“That nuance of humanity”: Liima & Grizzly Bear

Liima’s Casper Clausen and Grizzly Bear members Chris Taylor and Chris Bear sat down for an intimate chat for Bant Mag. during their European tour together. 

Liima and Grizzly Bear have been among the bands that we have been looking forward to hear new stuff from, and they’ve hit it this fall with brilliant records. The second Liima album, named 1982 and produced by Chris Taylor got released on 4AD, and the long-awaited Grizzly Bear record Painted Ruins on RCA Records. The two bands have a long history going back 15 years, and that’s one of the reasons why it’s fun and special to hear them discuss their creation ways together.

Casper Clausen: I have one question for you (Chris Taylor). At first I thought I’d be interviewing just you, I wrote down a question to ask you. You’re a chef, you’re making your own cooking book. You’re also musician and I remember when we were recording 1982 with Liima in Porvoo, we had this moment that we talked about the importance of presetting. The idea of how you put the meat and where to put everything… And I was just thinking if that somehow also applies to music?

Chris Taylor: Totally, because when making music you’re developing different layers and different layers have different textures and density. And each of those are meant to kind of propel the nuance of the sound. So that the sound feels it moves. It moves because it changes in very subtle ways. Developing from volume to harmonic to kind of decay and kind of shifts… You can think of the same thing when you’re cooking food. When you can build density in places and you can build softness or butteriness or oiliness or saltiness of different layers of the food. And ideally the flavour does a very similar thing that sound should do. It sort of starts at one level and kind of goes up another level, up another level, up another level, like that. Until more and more kind of subtle layers take it to the sour, the sweet or the salt and to the finish. That’s the same in cooking or recording sound.

CC: I felt at least a bit like to produce an album, you have to work with the sensation of how people will perceive it. We put all these ingredients into compositions and into an album, but the people, including myself, hear sort of like the first impression of the record. The sound. Not a big deal if you don’t fall in love with the instruments or the vocalist or the beats, or whatever. What I love the most about you producing our album was that you put the focus on the sound of us, rather than me being a singer or Rasmus playing the bass. It was more like you had the focus on the sound we have together. Now I tour with you guys and it occurs to me you guys are also working very much on the sound. Not necessarily individually, you are all aware of sound.

CT: There’s a space that we are all looking for to find as four of us. It’s like the Venn diagram, and that space is pretty small. All four of us have super different things we are into and opinions. We love everyone’s opinion. To find that thing that points to the direction that the song is going is like where our opinions meet at the center of the Venn diagram. And we’re getting better and better on locating how we are going to find that. I can present something to Chris (Bear) and he doesn’t like it. I can definitely see why he doesn’t like it. Or totally a different scenario: If I present something to Dan (Rossen) and Dan doesn’t seem to be into it, I can probably guess why he’s not into it. So then there’s this process: “It’s probably this that you’re not into. I totally agree with you, and I want it to be better just while you’re here.” So it’s obvious that there’s a hole and Chris is the drum genius that I know and Dan is the genius in guitars and chords. So those holes can be filled. Just trust the guys in the band and they’ll provide a much better answer than you could ever find.

Chris Bear: You’ve been talking about the sound, finding the sound of making your record. I think it’s something that ends up happening for us, but we don’t explicitly talk about it. That sometimes is part of the magic. As the songs come together, you navigate towards certain sounds, certain sort of textures and rhythms, and all the different characteristics. Over a little time, they start to coalesce in this way and you feel like “Another instance of this sound we’ve already been working with might work really nice”. And you develop the characters and that sort of what ends up becoming the sound of the record.


CC: But also you guys have a sound that goes beyond any of the records you’ve done. You play stuff from Horn of Plenty, and now the new songs on your sets. There’s a thing going for all of the stuff you guys have made in all over the years. That’s the sound of you. And obviously every time you make a record, you make space for yourself.

CT: I think the idea of what our sound is in our mind, is kinda deliberately left open-ended. It’s sort of like a kind of nice equality, a nice balance. We just make music that we really believe in and stand by it. Not trying to switch genres or takeover something else. This is just what we do.

CC: You have a universe that we love, and it occured to me.

CT: It just exists there and it’s a nice feeling.

CC: In this case, you’re standing in a beautiful scenography, kind of in frames. You guys are playing songs from a long period. And I know you guys from our first tour 15 years ago. And we’re going into new eras. What is having a band relevant? Why do we keep it together? I personally love watching what you guys are doing. Like we said, it’s like a space you created together that is you.

CT: Chris, Dan and I, we are all coming from playing jazz. We all stopped playing jazz around same time. And also, around the same time we started to make music with each other. But I didn’t want to do jazz. I have specifically been disappointed with what jazz has become and I did not want to be a part of that, and consciously walked away from that scenario. The thing is, that spirit got us obsessed with what makes jazz special. That little thing. Why does it feel good? It interacts in all these different ways that what we wanted to play jazz at the first place. Anyway, we don’t talk about this a lot, but I think the quality that still exists in our deeper souls is Chris, Dan and I playing together. “Cut-out” is a good example. That song changes so much every night. It’s so fucking easy to mess with it. The more playful, the better. We really have a lot of fun with that. We twist that every night. We just like to interact like that, play like a jam in a way.

CC: When we toured for the first time, there was a freedom in music in the way you guys were playing that I never seen before. It was 2005. You were an amazing band in terms of playing together fluent. Now I see this in front of two thousand people with all the scenography. I still feel it’s the same playfulness when you guys are playing. That thing transports to me as an audience.

CT: It’s nice for the audience to see the band playing together. If you sound just like the record, it’s so boring. We’ve added that nuance of humanity to the performance. The more, the better. That’s what makes exciting to see our show. And some parts of the stuff still feel really technical for me, some stuff is really hard. You try to get it as much as you can, but if you fuck up, that’s it. You can’t just stress yourself out on this. That’s just a part of the whole thing. That stuff is good.

CB: I totally agree.