When Minus the Bear’s contract with indie rock label Suicide Squeeze expired, the Seattle-based five-some had two options: find a new home and record the project the label wanted, or create their dream project, then find a label as excited about it as they were. Not surprisingly, they chose the latter.
“It was a little scary but at the same time it was nice not having anyone to answer to,” says Minus the Bear keyboardist Alex Rose. “We could do whatever we wanted, follow whatever whim and idea. And we did! It was really liberating.”
The result was Omni, MTB’s fourth release and Dangerbird Records debut. It’s a collection of rocking, jazzy pop: think Steely Dan with a hard rock edge. The new sound may surprise some fans, but it shouldn’t: MTB has long had a reputation for reinvention. Formed in 2001, MTB consists of Rose, lead singer/guitarist Jake Snider, guitarist Dave Knudsen, bassist Cory Murchy, and drummer Erin Tate. Over the years MTB’s sound has evolved from prog-rock to math-rock to electronic-pop.
“It’s always hard to gauge how your music fits into the landscape,” Rose observes. “We consciously don’t try to fit into any particular theme or genre. We just do what makes us excited musically.”
Seeing an opportunity to challenge itself further, MTB looked outside its usual team for a producer, picking Grammy-winner Joe Chiccarelli (My Morning Jacket, The White Stripes, The Raconteurs).
“We had worked with the same team for a while,” explains Rose. “We wanted someone who could push us into unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory.”
Unlike its previous efforts, Omni was recorded with everyone playing together, instead of overdubs and scratch tracks. The idea was to capture the energy of MTB’s live show.
The entire process “was definitely scary, not knowing when or even if it was going to be released,” says Rose. Thankfully, Minus the Bear’s leap of faith paid off. And for their next trick? Festivals and shows around North America and Europe, of course: “Anything and everything we can to support ‘Omni,’” says Rose.