Minus The Bear
BEACH SLANG, Bayonne
1811 14th St. NW
Washington, DC, 20009
Minus The Bear
Over the course of their 15-year career, Minus the Bear have carved out their own unique musical world. This isn't to say they're impervious to outside influence. They've borrowed components from a wide swath of genres—the brainy clangor of New York's proto-punk scene, the cerebral buzz of IDM, the poptimist evaluation of hip-hop and R&B, and the grandiose visions of prog rock—but always managed to defy classification. Throughout the first decade of their existence, every new album offered a new musical approach, as seen in the idiosyncratic fretboard gymnastics of Highly Refined Pirates, the glitchy loops of Menos el Oso, or the modernized Fripp-inspired wizardry of Planet of Ice. By the time the band entered our current decade, their knack for reinvention yielded to an emphasis on refinement. Albums like OMNIand Infinity Overhead searched for a middle ground where their myriad of stylistic approaches could all work within the context of a single record. On their sixth album VOIDS, Minus the Bear started with a blank slate, and inadvertently found themselves applying the same starting-from-scratch strategies that fueled their initial creative process. "There was a lot of change and uncertainty," says guitarist David Knudson. "I think the general vibe of emptiness, replacement, lacking, and longing to fill in the gaps was very present in everyones' minds." Change was everywhere. Keyboardist/vocalist Alex Rose took on a more prominent role in composition and handled lead vocal duties on songs like "Call the Cops," "Tame Beasts," and "Robotic Heart," drummer Kiefer Matthias joined the fold, producer Sam Bell lent a fresh set of ears in the studio, and the band returned to their original label home at Suicide Squeeze Records. Minus the Bear were no longer swept along by the momentum that had driven them for the last fifteen years. Instead, they reached a point where they could recalibrate and redefine who they were as a musical entity. The resulting album VOIDS retains many of the band's signature qualities—the hedonistic tales of nighttime escapism and candid vignettes of adulthood, the savvy up-tempo beats, the layered and nuanced instrumentation— while simultaneously reminding us of the musical wanderlust that initially put them on the map. Album opener "Last Kiss" immediately establishes the band's renewed fervor. An appropriately dizzying guitar line plunges into a propulsive groove before the chorus unfolds into a multi-tiered pop chorus. From there the album flows into "Give & Take", a tightly wound exercise in syncopation that recalls the celebratory pulse of early Bear classics like "Fine + 2 Pts" while exploring new textures and timbres. "Invisible" is arguably the catchiest song of the band's career, with Jake Snider's vocal melodies and Knudson's imaginative guitar work battling for the strongest hooks. "What About the Boat?" reminds us of the "math-rock" tag that followed the band in their early years, with understated instrumentation disguising an odd-time beat. "Erase," recalls the merging of forlorn indie pop and electronica that the band dabbled with on their early EPs, but demonstrates the Bear's ongoing melodic sophistication and tonal exploration. By the time the band reaches album closer "Lighthouse," they've traversed so much sonic territory that the only appropriate tactic left at their disposal is a climactic crescendo, driven at its peak by Cory Murchy's thunderous bass. Not since Planet of Ice's "Lotus" has the Bear achieved such an epic finale. All in all, it's an album that reminds us of everything that made us fall in love with Minus the Bear in the first place, and a big part of that appeal is the sense that the band is heading into uncharted territories. Suicide Squeeze Records is proud to release VOIDS to the world on March 3, 2017 on CD, LP, and cassette. Nick Steinhardt designed the artwork and layout for all formats. The first pressing of the album is available on 5,000 copies of splatter colored vinyl and 5,000 copies of 180 gram black vinyl. The LP jacket features PMS inks, a die-cut cover with a printed inner sleeve and contains a download code. The cassette version is limited to 500 copies and includes a download code as well.
Guitar, bass and drums. Played loudly.
We make good trouble.* And better listeners.
Your Mom will think we're sweethearts. We kind of are.
We hardly talk.
So we make records.**
And it feels good to feel like you finally belong.
*James also plays in Weston, Ed also plays in Crybaby and JP also plays in Ex Friends.
**Last Saturday, my friend Caroline told me, "You guys sound like what I imagine a one-night stand between The Psychedelic Furs and The Replacements would sound like."
I really kind of adore her for that.
Roger Sellers is a lot of things. He's a minimalist composer with a knack for making hypnotic, enveloping songs from a few repeated musical phrases. He's a gifted musician who is mostly self-taught, having abandoned formal study because it was draining the life from his work. He's a self-described disciple of Phil Collins. What he is not, however -- despite multiple press reports to the contrary -- is a DJ.
"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.
Bayonne will release his debut album early next year on Mom+Pop Music, the label home to Flume, Andrew Bird, Courtney Barnett and more. This week Zane Lowe dropped the first track from the record on his show on Apple's Beats 1, with the music tastemaker giving the new song "Spectrolite" his official stamp of approval.
Only last night Bayonne opened for Neon Indian in Dallas and will then head to CA next week for his first set of west coast dates. From there he will head to New York playing CMJ, some of the shows are listed below and the full lineup will be posted shortly. November sees Bayonne back to the west coast opening for Toro Y Moi as part of Red Bull Sound Select's 30 Days in LA festival and then back home to Austin for Fun Fun Fun Festival.
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 my music, 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."