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On the Road With Minus the Bear

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By Alex Koenig

It's a muggy Tuesday afternoon in Orlando, and I'm on a sofa, cooling out to high-octane air-conditioning in the back of Minus the Bear's tour bus. Next to me is vocalist/guitarist Jake Snider, drummer Erin Tate and synth player Alex Rose. It's roughly three hours before they're set to hit the stage at the Beacham Theater.

For a band that was renowned for nearly half a decade for their requisite silliness (see their EP titles Bands Like It When You Yell "Yar!" at Them, as well as They Make Beer Commercials Like This as proof) and fervent energy, the vibe on the van is disarmingly calm -- there are no beer funnels, records played at unrestrained levels or half-naked women here.

Rose grins. "You should have seen these guys years ago."

Snider reclines into the couch. "Things are much mellow-er these days."

It's a far cry from a band who titled the opening track on their debut EP "Hey, Wanna Throw Up? Get Me Naked." However, just because Minus the Bear doesn't raise the roof Andrew W.K.-style anymore, doesn't mean they're any less busy; their tour demands have gone up several notches, and Snider and Tate recently became fathers.

"This tour has probably the most shows in row that we've ever done," says Snider. "So, in addition to being new dads, we also are on probably one of the most intense schedules we've had. So even I am going to have to reign it in a bit."

Tate nods his head in agreement. "We have to be focused and ready for anything."

Minus the Bear is originally from Seattle, a city fertile to some of the most widely emulated acts within the last two decades, from grunge relics Nirvana and Soundgarden to indie-rock pioneers Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie. Still, the band doesn't believe their output can be pigeonholed to a regional influence.

"I think it [Seattle] was a big part of starting to play music, but I don't think this band really harkens to that sound very much," says Rose. "I think it's in the DNA, and it's in everyone's collective musical experiences, but I think the influences are far wider than that for this band."

The group's recent release, Infinity Overhead, is a straightforward, yet brawny, pop album catalyzed by Minus the Bear's signature penchant for guitar athletics and progressive grooves.

"We wanted to do something with a guitar-centric approach. Something with a bit more rugged edges; something raw," says Snider.

But the change isn't limited to the group's methods of instrumentation. Snider, the primary lyricist of the group, states that the new record is also a change in poetic content, and somber and sobering themes regarding the downside of relationships whiz through the crossfire of Infinity Overhead. "He's watching your mouth move, he turns words into white noise," sings Snider on "Lies and Eyes."

"Lately, the lyrics have been less about the fun part relationships in the beginning, and more about the not-fun part of the relationships. Moving into the darker era of love," says Snider.

Chin up, though: The band remains shrouded in positivity and humor. In many ways, they still carry the same merry prankster attitude as their inception. Towards the end of our conversation, Tate mentions the band's recent shenanigans on Twitter.

"We started a game where we replace a band's name with the word butthole or buttholes, and we got the topic trending as #BandsToButtholes. I think we got it to number two or number one. We spent the entire night coming up with different bands."

Check out lyrics and explanations to Minus the Bear's Infinity Overhead on Stereo IQ:

Minus the Bear - Cold Company Lyrics
Minus the Bear - Diamond Lightning Lyrics
Minus the Bear - Empty Party Rooms Lyrics
Minus the Bear - Lies And Eyes Lyrics
Minus the Bear - Listing Lyrics
Minus the Bear - Lonely Gun Lyrics
Minus the Bear - Toska Lyrics
Minus the Bear - Zeroes Lyrics