Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste on his changing relationship with music
Ed Droste is one of modern music’s most refreshingly outspoken characters. On social media, in interviews and on stage at his shows, the Grizzly Bear frontman doesn’t hold back on issues pertaining to the music industry, politics and the way the general public engage with both.
When he was in at Double J last week to Take 5 with Zan Rowe, Droste gave some considered insights into the way his listening habits have changed over the years, and how that has affected his appreciation for music.
Of course, the biggest advent in the way most of us now consume music is that of streaming services. Droste’s has mixed feelings about how it affects the way he now listens.
I'm not sure I would ever be a fan of some of the bands I'm playing right now had I not been a kid in that era where you were stuck with an album.Ed Droste, Grizzly Bear — Double J, 2018
“I'm really happy about streaming in some senses,” he said. “I think it's really cool that it reaches so many more people than it ever would. People who may never have had the means to listen to your music before, that's just incredible.
“But when I use streaming services, when I discover something new, it's often in some form of a playlist suggested to me or something like that.”
To force himself to continue to appreciate the art of the album, Droste has, like so many others, started to listen to music on vinyl. This different way of engaging with music has opened his ears to songs that he hadn't bothered spending time with before.
“I just recently started listening to records a lot again and it was a real slap in the face,” he said. “A lot of the albums I'm revisiting, I realised there are certain songs I didn't listen to all the way.
“I grew up listening to albums and letting them sit. I have a rule where I try and listen to an album five times before I decide whether it's something I love or not, [and] the record test is a really good one to go back to. It's in the background, you're not going to lift the needle and skip songs...”
His Take 5 feature selections from artists like Björk, Aaliyah and Pavement, and he’s not sure he’d have enjoyed these artists to the same degree had he not been forced into playing their albums over and over in a pre-playlist world. But he’s also not strictly a purist.
“I feel really grateful to have grown up and had a taste of both,” he said. “Not to say one way is better than the other.
“I'm partial to giving an album a full spin. But I'm not sure I would ever be a fan of some of the bands I'm playing right now had I not been a kid in that era where you were stuck with an album.”
Droste also spoke about the evolution of Grizzly Bear’s songs over the years and the reasons behind the change in approach to some of their most loved songs, years after their initial release.
“Sometimes the live versions are so different from the recorded versions that they sort of make you re-examine the recorded version,” he said. “We have to figure out a way to do it live, plus we sort of like playing around with the songs. For instance, the live version of ‘Mourning Sound’ [from last year’s Painted Ruins] has a fairly different ending to the recorded version.
“‘Sun In Your Eyes’ live, while it's similar to the recording, every time [we play it] live it always has a different spirit and energy,” says of the track from 2012’s Shields. “Some nights we're like 'that was a really good 'Sun In Your Eyes', then, on other nights, we're like, 'That wasn't as good as the other night'. But it's always fun to play.”
“Then there's the song ‘Colorado’, which is one of our older ones. It started out as a 90 second song, then was reimagined by the band for the Friend EP, then was again reimagined for a live show. So, it has so many different versions of it. It's fun to play around with it in that sense too.”
Songs take on new attributes once they’re presented to an audience in the live setting. And, once a band has played a song so many times, they need space from it before appreciating it again.
“The live version and the live experience is so different than listening to an album,” Droste said. “It evolves over the tour.
“Some songs get retired for a little bit and then it's fun to revisit them on later tours. We didn't play the song ‘Fine For Now’, which is from [2009 album] Veckatimest, on the entire Shields tour. We've been playing it a lot on this tour and it has been really fun to revisit. It deserves a little time on the stage again.”
Droste and his band have a couple of core basics they are looking for when composing new material. It’s certainly served them well so far.
“There's always, first and foremost, the desire to make something that we feel is fresh and fun,” he said. “Then there's also the desire to be really playful.”