Minus The Bear: Lost and Found

Music Features Minus the Bear
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A lesson that many a wise proverb has imparted explains that you can’t go back and dwell in your past; you must simply keep moving forward to the future. And while this serves as sage advice for most instances in life, luckily the Seattle-based alternative outfit Minus the Bear happens to think otherwise. On their sixth full-length album, following 2012’s critically acclaimed Infinity Overhead, they’ve decided to revisit their past and unveil a record of previously unreleased songs compiled from the past seven years, titled Lost Loves.

“Sometimes you’ll walk away from a song for a few years and forget about it, but you’ll return to it and say, ‘oh wow, this is awesome. I wish we would’ve put it on the record the first time,’” bassist Cory Murchy says. “This album actually gave us the opportunity to take those songs and release them on their own.”

“We’d been interested in doing something like this for a while and didn’t really know where we wanted to take it,” adds singer/guitarist Jake Snider. “We were going through older recordings, and we started listening to some of these songs that hadn’t been released, and it pretty much just came together like that. We wanted to hear how it would sound as a record, and we felt that the songs went together pretty well overall.”

For an album assembled of offshoots, b-sides and forgotten tracks, Lost Loves flows together in a seamlessly cohesive manner, as songs like “Electric Rainbow,” “Surf-N-Turf” and “Walk On Air” conjure the familiar and vintage Minus the Bear sound, consisting of driving drumbeats, technically daunting guitar riffs, locked-in bass lines and jovially conversational lyrics. Tracks such as “Broken China,” “Invented Memory” and “The Lucky Ones,” however, showcase the newer identity of the band’s songwriting that hits closer to the mark of Infinity Overhead, while still fitting the mold of the album.

“For me, I was able to look at these songs more as a listener would without the prejudice of having just written them and having a very personal opinion about them this time around. Going back, I found myself appreciating different things about these songs that I might not have the first time,” Snider says. “There were a handful of reasons why these songs weren’t released sooner, but now we think that these songs are pretty damn good. But back when we recorded them it was a matter of them not fitting into the sequencing of their albums.”

Minus the Bear aren’t strangers to revisiting and reworking their material, as the five-piece ensemble signed to Dangerbird records had previously released a remix album of their second LP, Menos El Oso, and two acoustic albums covering a large body of their work in the unplugged format. But in resurrecting this batch of songs that were overlooked from 2007’s Planet of Ice, 2010’s Omni and 2012’s Infinity Overhead, they’ve grown reflective on their years as a band and the music they’ve created.

“We’ve grown up in this band in a lot of ways musically and in life, so hopefully it’s a growth and a progression that can be heard in our writing. Thirteen years is a long time, and releasing an album like this is a reminder of that,” Murchy says. “We’re excited to play some of these songs live on our upcoming tour, because it will be something new for our audience. It’s great to have the chance to put some songs in our sets that we haven’t played in years, or ever.”

And to add to the warm nostalgia, the unveiling of Lost Loves happened to coincide with the 10-year anniversary of the fan favorite MTB release aptly titled They Make Beer Commercials Like This. The unmistakably unique six-song EP that was originally released in 2004 by Suicide Squeeze Records put MTB on the map and has since achieved a cult status. Fans of similar acts in the alternative-progressive genre had never experienced the style of the upbeat vibes of the songs and the virtuosic guitar tapping work of Dave Knudson, which somehow never remotely borders the line of annoying riffage.

“You always look back and think about what you could do differently. For me I always wish that I could record those songs now, especially after playing a lot of them on the road for 10 years now. But it’s definitely one of my favorite releases we’ve ever done,” Murchy says.

“When I look back at the parts I used to write, I’ll often ask myself why can’t I just do stuff like that still? What’s wrong with me? That’s mostly what I get out of it,” adds Snider. “It’s a weird feeling though, because it doesn’t seem like 10 years have passed since we made that album.”

To celebrate the anniversary of Beer Commercials, MTB is hitting the road to play the album in its entirety for the first time ever. The 18-stop tour will make its way through smaller venues and clubs that have been hand-selected by the band to recreate the type of shows they performed circa the timeframe of the original release of the record. Fans will be excited to know that selections from Lost Loves will also make their debut on this circuit of extended shows, though for the band, the real excitement and challenge comes from relearning and re-mastering the complex songs of their past.

“We’ve played half the songs from Beer Commercials pretty regularly, but the other half we haven’t ever played live or rarely have. Figuring out some of those parts has definitely been pretty tricky and can leave us scratching our heads,” Snider says. “There was no muscle memory for the songs that we hadn’t played over the years, so it was challenging figuring out some of those guitar parts and getting those songs ready for the live setting. That’s why it’s fun to do though. I think we can swing it.”