minus the bear

Can you imagine eating pizza everyday? After a few days you simply have to grow tired of it. But sometimes you can’t avoid that, especially when you are on tour with many people. That is at least what MINUS THE BEAR’s keyboard player Alex tells. We met him last week in Kingston Upon Thames (Southwest London) before a gig to talk about MINUS THE BEAR’s recent longplayer, their favourite music and of course pizza.

First of all, please introduce yourself and your band MINUS THE BEAR to our readers.
My name is Alex. I play in a band called MINUS THE BEAR from Seattle, Washington. I play keys and sing backup vocals. We are a five piece rock band, we’ve got two guitars, a bass player and a drummer. And one of the guitarists sings. We play a little bit experimental, alternative, indierock, progrock, mathrock. It’s been called a lot of different things. We’re just trying to make sounds and songs that sound fresh to us and hope that people will appreciate that.

Your latest album is called Infinity Overhead. What was your main inspiration for the record?
That’s a lyric that is in the song Diamond Lightening. Other than that I can’t really speak of the inspiration for the album. It was sort of returning to the guitar based heavier songs that we’ve been dealing with before.

“We’re just trying to make sounds and songs that sound fresh to us”

The album was released in August 2012. That’s quite a long time ago. Why did it take you so long to go on a tour trough Europe?
We did tour in August. We came to London and we did a couple of different festivals: V Festival,Pukkelpop and some others. So we’re just coming back. We did almost two months US tour in the fall after the album came out.We make most of our money touring  the US so we prioritize that. We have a good situation with the label over here – Big Scary Monsters – and we wanted to come and honour our sort of arrangement.

So is it hard for you as an American band to succeed in Europe?
We’re just haven’t done as that much. I think a lot of the way that we’ve gained fans in the US is just playing tons and tons of shows. We’ve toured over here a lot but there has been a long period of time in between. It’s expensive and not quite as easy as it is for us in the States at this point.

The record is your fifth full longplayer. Do you think your musical style has changed during the release of your debut album and the recent LP?
I joined five years in the band and I don’t think that any of the stuff before or after I joined is trying to repeat the same thing. I couldn’t really name what it is but I think the earlier stuff had more guitar tapping and beats and as it progressed we started adding guitar samples and playing with chopped up guitar bits-things like that. And then with Plan Of Ice we got sort of classic rock and progrock inspired and we’ve kind of being mixing and matching that progression with the newer stuff. We’re trying to incorporate-get some pieces of the old directions and bring them into one form.

MINUS THE BEAR was formed in 2001, 12 years ago. You joined the band five years ago.
I joined five years ago into the band’s career; I started touring with them in spring 2006. I was their sound guy before that so I’ve been around. Plan Of Ice was my first album which we started recording late 2006/ early 2007 and it came out in 2007.

During your time in the band, have you ever though about splitting up?
Not seriously ever. I think breaks are good but in general we get along very well and enjoy being around each other a lot. The key to that is maybe having some time off here and there.

Can you name some artists who have an impact or an influence on your music? 
We all take different inspiration and it changes with each album. When I first joined there was some YES and PINK FLOYD and KING CRIMSON influences. It changes. It can be anything from R’n’B and Hip Hop to Metal-depending on who you ask in the band. It’s a lot of everything.

“At the end of a brutal day you can always just slip on some slippers”

What’s your favourite band at the moment?
That’s always a tough question. One of my favourite current bands is actually from here: EVERYTHING EVERYTHING.

They are quite successful over here at the moment.
Really? They are not big in the states yet so we’re hoping that maybe we can play some shows with them in both places and see if it works out. We’re listening a lot to that right now. They are my favourite “new thing” I’ve been listening to lately.

You said that you played some shows at festivals. What is the main reason that you still play gigs in small clubs like the Mc Clusky’s in Kingston?
Purely, ticket sales.  We always prefer club show then festival. It’s like your own thing, we can sound check for a long time, get everything right. Festivals are more like “gogogo”. Clubs are the natural environment for rock’n’roll. The outdoor thing is a little as weird as it sounds- artificial because you’re just bringing people and music out there. It can be really fun but clubs are the natural environment. This is the devoted people who are like” I am gonna go to see this artist”. It’s a different relationship, there are the more “hardcore” fans at the club shows. They will always be preferred by us.

What are – apart from music – the most important things in your life?
(Laughs) The usual family, friends-things like that. I record music also, so I’m not very well-balanced. It’s a lot of music. But just the people in my life.

And what are the most important items you always have with you on tour? Any lucky charms?
(Laughs) What do I always take? (Thinks)I have these slippers that are really comfortable and that I like to take. At the end of a brutal day you can always just slip on some slippers.(Laughs again)

“Clubs are the natural environment for rock’n’roll ”

 What about rituals before shows?
Sometimes we do vocal warm-ups and we have a chat that we do right before the show, that’s a secret song. Other than that just trying not to eat before the show.

Not to eat? Why don’t you eat anything before your gigs?
Because it just messes with you. So warming up, not eating, stretching…

…maybe having a drink or two, yeah.

And after the show a big meal.
Yes, if we can find some  good late night food. Over here it’s Kebab places everywhere, that’s what’s open late, right?

So over here it’s Kebab or whatever is open late. Or pizza-but it gets older for a while.

So do you always eat pizza during the tour?
I try not to but it happens. I wouldn’t choose that but it tends to be a crowd placer. It’s like in the states, we tour with ten people, so if it’s one in the morning and that’s the option pretty much.

What do “hope” and “passion” mean to you?
Passion is just an enjoyment in what you do. And hope…(Thinks)…when I think of hope I think of positivity and keeping expectations, ideals, an ideal world.