Keeping It Old School In The Age Of The Playlist

14 August 2017 | 11:55 am | Anthony Carew

"We're not trying to make music for Spotify playlists; I don't give a shit about that."

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In a recent interview with Vulture, Trent Reznor opined "when I hear Grizzly Bear in a Volkswagen commercial, it kind of bums me out", this a symptom of the increasing corporatisation of music. "I understand where he's coming from," says Grizzly Bear guitarist and vocalist Daniel Rossen, 35. "It is a little sad that that's such a reality for so many bands, that it's one sure way to get a cheque. I feel that, as long as it's not the most evil corporate empire in the world, then that can be a way for bands like us - who don't make particularly poppy music - to fund our ability to keep making interesting music. That feels like an okay kind of trade-off. But, I don't like selling our music for products. I don't like thinking of our music as a product. That comes up all the time, whether you're talking about licensing or not. Everything turns into this mad hustle to try and get people to pay attention to you… You end up either touring like crazy, and playing a ton of shows - which can be fun, but is totally exhausting - or you end up licensing your music."

Touring like crazy was what Grizzly Bear did after 2012's Shields, which led to a lengthy hiatus. Rossen, who had spent his whole life living in Los Angeles and New York City, moved to upstate New York with his wife. The dream was to build a studio in a country house and write and record as much as possible, but he found himself feeling like much of his time was spent "beating back the weeds, keeping the wilderness at bay". And with an "infinite" amount of time to write, Rossen felt as if he lacked something to push against. "Being all by yourself, you can do anything, but that can mean you just do nothing; it's like you're paralysed by possibility, and every day can be an existential crisis."

Getting back together in 2016, the band decided if they were going to write together, they'd really write together; their fifth LP, Painted Ruins, finds Grizzy Bear's most collaborative songs. The record, to Rossen "feels like a rebirth, like a new, somewhat unexpected chapter", in a band where "you never know if the future is promised". Coming five years on from Shields, it arrives in a distinctly different climate of music consumption.

"Clearly, now, people don't think of music in an album format," Rossen offers. "You have to make the thing so that it stands out in a playlist, rather than making a collection of songs to fit into a body-of-work that is your own and is existing in its own world. We're still trying to make records that way, and we may run up against a bit of a wall because of that. We're not trying to make music for Spotify playlists; I don't give a shit about that, and I can't imagine ever giving a shit about that. I don't know what that's going to mean for us in the long run. We'll see."

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