"It was really, really hot and sweaty," says Grizzly Bear instrumentalist, vocalist, and producer Chris Taylor of the band's unconventional recording space. "We couldn't have the air conditioner on because of the noise, and it just kind of created a hothouse atmosphere."
grizzly bear with TV on the Radio. Showbox, 1426 First Ave., 206-628-3151, www.showboxonline.com. $16 adv./ $18 door. All ages. 8 p.m. Wed., Oct. 4.
Much like luminaries who have come before them, the influence of the space in which Grizzly Bear recorded shines through on their sophomore effort, Yellow House. It's shades of Zeppelin retreating to Bron-Yr-Aur—a house in Gwynedd, Wales, with no running water or electricity—to record Led Zeppelin III, and Neil Young and Crazy Horse holed up in his Topanga Canyon home for their initial album, still one of Young's favorites, Everybody Knows This is Nowhere.
For the Brooklyn-based quartet, camping out in frontman Ed Droste's childhood home (a yellow house on Cape Cod for which the record was named), coupled with the thick humidity of a New England summer, proved fertile creative ground. Not to mention that the band's current incar- nation was newly born and coming together to record for the first time.
"We didn't quite know yet how to work together as a foursome," says Taylor. "Collaboratively, we'd never really done that. We went from five practices and then went on a national tour. Dan [Rossen] joined the band with one show, no practice, then we went on the road. We were having to live together and then work out this album that we didn't know how was going to work, but that we all really wanted to work out."
Droste, Taylor, Chris Bear (drums, vocals), and Daniel Rossen (vocals, guitar) spent the next few months pouring the entirety of their energy into making Yellow House, fueled by collective personal tragedy and raw emotion.
"My mom passed away a year and a half ago, right after we began Grizzly Bear," says Taylor. "It gave me this inspiration and source of fire under what I was doing. I saw [this project] as a really good thing, and everything together really solidified my feeling that I am going to make my living as a musician. It's what I've always wanted to do, and this is what my mom would like to see me do, so endless amounts of energy went into it. Hours and hours and days and months, staying up all night, all night for weeks. Working really late at night all the time, this fire came from events like that."
Harnessing this abundance of familial fundamentals, personal history, and heartache, Grizzly Bear have produced a record brimming with poignant numbers that swell with vocal harmonies of hopeful fervor and majestic mystery. Each one fully developed, the dynamic tracks such as the aptly titled "Lullaby" transition from sweet and meandering psych-folk to full, epic-sounding anthems. The ever-changing yet fluid nature of the songs complement each other and inspire a great range of emotion. "On a Neck, on a Spit" evokes the painful truth, "You can't come home again/Each time it's different," while "Central and Remote"'s layered vocals channel the wistfulness of Simon and Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair," making it a quintessential soundtrack to lying in bed with the window open while the rain drips on the roof. Thematically revolving around personal transition, Yellow House is a record that begs to be played the first few weeks of any new season. The rolling drums and addictive chorus of "Knife" complement the first chill of autumn, and the dark waltz of "Marla" lends itself to winter's eerie calm.
Though Grizzly Bear were unsigned during their recording, their drive to create a record trumped the obstacles faced by many bands working without the big-budget benefits a label can provide. With Droste's mom out of town and Taylor in possession of both recording equipment and production skills, they flew headfirst into the dog days of summer at fever pitch, capitalizing on cost-saving opportunities amidst a backdrop of childhood memories.
"I feel that everybody has very personal elements [that are present] in the record," Taylor recalls. "Living in Ed's house—all of these associations with growing up and everything—all of those things are always on your shoulder when you are in the house where you grew up, making for a slightly uncomfortable environment."
The yellow house in Cape Cod has since been put on the market, perhaps marking the first and only Grizzly Bear record to be spawned from the site. Looking forward, just as Young and others have drawn inspiration from anomalous areas, there's no telling what spaces may season the band's future works. "[Yellow House] was a really big learning process," says Taylor. "It's going to be really exciting to see what happens next time."