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Chris Bear wears: Ralphie / Park


By Shipley & Halmos

I was checking out your website today; You're quite the philosophic aquarian.

Oh yeah?

You are aware of this site? That is you, correct?

I am not aware of that site.

So you wouldn't describe yourself as, "A very adventurous man, who lives life with great passion, who loves roller-coasters, comedy clubs, and launching rockets."?

I didn't write that material, but um... I enjoy roller-coasters. 

Comedy clubs, not so much?

I've had not such great experiences at comedy clubs. I guess I've really only been to one. But it was one of those things where pretty much the entire time I was there, I was ready to leave. There were probably 20 different comedians doing their short routines, and a good half of them would just choose people from the audience and try to turn the comedy on them. It started making me a little nervous, and it didn't seem like there was any new material they were bringing to the table. And it wasn't funny. But now I just sound angry against comedians. I think I just didn't see the right one.  

Back to this website. Do you think you'll be contacting this guy about getting your URL? You might be messing up his dating game though. He also writes poems. 

I might have to check what is all about. Does he also like long walks on the beach? Cause that's something that we might clash on.

He loves 106 things. I'm sure long walks on the beach is one of them. Anyway, you're about to go on a pretty big tour. What are the first things you think about packing in preparation for something like this?

Our lighting designer has gotten me pretty obsessed with making my own coffee on the road. When you're in certain countries, you're likely to not have access to certain things, good coffee included. And it's a nice ritual to wake up every morning in a hotel room, as long as they have the kettle there for you, I know I can make a good cup of coffee. I have a little travel coffee kit. So that's one thing. I also like to make sure I've restocked my music device with anything new I'm listening to.

What would that be right now?

Right now, I've been in the process of reacquiring myself with music I have either on vinyl or CD, but don't have digitally. I was getting a lot of, this is very nerdy, but I was getting almost the entire discography of Weather Report. And side projects of Weather Report [laughs]. Other than that, I've been on a really big Brazilian kick. We were just in Brazil, and our friend Gorky took us around and gave me this huge folder of Brazilian music I'd never heard of. So I'm a little obsessed right now.

I've heard you mention you're into chopped and screwed hip-hop.

I am! I definitely went through a phase. In fact, you know, I don't know. Maybe this is finally the place where it can be released. But I have a chopped and screwed version of a Grizzly Bear song. I did a screwed and chopped version of the song "Plans". Chopped and screwed, whatever. Actually, I did screw it first. Then I chopped it.

Chris Bear's original remix of Grizzly Bear's "Plans"

Do you have any superstitions or routines you go through before every show?

I don't really. I did start… On the last tour, a bunch of us got kind of obsessed with the Rubik's cube. There was lots of "cubing" going on. 

You're pretty good at that thing? You've solved it before?

Oh, yeah! Many times. Once you've learned to solve the cube, it's kind of just a sequence of moves. Then it becomes the sort of thing you're trying to do faster. I think my fastest time is 2:04. It's a language to some degree. There's something called F.R.U.R.U.F. There's something called F.R.U.R.U.R.U.F. It's front, right, up, reverse, up, front... or something. It's crazy. We all got hooked on it via Aaron, who's been playing keyboards with us. He's a cuber. His best time is under a minute and a half, I think. I have some more algorithms to learn. It's really just memorizing. 

Considering the latest cruise ship nightmare, would you look forward to performing on the S.S. Coachella if asked to?

Umm… I actually don't think we'd ever be asked to play [laughs]! It seems like it's a little more party orientated. I think we would just not hit that mark. I've never been on a cruise either, so I would have literally no idea what to expect.

Ok, good point. But would you DJ the Bud Light Party Cruise?

I might DJ the Buffet Margaritaville Cruise Ship. Cause then I could just play smooth jams.
[Check out Chris's smooth jams playlist here...]

If you had to join the house band of any late night talk show, for the rest of your career, whose would it be?

I think I could pretty easily choose Jimmy Fallon's band.

And put ?uestlove out of work?

