In The Know...Chattin' It Up With Alex Rose of Minus The Bear

>> Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Seattle indie-rock quintet Minus the Bear recently toured through Winnipeg in support of their latest offering, OMNI, playing tunes from their four-LP-deep discography in front of a well-attended and responsive crowd at the Albert on June 30th.

I got the chance to conduct an email interview with keyboardist Alex Rose and seized the opportunity; and while it took some time to connect, his responses easily made the wait worthwhile.

Some topics discussed: Minus the Bear’s Jimmy Kimmel Live experience, the seemingly infinite costume changes in their video “My Time”, and the evolution of the band’s writing and recording process.

Painting over Silence: OMNI is Minus the Bear’s fourth full-length release since the band’s inception. How has MTB’s approach to writing and recording evolved over the course of its career?

Alex Rose: The writing process usually involves a riff Dave brings in and as the band is now everyone's full time job, everyone usually comes to the practice space to jam on ideas and work on arrangements together.

With OMNI, we set out to make a record that captured more of the band's live energy. We have always been inspired by records of the 60's and 70's, many of which were recorded with the band playing together, live in the studio. Instead of recording each element on top of the drums, we got to go into the studio for the initial tracking sessions knowing that whatever we did could (and did) end up on the record.

PoS: MTB have been dubbed indie-rock, prog, ambient, experimental, etc., but there’s always mention of the band’s pop leanings. I’m curious. How does Minus the Bear categorize their sound?

AR: We never worry too much about that. We make music that is exciting to us and with five members contributing with very eclectic tastes, it ends up being hard to categorize. With all the experimentation, we do tend to stay within the pop structure.

PoS: The official video for "My Time" is very fun, well-choreographed affair, awash with many bright, solid colours. Who originally conceived the idea for the video, and how many costumes changes took place during shooting?

AR: Mike Mohan who does a lot of video work for Dangerbird records came up with the concept last minute when we ditched our original treatment.  He had filmed interviews and rehearsal footage of us in Seattle and we were really comfortable working with him so it seemed like a natural fit. We had been throwing around the idea of working with dancers and this seemed like a good song for that. After a few days of planning it was all shot in one day and luckily we got a lot of amazing dancers to show up, some from a crew called The Beat Freaks. I definitely lost count of the costume changes!

PoS: Prior to kicking off your Canadian tour you dropped by Jimmy Kimmel Live for a performance of “My Time.” What was it like to play in front of Jimmy, a live studio audience, and countless viewers all at once?

AR: It is a surreal experience, because directly in front of you is a very small studio audience, but then there's Jimmy off to the side and cameras swooping in and out and you know it's going to be on TV. It's fun, nerve-wracking, and over before you know it!

PoS: The emergence of the blogosphere has afforded anyone with an internet connection and a keyboard to have a say about music. Do you still read press about Minus the Bear, or do you find the sheer volume of it to be paralyzing and sorta unhealthy?

AR: I read some of it, but at some point you just have to make music and not worry about what people are saying about it. The most important thing is that we make ourselves happy. Hopefully that translates into a few other people being into it also.

PoS: And finally, after the North American summer tour, what’s next for Minus the Bear?

AR: We plan to tour on the record for quite a while. We play Lollapalooza and then head to the UK and Europe for some festivals (including Reading and Leeds), some club dates on our own and a few shows with We Are Scientists. There is a festival in Mexico City coming up and we plan to visit Australia and Japan early next year. Tour! Tour! Tour!


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