Classic Rock’s Future
Seattle quintet Minus the Bear has grown from prog-rock roots to their own sound
Five guys becoming men while playing music together is what Minus the Bear has been doing for nearly 12 years.
“I don’t think Minus the Bear would be what it is without any of us,” bassist Cory Murchy said. “I think it’s all a puzzle like interlocking pieces, and, without one piece, it wouldn’t quite work the same.”
Categorized as indie rock and made in Seattle, those five pieces are Murchy, lead vocalist and guitarist Jake Snider, guitarist Dave Knudson, drummer Erin Tate and keyboardist and vocalist Alex Rose.
Minus the Bear is co-headlining the Waves Overhead tour with Circa Survive for the release of its fifth album “Infinity Overhead.”
The “Infinity Overhead” title comes from the album’s third song: “Liquid concrete under our feet/Trippin' on the constellations we see/Diamond lightning/Seeing where seams are sewn in.”
Booze, sex, deception, love, sorrow, heaven and angels combine into one trippy album. In “Steel and Blood,” two become one in the cacophony of a bourbon-soaked car crash.
Minus the Bear has a lot of fans in common with Circa Survive, a Philadelphia-based rock band formed in 2004, and they’ve played together in the past, Murchy said.
Murchy said the band writes all of the music they play and never does covers.
“It’s all original. It’s a mixture of us sitting together and getting personal,” Murchy said. “Jake writes all the lyrics, and Dave will sometimes come up with a guitar riff or progression, then we’ll kind of work off that.”
Murchy said the band’s dream-like third album, “Planet of Ice,” is special to him.
“We were all looking into a lot of prog-rock at the time and kind of grew up with that kind of music in our homes. It was stuff our parents listened to, and we didn’t really pay too much attention to it at the time,” Murchy said.
“Through listening to a lot of Yes, King Crimson and Pink Floyd, we kind of rediscovered it for the second time — but for the first time in our adulthood.”
“Infinity Overhead” goes back to the basics with the aggressive guitar riffs that are found in their first and second albums, “Highly Refined Pirates” and “Menos el Oso.”
“Omni,” the band’s fourth album, experimented with synthesizers throughout.
In a "World Café" session on National Public Radio, guitarists Snider and Knudson said they fell back in love with playing guitar, and that shows on their latest album.
Murchy said the band has never thought too much about the future. Minus the Bear was a side project that quickly developed into something more.
“One thing lead to another, we started playing, and that was all she wrote,” Murchy said.
Murchy describes Minus the Bear’s current sound as the classic rock of the future.
“Hopefully, it holds up, and you can still listen to it in 10 years’ time.”
Murchy couldn’t name one band whose sound compares to Minus the Bear. “Musically, I can’t describe us sounding like anyone, but as far as work ethic, I would have to say maybe we could be lucky enough to be lumped in with Cursive,” Murchy said. “They taught us a lot early on, and they’re road warriors. We have learned from them what to do, and they’re definitely a reference and influence.”
Cursive is an indie-rock outfit from Omaha, Neb., that has been together since 1995.
Murphy said usually only one thing is on his mind while performing: the interaction between the band and the crowd. He feeds off the crowd while he’s onstage. The crowd can make or break the show.
“I get more nervous playing in front of 100 people as opposed to 1,000 people,” Murchy said.
Sometimes there’s a little stage fright, Murchy said, but he doesn’t get scared much anymore.
“I would be lying if I said I didn’t like being onstage,” Murchy said. “It’s a great thing, and it’s a lot of fun to be able to perform my art and music and have people react so strongly to it. I feel fortunate.”
Minus the Bear has a tradition they repeat before every show, Murchy said. They sing the Seal song “Crazy” — and it’s really terrible.
“You get the awkward out before you hit the stage, so once you hit the stage, nothing can be more awkward.”