Grumpy Bear Interview pt2

OK, I’ve got the second half of the Grumpy Bear interview here, which is good stuff but as well as that the guys themselves have given me a new track which I think I’m guessing makes this … well… an exclusive! Oh yes.

So, read through the interview (I like what they say about song writing) and then download the new track, “Wojciech Frykowski (Dead Playboy Song)”.

(btw you can look up Wojciech Frykowski on Wikipedia, which is kind of interesting but I’m not sure how it all fits in…)

***

Is that a mandolin on “Luis Bunuel”? I really like it; is all your stuff acoustic or do you ever … ahem… rock out, as it were?

Lattney: …or are we just happy to see you? Mandolin has made its way into a few of our songs, but the gorgeous strumming you’re probably referring to is some of Tyler’s most inspired spirit-lifting acoustic guitar rhythm pieces we’ve ever put to record. As for “rocking out”, what about “Our Own Ocean?”

Tyler: Lattney is wrong. Although it is not mandolin, the sound you hear actually is Lattney spryly strumming a nylon-string guitar. We do use a mandolin on some other tracks. We do occasionally pull out the electric guitars and let-er-rip, but mostly we just sit and sob into our instruments.

Yellow is the colour of my true love”
You’re obviously big Donovan fans (feel free to reconsider…). I saw him at Green Man, and it must be said that he was a tad embarrassing, insisted on speaking in a ridiculous cod Jamaican accent. What other heroes would you say you have? Any contemporaries you really admire? And, thinking about it, are there any future heroes in the making that I should know about?

Lattney: I remember being obsessed with “Mellow Yellow” around the age of six, and I will always have “Hurdy Gurdy Man” screaming somewhere in the far recesses of my mind. But my big three would have to be Pavement, Roxy Music, and the Legendary Pink Dots. For the most part, I tend toward the goth/darkwave side of music, (as horribly silly as those tags are) but lately I’ve really been enjoying Spoon, the Walkmen, and particularly the Black Angels’ “Passover” album.

Tyler: Whoa! Let’s not get carried away, no hero of mine is Donovan! We had been asked to do a Fleetwood Mac cover for an Art Installation in Baltimore. My dad, who was going through a divorce at the time, suggested “never going back again” from Rumors (I am not much of a Mac fan so I took the suggestion). I had this faux-Fahey, open-string tuning version of the song and realized that ‘Colours’ just seemed to fit right in melodically. So…in terms of my musical heroes, well, I have over 1,000 CDs of all different genres. I love all the usual suspects (Beatles, drake, VU, Pixies, Smog, Mangum, Eno, et al.). More recent groups that I enjoy include Akron/Family, Caribou, Iron & Wine, Animal Collective, Okkerville River, m ward, Cass McCombs, the Graves, and Bla Bla Bla. Some of my less obvious loves include American Music Club, Mississippi John Hurt, and Can. I love music. Plain and simple. Oh, and in terms of someone new, I really like Kevin Hume. He has an album called “The Truth About Ants and Aphids” which is gorgeous.

“Been there one time, been there two times, never going back again…”
Are you comfortable talking about your lyrics? They seem pretty personal at times… I really liked the vocals on this song, are you going to be doing any more work with Anna Järvinen?

Lattney: Tyler’s lyrics certainly sound personal to me; the man has a knack for turning pain into poetry. My lyrics serve mainly to keep songs from being instrumentals, and to keep us from drawing Tangerine Dream comparisons.

And Ms. Järvinen is welcome to bless our humble music with her beautiful voice anytime she wants!

Tyler: Well, when I write lyrics it is purely intuitive. I almost never write directly about myself. Mostly I just put pen to paper and hope it isn’t shit.

Anna was so gracious and kind to work with us. We were in a bind. I had written that song on piano and had shelved it for months. Then Lattney and I finally recorded it while in a hotel room in Tucson before the opening show for the Iron & Wine/Calexico tour. Sadly, neither Lattney nor I could really do the vocals justice, so it was shelved again. Then we heard Anna. Her voice was perfect, so we asked her to add the vocals. Luckily she agreed. I would work with her again at any moment. She is wonderful.

What’s the news for the future? I’d really like to buy a Grumpy Bear CD, is there a full length record on the way? Are you likely to come to the UK?

Lattney: Hell, I’d really like to make a Grumpy Bear CD! We self-released a full-length a few years back, and have put out quite a few EPs and compilation tracks. Of course we’ve got enough material in the footlockers to make plenty more and thus have an actual “discography.” We just need the time, resources, and support! Playing in the UK would be like a Frampton Comes Alive, but again…time, resources, support…probably a following, as well!

Tyler: Yeah, well, we really have released a large amount of material. We have been recording for 3-plus years and in that time have released 2 full lengths, 5 EPs, 2 splits, and songs on numerous comps under 6 different names and on 5 different labels. Basically we’d do anything anyone asked us to do. Because Lattney has a demanding job and a family he has very little free time. I teach full time, and up until this past summer was going to grad school full time. Between those two hectic schedules Grumpy Bear is only able to get together and record once every three or four months (and even then for only a weekend here or a day off there).

I’d love to play the UK, but it seems Über-unlikely. Lattney and I are old fogies who are tied down tightly by the rope of adulthood.

