time had brought me back from Australia, a spectrolite stone. We had some things happen between us during that time, so that stone meant a lot to me. I had it with me the entire time I made the record. It's a song about forgiveness, and keeping those people who matter most to you close around you, and caring for those that you love." In "Waves," surging piano replicates the sound of the ocean, lapping slowly forward and back. Giant tribal drums enter, filling the blank space, giving the song a soft, calming, see-sawing rhythm. "That's a song I basically wrote by performing it live," Sellers says. "That's one of my favorite songs that I've written because of the simplicity of it," he explains. "You feel like you're in the ocean or something." But as the song goes on, it skews darker. "I know that there's something else, something else, something else," Sellers sings, "And I know that you'd be there for me." As the song goes on, the object of his affection drifts away, like a boat toward the skyline. Like all of Sellers's songs, it centers carefully constructed music around the soft, glowing core of the human heart.
"That's all of it -- emotion," Sellers says. "I want the music to carry people in some way, and I want them to feel what I'm feeling. I want my music to be an emotive expression." On Primitives, Sellers creates music that's nuanced, layered, complicated and soothing -- easy to get lost in, impossible to ignore.