Painted Ruins, Grizzly Bear’s first record in five years, oscillates between the political and the personal. Created in the midst of the 2016 election, the album touches on darkness but tries to find joy in the mundane and the everyday: chores, quiet walks and small daily epiphanies. The band brings that reflective but resilient mind-set to its three-night residency at Brooklyn Steel this week. We talked with the band’s two lead vocalists, Daniel Rossen and Ed Droste, in advance of the shows.
Tell me about the title Painted Ruins.
Daniel Rossen: Titles are always funny. It’s something I thought of at the end of making the record. It felt like it summed up a lot of what was going on around the record, like it could be a personal statement or a way of thinking about a life, growing old or growing apart.
How did the political climate affect the record?
DR: We never set out to make topical songs. When we were working on all this, it was a good while ago, so if anything there was simmering anxiety around us. We’re always trying to make music that’s personal and intuitive. This time around there was more of an attempt to speak slightly outside our perspective.
Ed Droste: I was deeply involved in the Bernie Sanders campaign. One would think that I’d have an overtly political tone, but I kept it to our tour and rallies. We set up voter registration at our shows, but it [appeared] more in Dan’s lyrics. Inner turmoil is also outer turmoil. I think it’s really hard to make a political song well, so we try to stick to what we feel like comes naturally.
“I like making something trashy and mundane into something glamorous.”
Daniel, you live in upstate New York. Did that influence any songs?
DR: “Wasted Acres” is a clear one. It’s pretty much a description of going to collect wood with my dog and name-checking the four-wheeler I use to haul the wood. I liked making something trashy and mundane into something glamorous. Those kinds of rituals become a way to process what’s going on around you.
How did you self-examine on this record?
DR: I personally backed off a little bit from contributing really personal or overly emotional songs. If anything we tried to keep the musical ideas open as long as possible so that everyone could have a part in them. Every time we come back it’s a new set of ideas and a new set of problems to solve.
Grizzly Bear plays Brooklyn Steel Thursday, November 2–Saturday, November 4 at 8:30pm (bowerypresents.com/brooklyn-steel). $40–$46. Buy tickets.