Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste on what success means for hipster idolsBy Matt Miller | August 1st, 2013 | 1 Comment »
Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste doesn’t want to talk about “Colorado.”
It’s the closing track on the band’s 2006 album “Yellow House,” and though it was written while he was in New York, Droste’s mind was on the year he spent living more than a mile above sea level in a “weird, small condo in Snowmass” at the age of 11.
“It’s like hyper-personal, I was just thinking about my experience there,” Droste said. “It was weird — you know, you’re young, you get uprooted, you don’t really know anyone, but I was in the mountains, and it was beautiful.”
Droste hasn’t been back to Colorado since Grizzly Bear played the Larimer Lounge in 2007, touring in support of “Yellow House.” But now that they’re returning to the state that created the brooding confusion of the track, the band is in a different place. Grizzly Bear’s show at the much larger Ogden Theatre on Tuesday will show a band at the pinnacle of indie success. “Shields” and “Veckatimest,” Grizzly Bear’s last two albums, have been critical hits, and the band has found spots near the top of music festival lineups including Coachella and Lollapalooza.
This tour has taken the band to some unfamiliar places in South America, Europe, Asia and perhaps most interestingly “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” In March, Grizzly Bear was invited to play the daytime talk show that normally hosts acts like Beyoncé and Maroon 5, bringing a sound that’s not at all pop to a new type of audience.
“They definitely had no clue who we were,” Droste said of DeGeneres’ audience. “They were intrigued. I don’t think we reach that audience very often.”
As for DeGeneres, she and her wife, Portia de Rossi, are “huge fans and had come to our shows in the past,” Droste said.
“Shields,” released in September 2012, was Grizzly Bear’s best-selling album to date, reaching No. 7 on the Billboard 200 charts. But Droste isn’t ready to rest on that laurel.
“I don’t think there’s a general definition of, ‘You’ve made it,’ ” he said. “I think it’s sort of a dangerous territory to ever get to the point of saying to yourself, ‘Now I’ve made it,’ because it’s sort of this weird pat on the back where you’re just like, ‘OK, now I can just sit back and do nothing and not challenge myself anymore.’ I don’t even want to think that way.”
There’s a difference, Droste said, in how fans perceive success, and how musicians and the music industry do.
“People don’t realize how important buying a record is,” he said. “It represents so much more in the industry. First of all it’s used as a barometer for television shows, and there are a lot of gatekeepers within the industry that still operate under the archaic, old-school method of just looking at sales.”
Droste is also skeptical of streaming services like Spotify, which are increasingly popular with fans but which some artists say shortchange the musicians, and dent their creative output.
“I think the way that those sites started and the way they made deals with artists and speculative investors, I’m not sure I really support,” Droste said. “I’m not a huge fan of them. I don’t fault anyone for using them, but personally it’s not something that I think is super-awesome.”
Besides the relatively small checks distributed to bands with big play numbers on Spotify, Droste said such streaming services take away from the music. Grizzly Bear, he said, puts a lot of effort into making an album as a cohesive experience.
“Do we really need to have everything?” Droste said. “When you have everything for free or for a minimal amount, how much time can you actually devote to an album or song and get to know it and have it mean something to you?”
Still, Droste acknowledged that Grizzly Bear has benefited from the access streaming services provide — many fans find their music that way.
With the bulk of the tour wrapping up in August, the band will take some time to relax and get a chance to work on new material. Droste said he’s looking forward to writing in his new Los Angeles home, where he moved in early March after 14 years of living in New York City.