***

Which is all a bit of a shame really …

Wojciech Frykowski (Dead Playboy Song) – Grumpy Bear

btw Jon at Abandoned Records, who was good enough to arrange this interview, has mentioned that the Luis Bunuel track is also available for download from the AR site, here, (scroll about three quarters of the way down the page…)

Grumpy Bear Interview (pt1)

A while back I did a post on a pair of Arizona musicians, Tyler Blake and Lattney Jones, going by the name of Grumpy Bear (here); anyway, I got an email from Jon at Abandoned Records offering me an interview with the Grumpy fellers themselves. Well, I bit, and it turns out they’re not such a grumpy pair at all. In fact, they’re more than a little witty, I’d say…

It turns into a rather long interview, so I’ll not post it all in one go…

***

Grumpy Bear

Where are you now? Where do you live? What’s it like?

Lattney: We live in Hell, both environmentally and culturally. Top 40 and Country Music rule the radio and the youth, while hundred-degree-plus weather rules most of the year. The color brown dominates the color green and while there is a large riverbed, it’s more often than not a very dry riverbed. “Ethnic Cuisine” does not exist here, either.

Tyler: Actually, I just moved to Lattney’s home town this past week. It is a tiny rural town with lots of cotton and lots of Mormons. It is painfully conservative. I moved back to Arizona three or so years ago so that I could get my master’s on the cheap. Now that I am done I really need to find a way out of the desert. Just like Moses, man, just like Moses.

Not wishing to offend anyone, but I’m guessing you haven’t yet packed in your jobs and started pursuing the dream full time. How do you earn a crust?

Lattney: I work in a nondescript aluminum building which nonetheless houses a highly-sophisticated system of robotics–which I do not get to play with.
I do, however, have access to plenty of acids and reagents with which I turn soil into solution, or “dirt into water.” Only one person has picked up on the alt-Jesus connection. I used to spend eight hours a day talking to the locals while serving Satan, but he simply had no heart for retail.

Tyler: I teach under-aged murderers and rapists. Seriously. I am a school teacher at a federal/county juvenile detention facility. It is a strange job. I have had students as young as 9 and as old as 22. In some cases the 9 year old has had more education than the 22 year old. I am certified as a social studies instructor, but we are effectively a one-room school, so I teach all subjects (poorly).

In the pictures I’ve seen, you’re both impressively bushy fellers. If you’d done a cover version for Track Records’ Will Oldham tribute, what would it have been?

Lattney: Our beardedness depends largely on the season and the need for facial warmth. Apparently, we’ve only taken pictures when it’s chilly.

Tyler: Yep, we are both intermittently hirsute. It is obligatory to have a beard if you’re gonna play beard-folk, yes?

Actually, we began working with Tract Records just after they put that Oldham tribute out. I would have loved to have contributed. I think I would have pushed for “Hard Life”.

When I looked up Grumpy Bear on Wikipedia, I got this:

“Grumpy Bear shows that while it’s okay to be grumpy sometimes, it is also silly to let grumpiness go too far. He is blue and his symbol is a dark rain cloud with raindrops (some of which are shaped like hearts).”

Any thoughts? Why not Tenderheart Bear?

Lattney: Tenderheart is a pussy. Plain and simple. We’re just too masculine and filled with bad-ass testosterone, as well as piss and vinegar, to be tender…or sharing…or cheery.

Tyler: I actually dated Tenderheart for a few months in the late 90s. Tenderheart is the reason I am so Grumpy.

Why haven’t you got your own Wikipedia entry? I think we should put this right, what should it say?

Lattney: “Give this band a record deal so their families will stop casting stares of disappointment.”

Tyler: I just don’t want to be a disambiguation! Naw, it’d be nice to have a Wikipedia entry, but (as you can probably tell) neither Lattney nor I are any good at interpersonal communication. So who would write it?

***

The couple of lyrics quoted come from the following song, which you can get here, or from the Grumpy Bear Myspace page.

Never Going Back Again – Grumpy Bear

And now it’s time to forgive, it’s time to leave and let live, I’ve had enough of breaking down, it’s finally time for me to round the bend.

(Actually that might be “live and let live”, but I like the sound of it as it is…)

Named after an obscure Dylan song, Abandoned Love is an American label based first in San Francisco, then Austin and lately in Seatle. They’ve got quite an interesting roster of bands, including a few that are well worth investigating further – Virgin of the Birds, Parker Street Cinema and Nire all sound interesting on listening to the mp3s available at the site.

But I thought the pick of Abandoned Love’s bands was this one.

Grumpy Bear

There seem to be a few Bears around at the moment – I’m aware of a Grizzly Bear, some Art Bears and a Panda Bear off the top of my head – and I haven’t really managed to distinguish between them all. What’s a punter supposed to do?

Well, you could start off by listening to “Luis Bunuel”, a fascinating multi-phased effort from the Abandoned Love bears. Grumpy Bear are Tyler Blake and Lattney B. and are based in Arizona releasing carefully-put-together and somewhat melancholic pop songs that are based around regret and atmospheric synths.

One release came from their collaboration with Abandoned Love, 2006’s Songs from the Abattoir EP, but their Myspace page mentions other releases on other labels, which based on the songs I’ve heard, should be well worth tracking down.

I rather like the Grumpy Bear Myspace page, firstly because it’s one of the few still offering free downloads (three altogether, scholars and gentlemen, I say…), and secondly because it offers these words of wisdom on the band:

“Grumpy Bear has never been accused of “wearing a shit-eating grin,” but has been called a “horse’s ass,” which makes little sense.
Grumpy Bear is not a preferred day-care provider.
Grumpy Bear has never rallied ’round a flag
Grumpy Bear will not be “breaking out” anytime soon
Grumpy Bear was not singing softly outside your window last night. But I was.”

I’m posting a couple of tracks, one from the Abandoned Love site, “Luis Bunuel”; and the second from their Myspace page, the beautiful “Round the Bend”, with vocals from Swedish singer Anna Järvinen – another name to research, I reckon…