Minus the Bear interview: Tales from the Tour Bus

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 10 years (and even then I’m not sure it’s a valid excuse), your personal playlists should, by now, delightfully be acquainted with Minus the Bear.  If for whatever (unfathomable) reasons you’re not familiar with the five- piece, Seattle based indie-rock band that is Minus the Bear, fret not and consider this your formal introduction. Minus The Bear formed in 2001 and have since released five albums and four EPs. What that says is that their longevity is immeasurable, and their creative juices are constantly flowing. Earlier this month they kicked off the “second leg” of their headlining tour (showcasing their new album, Infinity Overhead). I had the pleasure of sitting down with front-man Jake Snider and pick his brain for a few; feast your eyes on my revelations (and then continue reading for an over-cap of the show):

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VM: Can you explain to me the meaning behind the lyrics for “Steel and Blood” vs. the story line of the music video?

JS:  The video is kind of the director’s interpretation of the vibe of the song. I always thought that the lyrics were about relationships that have been going on for a while- you end up fighting a lot. So I felt like the lyrics were basically about the contentious part of the relationship and how that can lead to sexual tension and all of these other overall problems in a relationship. The video I think just works well with the song, but that was mostly Dan’s concept [the director] who came  up with the whole punk kids, the father, the murder, etc.

VM: In a lot of cases, song titles are taken directly from lyrics or concepts in the individual song, but not so much with MTB’s previous albums- who comes up with names of individual songs?

JS: Anybody, really. It’s always been fairly random. These days we try to get them a little more exact. But yeah, people would say something crazy and it’d be like, “huh, that’s a funny song title…”

VM: For MTB, what does the songwriting process entail?

JS:  Usually Dave and Aaron [guitar player and drummer] come up with the basis of a song, and we all work around it, rearrange it, and add/subtract stuff. Then, usually the lyrical content comes once the song is completely flushed out.

VM: Was there any major reason behind leaving Suicide Squeeze Records and ultimately joining Dangerbird Records?

JS: No. I mean, the contract with Suicide Squeeze was up. So we did Omni on our own- recorded it and finished it without a label and kind of shopped it around, and Dangerbird seemed like the right place for it at the time.

VM: Speaking of Omni- that album has a predominantly softer sound of its own [in comparison].  Was that just where the band was at musically and personally at that time?

JS:  Yeah, basically. We had a different producer at the time and that kind of fed into the tone of the record, as well. He was focusing more on synthesizers and getting more sounds via artificial means rather than making a guitar-rock record. But most of the recording was live- the basic tracking and whatnot, which did carry over to the new record. We wanted to make sure it sounded live. So it was some of the same techniques, but we just didn’t want to have the synths be such a predominant role because it does soften things up a bit.

VM: Were there any previous affiliations with Cursive before this tour? How did this collaboration come about?

JS: I think it was 2003 that Cursive took us out one of our first opening tours, so the connection has been there since then. We’ve played with The Good Life (Tim Kasher’s other band), so we know those guys pretty well.

VM: How was working with Matt Bayles (former band mate) as the producer for Infinity Overhead?  Was it a feeling of “home”?

JS: Yeah, that was the whole idea. We wanted to just lower the inherent waste of time that can happen when you have a new producer and you have to get to know each other. There’s a lot of accessing of the sounds, but Matt just knows us so well from the past. We felt like that was the direction to take and he’s just been so easy work with and very in tune with what we’ve got going on.

VM: Are there any plans of another remixed album?

JS: We’re not quite sure what we’re going to do with that; we have some remixes in the works on some of the songs, but we’re not sure what we’re going to do with that.  We’ll probably end up doing another acoustic record beforehand.

VM: After this tour wraps, what are the immediate plans for the band?

JS: I think we’re going to put out a new video for the song “Listing” off of the new record. But the next thing we do, I think, will probably be that acoustic thing we talked about.

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Following up the set of Cursive, Minus the Bear struck pertinent chords with the audience by kicking off their set with “Steel and Blood” from their new album. The flashing of the strobe lighting, crowd members each dancing to their own beat, and the heaviest of energies became the building that was simply the Florida Theatre of Gainesville just hours before. “Lies and Eyes” and “The Game Needed Me” were next on the set list, each musically heightening the already palpable vivacity in the room. The set went on to incorporate four more songs off of Infinity Overhead, leaving the rest of the set room to bust out plenty of the favorites of MTB appreciators all around, such as “Throwin’ Shapes”, “Knights”, and “Pachuca Sunrise”. From my experience, it’s safe to say that Minus the Bear does something extraordinarily beautiful to a crowd in a way that I have never seen before.

MTB will be touring through early November- experience the energy for yourself in the nearest available city, and purchase your copy of Infinity Overhead online today.


Samantha Gilder is a native of Saint Simons Island. She attended Georgia Southern University for a brief stint where she studied Journalism, and although she became your statistical “college dropout”, she strives to pursue her goals with the best of them. Growing up, music and writing were the top two most influential things in her life; fast forward to the present and their roles in her life are just as prominent, with the only (major) differences being that now she is not only a writer but a mother. She has eternal love in her heart for her daughter. She bartends at a local coffee shop/café/pub where (lucky for her) the appreciation for music is equally shared between her employers and co-workers.

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