Minus The Bear look back on 10 years of ‘Menos El Oso’

We talk to vocalist Jake Snider about their defining album

Minus The Bear look back on 10 years of ‘Menos El Oso’

By Glen Bushell

Jan 14, 2016 15:31

There are some albums that no matter what happens, or how your music taste might change over time, they stick with you. They remind you of a time in your life, and give you a warm, nostalgic feeling. If you have followed Seattle natives Minus The Bear, the chances are that their 2005 album ‘Menos El Oso’ will do just that. It is an album laden with glorious production, infectious hooks, relatable lyrics, and one that has stood the test of time in a way few albums can.

Last year, it seemed only right that Minus The Bear should celebrate the 10th anniversary of ‘Menos El Oso’ by playing the album in its entirety. It was something that seemed to make sense for vocalist/guitarist Jake Snider. “We did an anniversary tour and re-release for our debut album ‘Highly Refined Pirates’, and it went really well,” Jake begins to explain. “We like to stay on the road as much as possible, and have a reason to do so. We followed the same pattern this time. We had a good repress of ‘Menos El Oso’ on the way, with new mastering and new packaging, so it seemed like a good time to hit the road again.”

The band embarked on their ‘Menos El Oso’ U.S tour in November of 2015. Jake confesses that he “had no idea how it would go, or have any way to predict if people would be into it,” but it would ultimately be a lot of fun for the band. “People like the record enough, and it seems to be the favourite for a lot of fans of the band,” he continues. “I knew it would be pretty good, but it was a lot more fun that I expected it to be.”

When talking to Jake Snider, he has a laid back tone in to his voice, one that carries the same air of cool confidence that can be heard on ‘Menos El Oso’. However, while some of the tracks on the album such as ‘Pachuca Sunrise’ and ‘The Fix’ are often standard set pieces for Minus The Bear, others didn’t quite come back so easily while revisiting the album. “Some of them we really only played a couple of times back in the day, or we had never played them live,” he admits. “For example, ‘El Torrente’ was one that we never really played. We really had to figure out how some of the songs would translate into a live setting. It was difficult to get them to pop in the way we wanted them to. With the challenge of playing the record front to back ahead of us, we HAD to get it right,” he laughs. “It was a fun thing to accomplish, and to put ourselves on the spot a little.

Due to the positive reaction the tour received stateside, Minus The Bear are bringing the anniversary tour to the UK for a string of dates this month. Jake takes a moment to reflect on touring ‘Menos El Oso’ in the UK for the first time in 2005, the same year as the albums release. “It was our second time in the UK, and we hadn’t travelled overseas much at that point,” he says, confessing it was a learning experience early on in the band’s career. “We were just figuring out getting in a tiny-ass Sprinter van, and how to tour over there, and it was very different for us.“ It was on that tour that they would play to a sold-out crowd at the legendary Underworld in Camden, which Jake admits was a big milestone for the band. “We really didn’t expect it to be that well attended, let alone sold out. That show opened our eyes to the fact that we could do this outside of the U.S, and it kept us coming back.”

So we have to ask, what it is about ‘Menos El Oso’ that makes it stand out so much? Why is it so revered amongst Minus The Bear fans? “I think it’s a very relatable album for a lot people,” says Jake after a moments pause. “Like us, it maybe reminds them of that period of their lives. It also has a great sound and mastering, which makes it memorable. It also came at the right time in our career, and was a big improvement for us over our previous LP.” It would seem that ‘Menos El Oso’ is also the album that brought Minus The Bear’s sound to life, and was certainly important for the band. “When the record came out, it totally felt like it was worthwhile for us,” he says humbly. “It was our second record, it was really well received, and stands out as a good reference point as to what Minus The Bear is.”

Even though Minus The Bear are renowned for always pushing their sound forward, don’t be too surprised if we see another anniversary tour from the band in a year or so. “I am pretty sure we will do a similar thing, when the time is right,” he says, when discussing if they will celebrate their 2007 album ‘Planet Of Ice’ in the same way. “That is regarded as another fan favourite, and it’s a favourite of ours, too. It’s great fun to play live, and we would have no qualms about going back and revisiting those songs. There are couple we don’t play live much, so it would be good to get an education again.” It’s clear in the way Jake talks about Minus The Bear’s fans, and what he feels they would like to see, that they are a still very important to the band. “I feel like we have grown up with our fans, “ he continues. “You sometimes hear stories from people like “Oh, I met my wife at one of your shows, now we have two kids” and you can say yeah, I’m fucking old, too. It’s a lot of fun.”

After Minus The Bear wrap up the ‘Menos El Oso’ celebrations, they head back to the studio to start work on new music. “We don’t usually tend to do a lot of self reflection when writing, but this certainly does have its influential aspects,” he says when asked if revisiting their defining album has had an impact on where the band will head next. “We are in the demoing stage right now, but this may inadvertently have influence the new material. At the very least, I would like to get a similar level of production that we had on ‘Menos El Oso’, but we will see.” Wherever they go from here, it will no doubt be a progression from everything else they have done. There is never a time when being a Minus The Bear fan isn’t exciting.

The ‘Menos El Oso’ 10th anniversary tour starts on January 21st in Leeds, and you can see a full list of the date below.

21 LEEDS Brudnell Social Club
22 STOKE Sugarmill
24 SHEFFIELD Leadmill
25 GLASGOW Oran Mor
26 NEWCASTLE Academy 2
27 NOTTINGHAM Rescue Rooms
28 LONDON Electric Ballroom
29 BIRMINGHAM Academy 2
30 BRISTOL Thekla