Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste on Supporting Radiohead and Recording Among Actual Bears

Photo: David Atlas / Retna

Since the release of 2006's Yellow House, Brooklyn's Grizzly Bear have been one of the most critically acclaimed and blogged-about forces in indie rock. They're currently supporting Radiohead on their summer tour, and tonight they'll play Liberty State Park's much-anticipated All Points West festival. Singer-guitarist Ed Droste spoke with us about the band's upcoming album and what it's like to meet Thom Yorke.

You've been opening for Radiohead all week. What was it like meeting them?
It was great. They immediately came up to us on the first day of the festival and introduced themselves; they were super gracious and made us feel comfortable and at home, which was a total relief. It was really surreal too, since we’ve all been such fans of theirs since we were, like, in high school. So we all just sort of tried to not dork out and be as normal as possible. We sorta talked about … the weather.

Some of the bands who open for Radiohead go on to bigger and better things — Sigur Rós, for example — but lots of them just sort of drop off the face of the earth (the Beta Band, Kid Koala, Remy Zero, etc.). Do you have any particular strategy for breaking the curse?
Honestly, I have never heard of the Radiohead curse! I would hope that this wouldn’t be a curse. I think the audiences have been really receptive. We’ve sold the most merch we've ever sold in our lives so I think it's going over really well. Hopefully we can be following in the steps of the Deerhoofs and Sigur Rós, not Kid Koalas. I'm sorry, Kid Koala. I don’t even know Kid Koala. What kind of music is Kid Koala? It sounds electronic.

Maybe if they hadn't opened for Radiohead, you would know more about them?
[Silence.]

And how was Lollapalooza?
It was great. I think we’re still kind of figuring out how to play as an outdoor party band. We’re a good afternoon, sitting-in-the-grass kind of band. If you've been dancing too much, you can come over and hang with us. Our friends CSS are like the ultimate festival band. They definitely thrive in festivals.

They’re also playing All Points West…
I think we’re playing around the same time as them, and they’re on a different stage, so now they're our competition. Damn them! Grrrr. We’ll have to throw in some beats. We’ll just play the cover of "Knife" that they did from the loudspeakers.

Your band's done some great covers. Yes' "Owner of a Lonely Heart," Jojo's "Too Little Too Late," Phil Spector's "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)," Paul Simon's "Mother and Child Reunion" … Who's next?
I want to cover Sparks. They’re from the eighties. I can’t remember the name of the particular song … it's on our blog. To be honest, I’m kind of covered out. We’ve done a lot of covers, like you said. I think it’s time not to make covers for a little bit. Make new music. No covers on the new album.

You’re also playing a little benefit show in Brooklyn in between your two appearances at All Points West. How did you pick the Grand Cedar Rapids charity for that show?
There’s this blog called Daytrotter, which does these really great sessions when you go through Iowa at this old vintage studio, and we’re friends with the guy that runs it. He wanted us to come out to Iowa to do a benefit, but it was in the middle of this tour, and so we were really bummed that we couldn’t so we decided to add on a show in Williamsburg and have it officially benefit the organization.

So not because there were bears in Iowa.
No — I don’t think there are bears in Iowa. There are no mountains! Do they live in the cornfields? I don’t think so. I would be really shocked to learn that there are wild bears in Iowa. Actually when we were upstate in Woodstock recording there were these black bears all around the house, like eating berries. It was unbelievable.

Were you scared?
No. It was a mother with three cubs. I mean, I wasn’t going to go up to them but … they were just enjoying some berries. It was awesome.
—Lauren Salazar