KCRW celebrated a milestone this past week with their 75th Apogee Studio Session. Jason Bentley, the station’s weekday morning DJ and our host for the evening, recounted the previous 74 with glee. “Remember Ryan Adams just played for hours? As people left for the night, he’d wave goodbye and keep playing…what a fun night,” he said, continuing to rattle off performers such as Nick Cave, Spoon, Jenny Lewis, The xx, and many more. But, as Bentley put it, this night was their diamond anniversary and deserved a big celebration. And without further ado he welcomed Grizzly Bear to the stage to showcase a variety of tracks from their latest LP, Painted Ruins.
Apogee Studios is a small but refined space in Santa Monica, nearby SMC where the main KCRW studios sit (until they move out of the basement, which they keep promising to do). Apogee is named after the electronics brand and serves as the private recording studio of famed producer Bob Clearmountain, where several pictures of him with influential bands adorn the walls. Like most recording studios, the space was intimate, cramped even, given that it was filled to the brim for the show that night. Folks found places to stand directly in front of the stage, perched high above in a small, open office, and even back in the booth where the purported magic really happens. But Grizzly Bear made sure magic filled every inch of space that night, begging us to wonder if their music even requires post-production.
Many fans characterize this album cycle as Grizzly Bear’s evolution, but they haven’t necessarily made any significant jumps in their direction; they have simply grown into the best band that they could be. They’re looser these days, with a new sense of freedom after their five years away. Synths and keyboards filled the stage, creating an immersive soundscape, taking us from Shields to Veckatimest to Painted Ruins with ease. The band played ten songs for us, mainly focusing on the latter LP, though they were not above doling out fan service, performing fan favorites as well, like “Yet Again.” In fact, we could have counted down the days to Christmas with parts of their setlist: “Four Cypresses,” “Three Rings,” “Two Weeks”…and a “Mourning Sound” in a pear tree!
Halfway through the set, Bentley came back out to interview guitarist/vocalist Daniel Rossen and bassist/multi-instrumentalist Chris Taylor, while the other three disappeared backstage to rest. Like any rabid fan, he poured out the compliments, and was privy to some gentle roasting by the band. “Your music has a hypnotizing quality,” Bentley explained, describing the dreamy riffs that are at the forefront of their newest album. The two bandmates smiled and stared for a beat before Rossen teased, “And what’s the question?” Eventually Taylor spoke about what it is like to produce for his own band, which I learned he has done for all of Grizzly Bear’s studio records. He described it eloquently as excavation, dusting off the excess to get at a performer’s best work. “Ah, like painted ruins,” Bentley offered. No, Taylor countered, laughing along with the crowd, albeit at Bentley’s expense.
Moving swiftly past the awkward moments, they discussed the album cycle this time around, remaining coy about aspects of the process that were more painful to revisit. Taylor shrugged when asked about the gap between this and Shields, their last LP that came out five years ago. But at least one reason for the long wait came from a discomfort that had grown between the members, most notably from Rossen himself, who barely commented on the matter. Several factors led to this, and he no longer even lives near the band, the majority of whom relocated to Los Angeles a few years back; Rossen now resides in New Mexico. Their physical distance seemed to spurn a new love for their music, though, capitalizing on cloud sharing technology and each member’s own personal growth.
Before dismissing himself for the band’s final few songs of the session, Bentley closed with some self-deprecation. “Well I really am a big fan, and this has been such a disaster,” he concluded, thanking them for playing for us that night. Everyone erupted into a rousing chorus of laughter and applause; it was as if the crowd were reassuring him that we all would have done the same in his situation. How can you focus on the details of music so gorgeous and sprawling?
The 75th Apogee Studio Session will air during Bentley’s program, Morning Becomes Eclectic, on October 12th. For more information on Grizzly Bear, follow them on Facebook and Instagram. The band is closing out their tour in LA on December 13th and 14th; tickets are on sale now.
by: Zoë Elaine