Last week I spoke with Jake Snider, the lead singer of the rock band Minus the Bear. Here is our conversation.
Eric: Let’s start by describing the sound you have.
Jake: Minus the Bear’s sound. Usually when people ask what we sound like I say we’re a rock band basically. We got like a lot of different influences that can help inform what we sound like. Aaron (drummer) listens to a bunch of hip hop and R&B and what not. So does Alex (keyboardist). That kind of comes into play rhythmically for the band. And our bass player Cory really likes dub and reggae that really informs his bass playing. There’s a lot. That’s one of the harder questions.
Eric: Glad I started with a hard one. I also wanted to know how you guys all met. I know you all have different backgrounds and different influences, so how did you all meet and decide to form this band?
Jake: I met Dave (guitarist) while he was in his old band Botch and did some recording for him back in the day. He and I became friends that way. Aaron our drummer played with the band Kill Sadie who I also recorded with. I met him when they played at my house in the basement. And I knew Cory just from hanging around. So we were friends at the time and I thought it would be really fun to get together and play. Cory and I had been talking about it quite a bit and they were already starting this thing, the Minus the Bear thing, so I just joined up with them.
Eric: How do you think of your lyrics? Based on your life experiences? Or more fictionalized?
Jake: They’re more fictionalized. They’re based on my life experiences but they’re definitely a more fictionalized version of things. Kind of trying to capture the feeling of an experience, because sometimes trying to tell a real story doesn’t really capture the essence of it.
Eric: Do you write most of the lyrics? And then collaborate on the music?
Jake: Yeah, Dave (guitarist) comes up a lot of the riffs and the genesis of the songs.
Eric: How did you decide to have your lyrics and that music – how did you think they went together well. Because that’s a very original thing you do – having lyrics about life experiences, youthfulness, and having music that is very math-y, which isn’t normally in pop music.
Jake: I think the complexity we have comes from kind of the places we were before this band. The bands we were in before, the stuff we were listening to back then. And it’s the first band I’ve been in where I don’t write the music and lyrics. So it’s a little interesting that way. I kind of had to learn a new way of writing. Kind of “getting” someone else’s song and figuring out what suits it. I’m pretty used to it now after 13 years of it.
Eric: Now you guys released your new record, Lost Loves. It’s kind of a rarities/demos type thing. What made you guys decide to release those?
Jake: We kind of amassed a record’s worth of alternate songs. Songs that didn’t quite make the cut for our record releases, for whatever reason. Either they would have changed the tone, or whatever. We just realized we had these ten songs laying around that would be really cool to try to sequence them into an album and see if it makes sense. And I don’t know. I think it really works well as a sit down and listen to the whole thing kind of record.
Eric: Yeah it’s great I’m glad you released it.
Jake: I think we’re happier with it than we expected to be.
Eric: Are you guys planning to release more studio albums?
Jake: Yeah. I think we’re working on that. Start writing when we get home from this tour.
Eric: I also wanted to ask, because I’ve seen you guys live a couple times and I’ve listened to your records, how you play differently live, and how you take the studio albums and rearrange that to a live setting.
Jake: When we are writing and putting the songs together, in general it’s a little bit more skeletal than when we’re playing live. When we’re playing and tracking a song in the studio it’s a little more simplified and then you add layers later as part of the recording process. Other guitar parts, other keys, or whatever. And then we have to attempt to integrate as much of that into the live performance as we can. And it makes it a little challenging. But it’s all about getting as much of what we tried to get on the record live, and keeping it with a little of a more aggressive vibe usually.
Eric: So earlier you talked about some of the other band member’s influences. What are your influences?
Jake: Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Steely San. I’ve been listening to Dead Can Dance a lot. And everything. Led Zeppelin, Yes. A ton of different stuff. It’s hard to pick out. Now, I’m just sitting and listening to records and I’m not really seeking out any new music.
Eric: How do you think Minus the Bears sound has evolved since you first started the band?
Jake: I think it’s smoothed out a little. It’s a little less angular. I think we’ve found a lot through writing Menos el Oso and Planet of Ice we’ve found a little more room to stretch out and do different things. I think we’ve changed most just by going with our instincts, for the most part.
Eric: What is your favorite Minus the Bear record?
Jake: I like Menos el Oso. I really like the production on it. It’s really tight sounding and warm. And it has some of my favorite tunes on it.
Eric: I’d like to thank you for talking with me. Anything else you’d like to say before the show?
Jake: We’re trying to get everything back on vinyl and get it all available, so that people that are getting into vinyl now can play it on their record player. And, we’re just excited to get back into the studio and make another record.