Mono.Kultur #29 Chris Taylor / Grizzly Bear
“Those times when your heart felt kind of warmed, like a glowing lightbulb was inside of you.”
Asked as a little boy what he wanted to become when growing up, Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor answered ‘a dolphin’. At 30, the Seattle-born multi-instrumentalist and producer has certainly done and become many things, though obviously, not a dolphin. However, he does have one thing in common with those marine mammals: Just like dolphins, who merely sleep with one brain hemisphere at a time, he doesn’t really slow down. Chris Taylor just keeps on moving. Has to.
One would think that being part of Grizzly Bear is a full-time operation. After all, their latest full-length, Veckatimest, debuted at #8 on Billboard’s album chart in May 2009. Having toured with Radiohead and performed on all the major TV shows in the States, Grizzly Bear’s sweet, soaring and strange sound is clearly no longer an underground phenomenon at the center of a short-lived Brooklyn music moment. In fact, it was prominently featured in movies such as Jack Goes Boating and, more recently, Blue Valentine. Beyond Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, music heavyweights such as Paul Simon, Jay-Z and Trent Reznor have long sung the praises of Grizzly Bear, the latter even going as far as to confess that their music made him ‘feel irrelevant’. Jay-Z, in turn, called the band’s performance at NYC’s East River State Park, which he attended with a dancing Beyoncé, ‘incredible’ – we couldn’t agree more.
And indeed, if you have followed the Brooklyn foursome over the years, both in concert and recordings, one could truly see and hear them grow steadily, from a one-man bedroom operation, principal singer/songwriter Ed Droste’s own, into a fully developed family affair, a democratic quartet in which you couldn’t possibly tell who’s the actual mastermind. All four members of Grizzly Bear are incredibly gifted musicians and singers: drummer Chris Bear, the first to join and a big songwriter; the unmistakable Dan Rossen on guitars and vocals, and, last but not least, producer and band member Chris Taylor, who, strangely, is first and foremost the band’s bass player and thus responsible for the most low-key instrument, though also contributing clarinet, flute, saxophone and even the accordion.
The resulting sound, as scattered to the wind on albums like 2006s Yellow House, a big and unconventionally structured chunk of twists and turns and chanting in unison, or the aforementioned Veckatimest, packed with pitch-perfect pop harmonies that rang across the blogosphere like cherries imported from another decade, is located somewhere between psychedelic yet hymnal folk, layered harmonies that are ghostly and endearingly warm and fuzzy at once, Phil Spector productions, and sugar-coated prog-pop; an ambient realm of sea-drunk orchestral chamber music you never knew could be so addictive.
However, for Taylor, it doesn’t stop there: After kicking off his more electronic-oriented CANT side project back in 2009, he has since released his proper debut album entitled Dreams Come True on his own Terrible imprint and Warp Records. Man at the helm for various other bands such as Rossen’s side project Department Of Eagles, Dirty Projectors, Twin Shadow, The Morning Benders and Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, as well as an in-demand guest musician (e.g., on TV On The Radio’s Return To Cookie Mountain), he also helped restore some of Arthur Russell’s recordings and was asked by Jamie Lidell ‘to clean up that mess’ his Warp labelmate had created for his last album, Compass.
Full of teenage enthusiasm, Chris Taylor is always up for a creative endeavor: very much DIY, very much interested in nuances – sounds, salts, styles – the NYU graduate, who was recently named one of the fifty ‘most stylish New Yorkers,’ is now about to open a restaurant in NYC’s East Village, as if his various musical careers weren’t enough. With the fourth Grizzly Bear album in its infancy, it looks like he will be keeping up the pace.
No dolphin dream come true then, but an MVP of New York City’s current music scene and a crucial part of a mighty Bear: Meet Chris Taylor, nicknamed Terrible.
Interview by Renko Heuer
Photography by Chris Taylor
A Dinner by Chris Taylor & Itchai Schori
Design by Pia Hartmann & Christina Taphorn