Well no, I could be ?uesto's percussionist or something. Maybe it turns into double drums? That could be interesting. But anyway, that band is really awesome. All those guys are great. 

You guys [Grizzly Bear] usually have some pretty interesting press photographs. They seem to have a pretty consistent art direction and style going on. How do these ideas come about, and who's most responsible?

I'd give most credit to the fantastic Tom Hines. Tom is a photographer who has done the majority of our press photos on the previous album cycle, and he's also a friend. He always has interesting ideas and makes the experience of doing what can be a humiliating process pretty fun. He comes up with some cool concepts, and a lot of the treatments he does to the photos afterwards are just great. 

The same can be said about a lot of your music videos. Do you have a favorite?

I don't know. That's tough. I do really like how the newest video for the song "Gun-Shy" came out. An Australian director, Kris Moyes, did it, and he was really fun to work with. I liked his whole sort of… I guess it's not really stop animation. It's somewhere between stop animation and animated gifs. But I liked that whole element. I also really like the video for "Ready, Able" by Allison Schulnik with this whole claymation thing. I thought it came out great.

What's your take on the progression of music these days with kids being able to produce entire records on their iPads and shit without ever really having to learn an instrument?

I don't know if I necessarily have a stance on it. I think it could produce interesting results, and I think that I'd certainly not want to shut out any validity in something that someone untrained could make on an iPad. There's plenty of "outsider music" or, like, folk music that comes from people who are not necessarily trained that I think is amazing. But I think it has created this sort of climate for people to create so much that maybe it's harder to pick out what's actually great and what actually has something behind it. I don't know. If someone could make a house track while riding on the subway, I definitely don't think it's wrong to be able to do that. It's great that people who might not ever think that they could make music maybe have the ability to flex their brain in that way. But I think it's a different thing. A lot of it comes down to having an ear. I'm sure I could make a really generic-ass sounding house beat. But it would be... generic sounding.

Like what makes minimalistic art, or any art for that matter, good.

Yeah, exactly. There's probably a lot of people that look at a Basquiat and they're like, "My 10 year old could do that.". You know, and maybe their 10 year old is very talented and could make something that vaguely looks like that, but it's all about the nuance. There's intention and there's nuance, and there's also just knowing a history that I think does end up coming through. Even if it's not blatantly right in front of you.

Grizzly Bear has been able to do a lot with nuance. Your band is credited with being very original, in an indie-rock environment, and you've done it in such a quiet, toned way. Yet it has a very heavy impact. Was that always the intention from the beginning, or did it sort of evolve into this?

I think from the get go we all knew we were interested in a lot of different types of music, and certainly we had some things in common. Dan, Chris Taylor, and I all came from classical or jazz backgrounds. I think we also all had pretty eclectic tastes. Just taking four people that have very different skill sets and reference points of music that we really like or are inspired by, it naturally came out being slightly dense. Especially with the first record. It came out quiet, yes. But dense. With all of us working together for the fist time, we were like "Alright. Let's lay down a xylophone part because... I have a xylophone." Or, "Wouldn't it be cool if we put a clarinet and a flute part here? Cause Chris can play that. Dan can play a banjo part here. And why don't we stack Ed's vocals up. Times five. Because we can." So with the first record it was a lot of exploring, because we knew we had a very wide palette. That was a really fun process. And I feel like ever since, we've been figuring out ways to hone in on the elements that are crucial. 

Considering we are a menswear brand, we should probably ask some sort of question pertaining to style. What's one piece of clothing or accessory you wouldn't be caught dead in?

Probably those full-on platform, black leather, new wave-like boots?


Yeah. Like a really, really thick rubber sole. Often there's some studding going on?

Yeah, those are creepers.

Also, not a big fedora guy. That whole business. That whole thing is kinda beyond me. 

So no graphic tees with, like, pirate ships and...

Well, I can't fully dismiss that. I do have a Grateful Dead "Ship of Fools" tee that definitely has a pirate ship on it.

Grizzly Bear's latest album, Shields, is available now on iTunes.

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