Minus the Bear Provides Revealing Interview
Observer Scene | Thursday, April 24, 2008
With their unique music and energetic live show, Minus the Bear is one of the best rock groups out today. Scene had a chance to talk with Alex Rose, keyboardist/vocalist for the band, who played at Legends on Saturday night. Rose discussed topics such as life on tour and the band’s future plans.
Scene: How’s the spring tour going so far?
Rose: Well, we had a bus breakdown but that’s about the only thing that was out of our control. We had to get on a new bus for three or four days.
Scene: Do you play university shows like this often?
Rose: Yeah, we’ve had about one a week. A lot of smaller clubs and colleges.
Scene: How would you describe Minus the Bear’s music for someone not familiar with the band?
Rose: I usually say it’s classic rock of the future. I mean, we try to play rock-and-roll that’s pushing boundaries, that’s not going to become so dated that nobody will be interested in it down the line. We want to make it last, we want to please ourselves, we want to make good music. We listen to a lot of old stuff, but we also have that electronic element.
Scene: In the past you’ve toured with groups like [rapper] P.O.S., [instrumental group] Russian Circles and [grind-metal act] the Number Twelve Looks like You. What makes the band fit into tours with so many different bands?
Rose: That one [with the Number Twelve], we just got asked to be on the tour. Their music is a little more brutal than we would usually tour with.
Scene: “Planet of Ice” [the band’s most recent album] got a very good critical response from a lot of sources, both online and in magazines. Has this attention and positive critical reaction to the album given you even more attention, and are you seeing more people at shows now?
Rose: We are seeing more people at shows, it’s hard to know where each person is hearing the band. Yeah, we’ve been getting a decent amount of press, it certainly doesn’t hurt.
Scene: In regards to the songwriting process, do the lyrics get written first, or the instruments?
Rose: Vocals and lyrics come last. All of us hammer out the songs in the practice space, including Jake [Snider, lead vocalist/guitarist], and I’m sure he’s got some ideas brewing for vocal stuff during certain points. We tend to build from one of Dave’s [Knudson, lead guitarist] guitar riffs, especially recently. For “Planet of Ice,” we spent every weekday down in the practice space going over all the different possibilities and parts, throwing out parts, coming up with new ones. Some songs weren’t done until four or five weeks after we started, some were done after a week.
Scene: Which song took the longest to write?
Rose: I think “Dr. L’ling” might have taken the longest. It’s hard to say, because we would always come back to them.
Scene: This album’s a lot more laid back than your previous album, “Menos el Oso,” which was pretty concise.
Rose: Yeah, I think everyone was consciously trying to not edit themselves. Whereas before it was like “That’s too boring, we have to cut it down.”
Scene: What’s changed in the way the band operates since your first album, “Highly Refined Pirates”? Is it more serious now, or is it the same as it’s always been?
Rose: I think since the earlier albums everyone has had the opportunity to quit their day jobs. So we spend more time touring, practicing and writing.
Scene: Where do you see the band going in the future, over the next couple years?
Rose: We’re going to start writing another album this summer. We’re going to try to not wait too long [between albums], it’s going well now and if we take too long a break, it might fizzle. We’re going to write a new album, hopefully record it next year. We’ll see where it goes.
Scene: Is “Planet of Ice” going to get the remix treatment like “Menos el Oso” did?
Rose: Well, P.O.S. did that “Knights” remix on the bonus disc, I don’t know if we’ll go the same route. I’d love to try and remix a few of them, I haven’t done it before and it seems like it would be fun. I might do a few, but I doubt it would get a full album. We may go the opposite way, and do stripped-down acoustic versions of these songs. Maybe an EP, or even the full album.
Scene: Are you going to go on any more tours this year?
Rose: We have some festivals. We’re doing Bonnaroo, we’re doing Pemberton up in Canada, might be doing some European festivals. We’re going to spend most of the summer at home. We’ll probably do a fall tour. If something came up, we’d love to do an opening tour.
Scene: What’s your favorite city or venue to play?
Rose: I don’t know, that’s tough. New York was awesome a few weeks ago. Seattle recently has become very good. That was probably the most fun I had. The Norva in Norfolk, Virginia, has the best backstage ever. Foosball, video games, hot tubs. The Pabst theatre in Milwaukee is another great backstage. Anywhere that has laundry I’m pretty into.
Scene: What’s your favorite song to play live?
Rose: It might be “Dr. L’ling” for me actually. “Double Vision Quest” is really fun to play. A lot of the new ones.
Scene: What’s the strangest thing to happen on tour?
Rose: So much bizarre stuff has happened. I don’t even know what the strangest thing is, it’s almost like it happens on a daily basis and you don’t think it’s strange anymore. People break into our dressing rooms all the time. I walked into a Wal-Mart bathroom one time, and there was this 300-pound kid sitting in the stall with the stall door open, just singing. Surreal things like that happen all the time.
Scene: What’s your favorite band to tour with?
Rose: Got to love touring with [Seattle rock band] These Arms are Snakes, they’re our bros from Seattle. We’ve lucked out, a lot of the bands we take out are totally awesome. Helio Sequence is great, they’re a great band.
Scene: That’s it, thanks for doing the interview.
Rose: No problem.