Can Minus the Bear Hip Their Underage Audience to Yes and King Crimson?

And will the kids ever let them play a bar show?

"We do waaaayyyy better everywhere else," Minus the Bear drummer Erin Tate says of the band's reception outside of Seattle.

"It seems like here, people have a ton of different options all the time in the way of local bands," adds singer Jake Snider. "You can see a lot of pretty great bands all the time. Maybe it's because we're from here or something like that; it's not as special."

Though some would argue that's so, it bears mentioning that a local MtB show isn't an everyday thing. The band is known for spending obscene lengths of time on the road, while maintaining a foundation back here.

"There's always one really fucking big [tour] that makes you want to kill yourself," says Tate. His apartment near the Summit Tavern on Capitol Hill reflects a lack of permanency. It looks like it belongs to someone who's just moved in and isn't yet settled. There are no cluttered bookshelves. Not much art graces the walls. Just the bare necessities: a few key pieces of furniture, a flat-screen TV, cable, and some cold cans of Rainier.

Conceived by bassist Cory Murchy (originally from Santa Fe), guitarist Dave Knudson, and Tate (whose Minneapolis-based band, Kill Sadie, was on a cross-country tour when he decided to make the Northwest his home), Minus the Bear first emerged on the local scene six years ago. They fleshed out the sound by adding Snider and former keyboardist Matt Bayles (he's since been replaced by Alex Rose) and have maintained an extensive and relentless touring schedule in support of their releases on local label Suicide Squeeze.

As a result of the constant pavement pounding, the band has garnered an ample following across the U.S., a loyal fan base that's largely the under-21 set. Growing up and attending all-ages shows themselves, MtB have made it a priority to play all-ages shows whenever possible. Plus, there's another reason:

"We play a bar show, we just get bitched at," laughs Tate. "[Our fans] send us [MySpace] messages that say things like, 'How could you break my heart like this? My birthday is in three days!'"

With this young audience in mind, it's likely a good percentage of their fan base won't be familiar with the influences on MtB's third and latest album, Planet of Ice. But their parents probably will be. One listen and it's no surprise to hear Snider and Co. cite Pink Floyd, Yes (particularly Close to the Edge), and King Crimson as being on heavy rotation both prior to and throughout the creation of the record.

"It just bleeds through, not intentionally," says Snider of their newfound proggy flavor. "Just trying some of the ideas, seeing how you can make them fit. Something that changed for me [with this record] was not being afraid to make things jammier and longer. So much of our band, if we write a part that's like 16 bars, we'll immediately cut it down to four."

Their characteristically tight style has clearly been infused with some breathing room. On "Dr. L'Ling", one of the record's longer tracks (more than six minutes), Knudson's lightning guitar licks, backed by Tate's frenzied drumming, make them sound like stoners on speed. Record closer "Lotus" is replete with a Knudson and Tate tag-team rock-out that bleeds into airy space rock, before re-entering the Earth's atmosphere with one of the record's most shining moments, a meandering guitar solo that morphs into bass and back again.

Whether the Bear's younger fans will understand Planet of Ice—which harkens back to an era three decades before they were born—remains to be seen. But they'll have plenty of exposure to this material as the band embarks on a three-month jaunt that will take them all over the world, from Europe to Japan, Australia, and the U.S. There's is one place Minus the Bear haven't played, but hope to.

"We've never played Hawaii," Snider laughs. "But we've gotten at least seven MySpace messages from there."

apecknold@seattleweekly.com

 
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