A lot of indie songs lately seem to be so self-consciously architectural and literate that they curdle to tedium. Either that or they're just very noisy. But Horn of Plenty, the debut from Grizzly Bear that was released by Kanine last year, rolls in like a slow fog in the morning. At the risk of being called "old-fashioned" -- a lone piano, crashing sounds in the background -- Grizzly Bear's kinda sorta neo-folk psychedelic music (a description group founder Edward Droste will deny) is bitter, moving. Horn of Plenty (keep an eye out for the remix, featuring Ariel Pink, Solex, Tim Sweeney of DFA, Soft Pink Truth Circlesquare, and the Castanets) has been compared to Brian Eno and Nick Drake, and every form of media along the Eastern seaboard has felt compelled to say something very complimentary about the band. But its four members -- Christopher Bear, Chris Taylor and Dan Rossen alongside Droste -- contend they're small-time and the fruits of their first album, recorded in Droste's Greenpoint, Brooklyn apartment, are but the first blossom of a longer collaboration. Prefix caught up with him via telephone to discuss the new-folk scene, Liz Phair and Horn of Plenty, and verified something we already suspected: Bands want to be featured on The O.C.
Prefix Magazine: I think you're the only openly gay -- or partially gay -- neo-folk band. How does it feel to represent?
Grizzly Bear: Granted that the only people who ever write about it are gay journalists. Nobody realizes we're gay. The lyrics definitely have a homo bent to them, but most people don't notice unless they're listening for it. It's definitely not "gay" type of music, like Xiu Xiu. Basically, the only times people ever know about it is if they've read a piece of gay press. For the most part it perpetuates itself within its own circle. I don't care at all. It's kind of random. PM: What was your entryway to the new-folk scene?
Grizzly Bear: Well, we never play with those people, and I'm not even sure if we fall under that category. I'm actually really into playing bands that sound nothing like us. We did this show with the Castanets (they're on Sufjan Stevens label Asthmatic Kitty), and it was great. PM: But it's not like you invented your sound.
Grizzly Bear: I don't feel firmly entrenched. But I guess we are -- sort of. Of course, we didn't originate it. I don't know if there's any one person we say is our main influence. I love Animal Collective, but I don't think we sound like them so much, because they're more frenetic. PM: A lot of people have compared your music to Nick Drake and Brian Eno. How does that feel?
Grizzly Bear: Honestly, people compare us to all kinds of random things. I wrote most of the album by myself, and I never listened to Syd Barrett -- I never even went through a Syd Barrett phase. In high school, I loved Exile in Guyville. PM: I was right! I was totally going to ask you about Liz Phair.
Grizzly Bear: I was obsessed with that album in high school. PM: I love that album too. I'm so glad that I was hearing Liz Phair in your music, and that it wasn't just like, I'm totally obsessed with Liz Phair.
Grizzly Bear: You're the only person that has ever said that. People are always saying Skip Spence. I didn't grow up on that. I wasn't that "cool" in high school. Exile in Guyville is one of my favorite albums of all time, even though I don't even really listen to it anymore. Actually, I don't hear Liz Phair in my album, but it's intriguing that you do. If you smell Liz Phair, you call it out! PM: How do you feel about her turn toward commercialism?
Grizzly Bear: I don't know. If she wants to do that, it's fine. It's a bummer. She might as well be a completely different person. PM: Like her evil twin.
Grizzly Bear: But it's still really raunchy after all these years. It was so false. PM: I was reading an interview with her somewhere. She said she didn't want to be dependent on men and she just wanted to support herself and her child. So I can kind of understand why. I like her enough that I wish her a large bank account.
Grizzly Bear: Yeah, me too. I wish her good tidings. PM: Back to the Brian Eno comparison. I think it's because you really have a way of shaping and moving space. A lot of music is just kind of pushing through space without stopping. Where do you think that comes from, or how do you do it?
Grizzly Bear: I really like Brian Eno. He wasn't an influence per se, certainly not as much as other ones. I feel like I was more influenced by Liz Phair or Jeff Buckley. Of course, you're always influenced by what you're listening to, but I never really say, "Oh, I want to write an Iron & Wine track right now." PM: There are these dark spaces you shape on the album. It's eerie or uncanny, or maybe I'm just listening too closely?
Grizzly Bear: Some people find the album to be creepy and kind of depressing. A lot of the songs are sad. But they're not meant to be too sad. It's not chipper Belle & Sebastian, sing-along roasting marshmallows. PM: What's the album about?
Grizzly Bear: It's about the tail end of a breakup and the beginning of a new relationship. The lyrics tend to be a little bit varied. There's a line that's like, "cum all over me," but nobody ever hears it. Most people don't listen to the lyrical content. But I don't really like to read into lyrics that much anyway. PM: And what was your process of making the songs?
Grizzly Bear: Basically, I wrote and recorded the songs in my bedroom, and Christopher Bear came in halfway and collaborated with me. Now we have more members, so the next album will be louder, larger and more vocal-heavy. PM: So, most important, what's your feeling on The O.C.?
Grizzly Bear: I'm all about being on The O.C. My boyfriend loves it. I'm also really into South Park. You should tell the girl from The O.C. to feature our music on it. We want to be on The O.C. We want to play at the new Peach Pit after dark. They totally have a Peach Pit after dark! [Mocking his pitch to the show's producers] "Do you guys want any queer new-folk bands? We're with Sufjan Stevens, who's like Christian folk, and we're like queer folk." PM: I didn't realize Sufjan Stevens was Christian.
Grizzly Bear: Yeah, he's a hyper-Christian. I really like his music a lot. He kept singing about "he" and "him," and I thought he was gay at first. Then I found out he was talking about God. PM: My friends are all also really into Top Model.
Grizzly Bear: Top Model is good, but this season's not so good. They're not that hot. PM: I know.
Grizzly Bear: It's America's Next Top Mallrat. They're all so uneducated; it's out of control. PM: So true.
Grizzly Bear: Did you see the one where they had to read teleprompter? The show gave the girls adjectives to act out -- angry, scared, aloof. They were all like, "What's aloof?" I can't believe Tyra's not sending them to school. Tyra's kind of a mess -- that red hair. PM: It looks a little fried.
Grizzly Bear: She's amazing in her own right. They were struggling to come up with new challenges. Who can bake a flan the fastest? And everyone is like, "What's a flan?" PM: So, what's something that nobody knows about Grizzly Bear?