Grizzly Bear's Secret Weapon Takes Center Stage On 'Painted Ruins'

Audio: Inside Track With Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear

(Photo: Tom Hines)

You can be a big fan of the band Grizzly Bear and hardly notice Chris Taylor. The quartet has two lead singers and songwriters in the spotlight.

Taylor isn’t one of them. He’s the bassist -- the guy on the side of the stage for almost a decade. He helped play and record the other members’ songs.

That changed after the band members moved away from one another a few years ago. They no longer made music in person. Instead, they slowly shared song ideas online from different cities across the world.

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But they got bored with that method and nothing materialized. The band needed a jolt. And so Taylor stepped up.

"I was getting a little bit impatient with our process," Taylor says. "I’m just gonna start doing it. Even if the songs don't make it to the album, at least we can just start a conversation about what the songs should be."

It did more than start a conversation. Taylor convinced his bandmates to play some new songs together. And he brought his own music. He says when he introduced the song “Losing All Sense,” it sent them into a writing frenzy.

"It was really when we got together that things started to happen," he says. "And feel a little more exciting than pressing 'upload' on your computer."

Taylor produced most of Grizzly Bear’s earlier albums, so he’s familiar with how the other members write songs. He borrowed techniques and experimented with their formulas. Like on "Neighbors,” a song with a lot of moving parts.

"Heap stuff on and then at the very end clear out the weeds and figure out where the true shape of the arrangement is," he says. "To delete stuff and not be too precious about, 'Oh, but the sun was setting when I recorded this keyboard part. I don't ever want to delete it!'”

Taylor’s ideas are all over the new record. It’s called “Painted Ruins.” He even takes a turn as lead vocalist --the first time he's done so for Grizzly Bear -- on a song called "Systole."

The other members loved to see Taylor play a bigger role. Bandmate Ed Droste says it was like having a brand new person in the band.

"We’re always looking for ways to have the process feel fresh and exciting," Droste says. "To have Chris’ input on the songwriting level, it was a new mind to bounce ideas off of and a new energy to play with."

That energy was right there on stage with Grizzly Bear the whole time. And Taylor’s input takes “Painted Ruins” to fresh and exciting places. 

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