Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Grizzly Bear: Brooklyn indie orchestra

Quietly cool quartet makes classical concert safe for hipsters

With hauntingly familiar melodies and vocal dexterity akin to TV on the Radio multiplied by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Brooklyn’s Grizzly Bear leads a one-band revolution of quiet cool. Sounding like the Beach Boys produced by a really stoned David Sitek, their 2006 magnum opus, “Yellow House,” propelled Daniel Rossen, Ed Droste, Chris Taylor and Christopher Bear (hey!) to the upper reaches of the digital stratosphere. But not without good reason, as their dreamy, atmospheric compositions still seethe with a simmering tension and are as meticulously constructed as the finest pop songs.

Instead of diving right into the inevitable stress of following up “Yellow House,” the members of Grizzly Bear have been enjoying the fruits of their labor. After last spring’s rapturously received tour with Feist, they released the “Friend” EP, an intriguing compilation featuring everything from Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox (in his Atlas Sound guise) reconstructing “Knife” to GB applying their delicate reverence to a version of “He Hit Me” by the Crystals.

While their jaunt last fall with Maryland’s equally dreamy Beach House sadly never touched down in L.A., Grizzly Bear will bring us something even more special with a one-off performance pairing them with the L.A. Philharmonic at Downtown’s Walt Disney Concert Hall . The L.A. Phil open the show with a selection of music in part picked by Grizzly Bear, who are sure to make the most of the ornate space’s dynamic acoustics. We caught up with GB songwriter/guitarist Daniel Rossen for some thoughts behind the collaborative concert.

How did you go about picking the classical pieces that you wanted the LA Phil to perform at the show?
The LA Phil chose the music in conversation with the band, but I wouldn't say we are curating the concert exactly. The director of the Phil listened to our records and came to us with some suggestions of what he thought would fit, and we gave them a couple of our favorite pieces as a starting point. Mostly we chose pieces that we don't know but sounded interesting. I hardly ever get to go to a symphony so it seemed more exciting to ask them to introduce us to a couple new things.

How has classical music influenced Grizzly Bear's sound?
We have pretty varied taste in this band. Composers are in there somewhere. We use a lot of instruments and layer a lot in recording, which is kind of like creating parts for an orchestra except that it's much more textural and intuitive and a lot less deliberate.

Do you have any particular expectations and/or aspirations for the evening as a whole?
I'm looking forward to hearing the orchestra play through the amazing acoustics of Disney Hall, and I hoping we don't sound like complete amateurs when we play right after them.

Who are a couple of your favorite composers and why?
For years I've been a fan of Olivier Messiaen, a French composer with a duel obsession with exotic birdsong and Catholicism. He’s a pretty timeless character. I also like Shostakovich and Penderecki. For the most part I just find their music incredibly affecting, and that's enough reason for me.

Grizzly Bear and the L.A. Phil regale the Disney Concert Hall on Saturday, March 1