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Interview: Minus The Bear

Interview: Minus The Bear

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Tonight, the Madison Theater plays host to a lineup of epic proportions, and I don't use that terminology lightly. Co-headliners Minus The Bear and Circa Survive have brought along the up-and-coming Now, Now which, in my opinion, will be one of the best nights of music in Cincinnati so far this year. I caught up with Minus The Bear drummer Erin Tate last week to talk about the band's 12-year history, their new record, Infinity Overhead, their experiences in Cincinnati, Katy Perry's Grammy dress, and lots more.  Get some deeper insight into Minus The Bear below, then definitely head down to Madison Theater tonight for a show you won't want to miss.

CM: Thanks for talking to me, Erin. And thanks for coming to Cincinnati. It's always nice when some of my favorite bands come through.

ET: Oh, thank you! We haven't been there in quite some time.

CM: Yeah, I caught you at Bunbury festival last year.

ET: Oh, cool! There were giant Bud Light signs behind us.

CM: (laughing) Yeah, I looked at the pictures and it was kind of in-your-face.

ET: Yeah, it really was. (laughs)

CM: So, I have to ask, how did the Waves Overhead tour come about? It's quite an epic lineup with you, Circa Survive, and Now, Now.  How did it come to be?

ET: Well, we've been trying to figure out a band to do a co-headlining tour with for a while. And for years and years, our fans and Circa's fans have been like, "Perfect lineup: Minus The Bear and Circa Survive!" We know a couple of the guys in Circa - their old band did some touring with us for a while. So we all kind of know each other and it just happened that our record (Infinity Overhead) and their record (Violent Waves) came out on the same day last year. So that was the catalyst for us to come together and do a co-headlining tour.

CM: So, perfect timing for fans of you both.

ET: Yeah, I mean it just seems like we have a common base of fans.  And I'm sure that each band has other fans that have heard of each other. And we've never done a co-headlining tour, so it was kind of an interesting option for us.

CM: What made you want to do a co-headlining tour?  What's the difference between that and Minus The Bear just taking the headlining slot?

ET: Oh, it's just something different to do.  You know, how many headlining tours per record cycle can you do? So it's just something different and like I said we'd never done one and we've been a band for twelve.  Bands do it all the time and we're always up to try new things. It seemed like the right fit with their band and our band, so we're doing it.

CM: Nice!  So speaking of trying new things, I would say that it's pretty obvious to fans of Minus The Bear that you like to try new things.  For example, Omni was completely different from anything you've done before, and Infinity Overhead is different from Omni.  What made you go in the direction that Infinity Overhead took from Omni? Because Omni was a pretty romantic, sexual record both lyrically and in the sound. Infinity Overhead, while clearly a Minus The Bear record, it's got a different vibe. What caused that evolution?

ET: I think with Omni, it was just kind of like the space that we were in at the time. It just felt right when the five of us were in the practice space writing and obviously when Jake was home writing lyrics. When it came time to write Infinity Overhead, I think at that point, all of us had gone back and listened to the rest of our records, which we hadn't done in a long time. We gained some perspective, and it was also right after we had done our 10-year anniversary tour and we had played Highly Refined Pirates as a whole for the first time ever. It felt like we were channeling, not to sound cheesy, but it seemed like we were channeling different genres of the band.  I don't know if it comes across to the average listener, but to all of us, it's like moments of each record in Infinity Overhead.

CM: Yeah, I think it does.  It comes across to me that way.

ET: It's not necessarily what we were "going for", quote-unquote, but I think that it's the way it turned out.  You know, a 12-years-old version of that.

CM: Is it daunting for you, when you sit down and try to write another record since you've got so many years behind you?  Do you find that as the years go by it gets harder to come up with new material or because you've been together for so long, it just gets easier every time?

ET: Honestly, it's both.  When we're home and getting into a new writing cycle, Dave and I rehearse five days a week.

CM: Wow.

ET: Yeah, we get up in the morning and we rehearse all day and a little bit in the evening. And we write so many songs that never come about.  Some days it's like, "This is fucking awful. Aahhhhhh what are we doing!? This sounds like another song we wrote!" That's one out of five days.  And then there's days where it's just like, I don't know, with every record cycle we've ever gone through, we immediately find a niche. When we recorded Highly Refined Pirates, we were all listening to the same kind of music and then when we recorded Menos El Oso, Dave and I were listening to a lot of glitchy electronic music. With Highly Refined, we had all started listening to a lot of prog rock. And with Omni, we were all listening to a lot of soul music and funk. And then with Infinity Overhead, it was a little more of a mashup. But yeah, we just seem to, once again not to sound cheesy, but we seem to just find a groove and just go with it from there.

CM: I don't think that's cheesy. I think it makes sense. To be able to find that chemistry in your band and in the music that you're listening to create your own sound.

ET: Yeah, we all constantly share music with each other. One dude will discover a record that inspires him, then he sends that record to everyone and we all try to check it out.

CM: What about your live show? How has that evolved and what can fans expect when you come to Cincinnati?

ET: As far as live shows go, when we tracked Omni, that was the first time we ever tried to do full performances, where we played the song over and over and over again until we got it right. Because at the time, we felt like that was something that was missing from our live show. So after we did that, our live shows had tons of energy for Omni.  With Infinity Overhead, we really tried to incorporate the live energy into that, which made the live show more exciting for us because it's how it felt when we were recording it - how the song felt in general.  As far as what people can expect when we come to Cincinnati is that we're going to play the songs that we wrote.

CM: Awesome.  What would you say characterizes your perfect live show? Or think back to your favorite show that you've ever played. What was it about that show that you loved?

ET: Hm.  Well, I mean, crowd reaction is a huge part of our live show.  And whether there's 300 people there or 3,000 people, if people are super into it and having fun, it just makes us have more fun. I could never pick my favorite show because we've been a band for 12 years and we've played so many shows that it would be impossible for me to do that. Every show is a different experience whether we're in Dublin, Spain, Tokyo, Philadelphia or Cincinnati. Everyone has a different experience and vibe. It absolutely helps when the crowd is helping us.

CM: Well I hope you find that in Cincinnati.  I think you will.  We tend to be enthusiastic, I think.

So, just a couple final questions.  I saw the Instagram photo you guys posted of Alex with "Taylor Swift":

Do you also have any comments on Katy Perry's Grammy dress?

ET: Oh, her boobs looked great! My wife and I were talking about it.  We DVR'd the Grammy's because my wife works late. And we were like, "God, man!"

CM: You've been to Cincinnati once before - did you get to go out to eat or see anything?

ET: Actually, yeah! There was this restaurant that we ate at in Covington right by our hotel, and of course I can't remember the name, that was so amazing.  But of course I'm not going to remember the name. It was so good. And then, we met a waiter who took the guys out to some bars after the show. We had a good time.

CM: That's awesome. I love to hear that.

ET: Yeah, we had a blast! We were there for two days and it was fun.

CM: Oh, you got to spend two days when you were here for the festival? That's cool.

ET: Yeah we flew in, had a day, played the show, and then drove out the next day.

CM: Cool. Well, again, thanks for coming to Cincinnati! We're really looking forward to it.

ET: We're excited to come!

CM: Well we'll see you on March 8 then!

ET: Yup! See you soon. Thank you so much.

What: Minus The BearCirca SurviveNow, Now
When: Tonight @ 7:30pm
Where: Madison Theater