Skeletons, Mummies and Knights
A fraction of Minus the Bear talks about Halloween and leaving New Mexico
With progressing popularity, a handful of albums already under its belt, a brand-new album—Planet of Ice, released last August on Suicide Squeeze—and a world tour, Seattle indie band Minus the Bear has come of age. You may have even caught a glimpse of the band on MTV. Via e-mail, two fifths of the band, Santa Fe natives Alex Rose and Cory Murchy, tackle varying topics for Alibi readers, some music-related, some totally irrelevant.
I caught a flash of a Minus the Bear video on "music television" a few weeks ago. As an indie band, how do you reconcile with being involved with a highly criticized musical institution like MTV?
Alex: I guess to someone watching it could seem like this huge deal, like the band has signed a deal with the devil and is now going to be adored by everyone who watches "The Hills." But from where we were standing, it really didn't seem like that big of a deal. They asked if we wanted to be band of the week, we said "sure," they flew out and filmed us for a day and we got to set up and play in a laser dome. I mean, when you put a song like "Dr. L'ling" on MTV, it's kinda funny how odd the pairing is. We have no problem putting ourselves out there, and if people like it ... well that's great. I'll admit it, I'd rather you listen to us than Fall Out Boy.
Cory: Plus, like you said, MTV is a musical institution. Granted it seems like the programing is 90 percent pop culture fluff these days, but if they want to start playing bands again and want us to be a part of it, it's kind of hard not to want to.
Who are your influences? Ha, ha, just kidding.
Mixed in with a variety of styles, you seem to have prog-rock leanings. On top of that, many of the songs on Planet of Ice have abrupt beginnings and endings, which strangely unifies the album. In 100 words or less, what is the ultimate intent here and how does it differ past albums?
Alex:This album is more like five guys playing music. Less dry and more spacious, less rigid and more organic. That's my take, anyway. I feel like overall the whole thing is less abrupt, but it's hard to say.
Cory: I think the amount of time we all spent putting the songs together lent itself to a certain flow regardless of the beginning or ending of a song. The flow is more in the feel of the songs presented together as one piece.
The album is also really, um, sexy. Like a make-out album. Are you trying to get people to make-out?
Alex: I wouldn't complain if they did. I used a lot of Fender Rhodes sounds on the album, and that's the sexiest keyboard there is.
Cory: Yeah, it's way better to have people making out instead of bashing each other's skulls in. Make love, not war, you dig?
Do you get cyber-groupies? Do you get old-fashion groupies?
Alex: Wait, is this a gossip column? Groupies? I mean, I know we were on "music television" and all, but mostly it's dudes asking what kind of pedals we use.
You’re in the midst of a two-and-a-half-month tour, and after the States you'll be in Europe for a month. What's it like to visit scores of cities, but only for a split second?
Alex: Sometimes it's really frustrating, especially when you don't even stay in the city after you play a show there! On the other hand, it's a great way to get a quick little sample of each city and its inhabitants.
Do you have any travel tips?
Alex: Pack light. I still haven't learned how to do this.
Cory: Go with the flow.
What's the strangest tour experience you've had? Have you come upon any haaaunteeeed venues?
Alex: After a while, none of it seems strange. Once I danced on top of a bar in Osaka after hours of drunken karaoke. I don't know, is that strange? As far as haunted venues ... nearly every green room in the world is haunted by millions of horrible band stickers and drawings of penises.
What is Minus the Bear's road food of choice?
Alex: Yuck. I don't want to think about road food. We usually go with the fastest thing possible, at least during the drives. I'm really excited to eat at the Frontier, though.
Being among those who have played in New Mexico bands, why do you think the Pacific Northwest seems to have greener musical pastures? What's the lure of leaving the Southwest?
Alex: It's something I've thought about a lot. The fact that [Seattle] has such a great musical history doesn't hurt. When I lived in Albuquerque I was really, really bummed when The Shins left. I started to feel like I couldn't achieve what I wanted to. And when you feel that way, even if it's not true, it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. I eventually moved to Seattle to try to further my audio engineering career and ended up performing more.
Cory: I gave myself two years to move away and see if I really wanted to play music for a living. I wanted a place where I could start over and see what would happen. Seattle seemed like a good place to start. That was in ’99, so it seems to be sticking, but I do miss New Mexico.
What's your favorite New Mexico band(s), past or present?
Cory: Logical Nonsense, Facedown, Knowital, Scared of Chaka ... there were quite a few for a while there. For being somewhat isolated from the rest of the music world, the 505 had some great bands. I just listened to "Soul Pollution" [Logical Nonsense] the other day and it melted my face as much as it did the first time I heard it.
Alex: Lots of New Mexico bands have had a huge impact on me, but the ones that really blew my mind were Flake and The Shins. I didn't think anything that good could be "local."
What will you be for Halloween?
Alex: Maybe a skeleton?
Cory: I'll be a mummy.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Alex: 2 + 2 = 4
Cory: Support Warehouse 21 in Santa Fe. ¡Que viva!
Minus the Bear plays an all-ages show at the Sunshine Theater Wednesday, Oct. 31, with The Helio Sequence and Grand Archives. Doors open at 7 p.m. and tickets are $15 at the door or at www.sunshinetheaterlive.com. In the meantime, listen to MTB's new album at www.planetofice.com.