In August 2017, Grizzly Bear took the stage for the second (and third) time in five years in Kingston, NY. Two nights in a row, the band played new material from their recent album, Painted Ruins, along with the old. Though the band formed in Brooklyn some 15 years ago, like many of us, they grew restless and left. Following their last tour, the band dispersed all over the country: Long Island, LA, and upstate New York–specifically, Cooperstown and Germantown.
Moving to upstate New York wasn’t entirely new territory for the band. In fact, Grizzly Bear has recorded much of their catalog at Allaire Studios atop Tonche Mountain, just outside of Woodstock. Now, after moving and traveling all over the world individually, the band is back together again touring their new album. Escape Brooklyn was lucky enough to catch both Grizzly Bear shows in Kingston at BSP, then catch up Chris Taylor, who plays bass guitar, keyboard, wind instruments for the band; he’s also a back-up vocalist and producer. We chatted out what they’ve all been up to, life on the road, and of course, the Catskills.
Escape Brooklyn: Welcome back! You guys have had a bit of a sabbatical. Did you do any traveling while on break? What’s the favorite place you visited?
Chris Taylor: During our time off I published a cook book, did a stage at NOMA in Copenhagen, and produced a bunch bands. I more recently moved to LA and built a studio, where I continue to work with artists, all the while slowly amassing solo material for my next record. Now in California, I travel almost every weekend to the mountains or desert to hike and camp—or the ocean to surf, depending on the season.
EB: Let’s back up. You guys formed in Brooklyn, right? How long were you based there, and how long have you been gone?
CT: Yes, we started in Brooklyn. We all spent around 13 years or so in the city, and about eight of those playing in the band. We all left around 4-6 years ago. Chris Bear moved out to the end of Long Island (now lives in L.A.), Dan moved up near Cooperstown (now mostly lives in Santa Fe), and I moved to Germantown, then Berlin, and now L.A. Ed moved to L.A. as well.
EB: What’s your connection to the Catskills?
CT: I initially found the Catskills in search of somewhere to set up my tent. I’m from Seattle, so ever since moving to New York I was really starved of the outdoors I had enjoyed so much growing up. I have found a few good spots to hike and camp, and some really amazing water holes for jumping… which I don’t care to share, out of respect to those who enjoy them.
(Editors note: fair enough.)
Nine years ago, we recorded about one third of our second record, Veckatimest, at Allaire Studios in Woodstock. It was a magical experience. I count Janet, Randall and Madeleine as some of my closer friends, so the whole experience is always amazing up there. It is truly the dream place to create music. We went back to Allaire to do our last record, Painted Ruins—and ended up recording a lot of material up there. And I can’t wait to work there again. It’s still just as magical as it ever was for me, ever since our first experience there nine years ago.
EB: What about the Hudson Valley? What was living in Germantown like?
CT: When I moved to Germantown, I didn’t really have any friends there. (Now, of course, everyone goes up there! Jeez, my timing was a little early.) When I didn’t want to work on my cookbook or music, I would just drive around upstate and explore, with Joseph Campbell lectures as my company. It was nice, but often lonely. I’m just not ready to live in the woods I think—it’s too soon. But those times were often wonderful soul searching times that I do value in hindsight. There’s definitely something to that experience.
EB: Any favorite Catskills spots: swimming holes, hikes, scenic drives? Restaurants, bars?
CT: When I’m up in the Catskills, I always always stop at KB Kombucha to hang with my friend Eric, who is the founder. We geek out on tea and I always grab a lot of kombucha to go. Ben Fleisher, who opened Woodstock Healing Arts, is the best acupuncturist I have ever met. He fixed me when I had a pretty crippling pinched nerve situation while trying to record Upstate, so I always go see him for a tune up when I’m in town. Restaurants? Nah. We always cook at the house at Allaire. If you’ve seen it, you’d know. Why leave?