A New Formula
By Jasen T. Davis
Minus the Bear returns with a different take on its original sound
Erin Tate is the drummer for Minus the Bear, an indie-rock band from Seattle, Wash. Since the release of the band’s first album, Highly Refined Pirates (2002), Minus the Bear has spent a decade composing sophisticated music that challenges conventions and tantalizes the listener with inventive keyboards, progressive bass lines; ferocious guitar licks and brilliant lyrics that can make you think and rock.
Minus the Bear didn’t sell out venues and get millions of hits on YouTube, MySpace and iTunes throughout its career by playing it safe. With its new album, Infinity Overhead, the challenge was to reinvent its formula without forgetting where it came from. “We just want to do whatever makes us happy, but we also want it to sound good,” Tate says. “When we went back to the writing process we decided to just write rock songs with heavy guitars and odd signatures that kick ass.”
Infinity Overhead will kick your ass if you enjoy metal bands that defy modern conventions like King Crimson or Pink Floyd. Psychedelic rock is a broad category that Minus the Bear could almost fit into, but its music feels more post-punk or alternative than something entirely from the ’70s. The band’s signature sound is at the cynosure of many genres, which is why old fans come back for more of what this band makes.
“When you listen to our previous records, you can always tell that it’s us,” Tate says. This challenge exists for every modern band. Change too much and you might lose your fans, but if your music doesn’t evolve the band and/or your listeners will get bored, which is when everyone loses. Tate and the band approached Infinity Overhead with that danger in mind. “We wanted to stay out of our comfort zone and try different ideas.”
“On our first record we wanted to play guitars the way people like to hear,” Tate says. It wasn’t long before they decided to spice up the process. “After that we began incorporated weird samples and other odd riffs.” A few albums later Minus the Bear wasn’t afraid to experiment and combine beauty with the beast. “With Planet of Ice we just went hard with the guitars and wrote intricate songs to go along with it, but with Omni we used a lot of funk,” he says. “I thoroughly believe bands could have longevity if they keep reinventing their own music.”
Infinity Overhead is a broad work. “The record is a really great representation of our career,” Tate says. “Our band has turned 10 years old, so there was this feeling that this album was a tribute to everything we’ve done so far.” “Lies and Eyes,” one song from the album, is somewhere between pop and electronic, while another track, “Lonely Gun” is a guitar-driven rock song with so much going on its fun to keep up.
While the new album might challenge listeners who are expecting the same thing for a dozen songs, Tate and the band are glad they made an album that has so many angles. “We got a lot of criticism, but we also got a lot of new fans.”