Electronic rock band Minus the Bear roars into The Rave
Minus the Bear may be named after a bad inside joke (something involving a friend, a date and the old '70s TV show "B.J. and the Bear"), but there's nothing funny about the Seattle electronic rock band's rise to success. Since their 2001 debut EP, "This Is What I Know About Being Gigantic," the band has gained more and more popularity amongst indie and alternative fans.
As a result, the past couple of months have been understandably busy for the band. They not only self-released "Acoustics II," an album of re-imagined past favorites and a few new numbers, on Sept. 4, but they also began a 39-city tour, which is taking them through The Rave tonight. OnMilwaukee caught up with bassist Cory Murchy to talk about the band, its shifts into acoustic music and maturing as a band.
OnMilwaukee.com: So I kind of want to start with the basic question: How did Minus the Bear come together?
Cory Murchy: We all were friends in Seattle, and our bands played with each other's bands. We were all in different bands at the time, and we just kind of grew as friends. One thing led to another, and now we're looking back at 13 years.
OMC: You guys released "Acoustics II" last month. Obviously, you had done an acoustic album before that, but why move to acoustic again for this album?
CM: I think we all learn something new about the songs that we've written in the past, kind of stripping away all of the electronic elements and getting to the core of the songs. I think it's good for us as musicians, and it's a nice way of presenting some songs that we love in a different light. Putting new air into them.
OMC: Have you ever thought about moving further toward becoming an acoustic-type band and doing a complete album of original acoustic songs?
CM: We've written a few completely original songs just as acoustics songs. But we're an electric band at heart, and I think we're doing a pretty good job at doing both. There's not really a reason to go full-on acoustic for the rest of our career, but it's fun to do every once and awhile.
OMC: Now at the show on Friday, are you going to do some of that acoustic music? Or is it all going to be electronic stuff.
CM: Yeah, we'll have a little set of a couple of songs in the acoustic fashion.
OMC: For "Acoustics II," you guys self-released that.
CM: Yeah, we did. For "Acoustics I" and "II," we made our own label called Tigre Blanco. We also worked with David (Dickenson) over at Suicide Squeeze Records, who we've had a relationship with since the get-go, and he released the vinyl version. It was kind of in cooperation with our camp and his camp.
OMC: Was that on your own doing, or did you kind of have to do that because the label didn't want to do an acoustics album?
CM: To be honest, it's just a lot easier and kind of more fun to do it on our own. We proved we could do it before so it was kind of a no-brainer. If we were waiting around for labels, we'd probably still be waiting.
OMC: It's not quite a Kickstarter, but you are using a kind of reward/pledge system?
CM: Yeah, PledgeMusic, which was great. We recorded the record, so it was just a way to do pre-orders and then also to do extras for our fans that seem to have really appreciated. It seemed to work really well.
OMC: A lot of bands are moving toward that kind of online, pledge-based release. Do you think you'll do more of that for future albums?
CM: We'll see happens. I don't see why not. It's always good for us to do these crowdsourcing things. I think we'd feel weird about it if we didn't already have a product done, and we were just kind of winging it. But we had the record done, and it was a great way to do pre-orders in the smartest way.
OMC: Where do you see the music industry going right now?
CM: It's constantly changing. You just have to keep rolling with the punches. Everyone's trying to figure out what the next big thing is. That's been happening for years. A lot has changed, and a lot hasn't changed, if that makes any sense. At the end of the day, it's just about making good music, making it as good as you can and having a good time at the shows. All the other stuff kind of becomes cumbersome sometimes.
I think a lot more bands are taking the reins into their own hands – like what we did – not waiting for a record label and not even worrying about it. You have the ability to get the product out to whomever you can now. So it's a good thing.
OMC: Do you think its easier or harder now for bands to break out?
CM: Yeah, there's so much access, and then there's such a glutton of bad stuff. Like I said, anybody can do it, but that doesn't always mean that it's good. That's just the way it goes. The market is definitely flooded, but there's a lot of good stuff that comes out of that too. You gotta take the good with the bad.
OMC: What bands and artists in particular inspire your music?
CM: All sorts. Right now, the new Nine Inch Nails is blowing my mind. I've been a huge fan of Trent Reznor since I was a kid. Kind of anywhere and all over, like taking long walks with my dog.
OMC: What's next for Minus the Bear? Do you have an album in the works?
CM: Right now, we're just concentrating on getting through this tour, and when we get home, we'll be going into the holiday season. So we'll probably take a little bit of time off, reassess what's going on, spend time with our families and then most likely get back at it.
OMC: It's interesting because you guys have families now, but a lot of your lyrics are about, I don't want to say debauchery, but about those kind of things. Do think getting older and having families is making you mature out of that?
CM: I think our music has matured for sure, and I think our vocals and lyrics have matured. They kind of changed. But at the end of the day, I don't really care to hear a song about, like, changing diapers and how your kid is sick or something like that. I guess there's a place for it, but as a writer and a storyteller, I think Jake does a great job at writing fiction, and that's a good thing. But yeah, like I said, I hope he doesn't write about changing diapers because then things will kind of get weird.
Minus the Bear is performing tonight at 8:30 p.m. at The Rave.
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