Photo by Olga Baczynska
When Chris Taylor joined Grizzly Bear as an instrumentalist and producer, his multitasking persona reinvigorated what was essentially a one-man show, transforming it into an honest-to-music blog band.
This year, he’s streaming his multitude of trades into a solo project under the moniker CANT, produced in collaboration with Twin Shadow’s George Lewis Jr. The first album, Dreams Come True (Warp), gets deconstructed at Magnet Club on November 9.
So Grizzly Bear is recording?
We hit the studio in June. Up until then, I think everyone else was relaxing.
But you were creating your own album. Critics are calling Dreams Come True both chillwave and bedroom pop.
Chillwave?! I don’t really see how this relates to things like Neon Indian or Toro Y Moi. Bedroom pop? I don’t know. I think that refers to a very limited means of production, and I have a fully functional studio. I am interested in specific production angles and recording techniques – I would take the word ‘bedroom’ out of it.
It is some weird version of my own pop music. I want people to enjoy it and get a cathartic sort of feeling. Like therapy. Like when you listen to Nirvana or Joy Division: they can be kind of dark, but it does something to you that makes you feel better.
And dreams don’t actually come true very often…
It is a funny phrase. I like to feel a sort of satisfaction about where I am at any given time, to be happy and at peace with where I am. Until now, everything has gone as it should, and I feel happy with that – the dreams came true.
On the other side, things can be really bad, and you can feel lower than low, and that statement is really kind of a joke. It’s completely false, but it still exists as a kind of leitmotif. I find that interesting. It is a funny thing to roll out of your mouth. It made me laugh.
Did the recording process have the same effect?
I’d been working on albums with a lot of bands over the past seven years, so I guess I just had many ideas rolling around in my head. I thought I could make an album of my own interests – just having a lot of fun, not compromising. And it has been an interesting process with lots of learning involved.
George Lewis Jr. and I wrote it together in upstate New York – in the mountains, in the summertime – in about a week and a half. Then I put it down because I was really confused, as I’d never written my own music before. I left it for five months and came back to it in November, starting working again on it, and finished it in a cold winter in New York.
You composed the music together, but you recorded a lot of it yourself?
Yeah, exactly. We threw down what we had in our minds for that week and a half, and then George had to go promote Twin Shadow. So I turned the music into songs and recorded the singing.
How does composing your own work differ from producing others’?
I guess I worked on other people’s songs to kind of learn something about how to make songs myself, because I could never really figure out how to do that.
I knew I could always have some sort of creative input in helping someone finish songs or have an opinion on it. Which is all that is really needed: having an opinion on something and being able to decide whether you like it or not.
Then you can just move on. When it’s someone else’s music, you can be objective.
It’s almost as if you act as a critic.
I love that first reaction of listening to the songs – the first time you hear it is the most informative, as long as you are head-spaced enough to check it out and listen to it. When you do your own music... well, George and I just sit, writing together. We did not have anything pre-recorded.
We just set up instruments and started recording things that we liked, and we kept going until we both liked it. And just left it. We’d say, “Okay, cool, that sounds like a song for now.” We recorded 12 things, and then I came back to it later. I was alone and was like, “Okay, now what?”
But in the process of doing it alone, although it was very difficult and challenging, I learned how to actually see it through.
Do you think about singles? ‘Hits’?
You kind of know when you finish the album which song will be the most accessible. But I’ve never been in a band that was producing hits that play constantly on the radio. We did not really compromise. That was not my band, and that’s not me.
We’ve been lucky to get more people to the shows and that has been great, but we never knew how to make radio records. I do not know how this is done. My creative process has not been changed by this market feeling. It changed by listening and creating music.
You don’t create just music – you’re supposed to be a great cook. What do you make when you want to impress someone?
You know what I do best? I cook nachos. I know more impressive things, but I cook nachos for my friends, and I think I got that one really down. I learned it 17 years ago, so I had quite some time to work on my nachos.
You also run your own label: Terrible Records. Whom did you wish to tease with that name?
Well, yeah, there is a side meaning. It was not meant to tease; ‘Terrible’ was my nickname and I thought of calling my solo stuff, ‘Terrible’, but the label came beforehand. It sets a standard – you cannot make the records terrible; they have to be good for the name to be funny.
Has the Brooklyn scene gotten terrible?
Everyone in Europe is asking me about the Brooklyn scene! But New York has been the cultural epicentre for a century now. Not the only one, but there was always something going on. On top of that, Brooklyn is significantly less expensive than Manhattan: band rehearsal spaces are much cheaper, and everyone is very supportive. There are a few ‘competitive’ bands but, luckily, there are only a few.
I am not gonna say! They know who they are!! And they should stop it!!!
CANT w/ Blood Orange, Wed, Nov 9, 20:00 | Magnet, Falckensteinstr. 48, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Schlesisches Tor