An interview with Daniel Rossen of Grizzly Bear about Blue Valentine

Blue Valentine is more than one of the indie and critical darlings of the award season of 2010. The film written and directed by Derek Cianfrance is also garnering quite a bit of notice in the indie music world thanks to it’s soundtrack that utilizes no less than 12 tracks from the band Grizzly Bear.

Grizzly Bear and Department of Eagles member Daniel Rossen took time to discuss the Blue Valentine soundtrack with Lost in Reviews on Wednesday Feb 23.

Hi Daniel Its John from How are you doing? Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today.

Daniel Rossen: Good, good, good, Great No Problem

Who Approached the band about participating in the film?

Daniel: The director approached us a long, long, time ago. Well, not that long ago, like three years when he was first putting the production together and getting funding together he sent us the script, and he just really wanted to meet with us about using our music in the film in someway somehow, he didn’t know how as he hadn’t started filming yet. We met up and sat down with him and just really liked him and his whole attitude about music in film so we gave him a lot of instrumentals and kind of let him do whatever he wanted, and work into the film however he saw fit. That’s how it happened.

Yeah I had read that at one point in time due to the gestation period in time between the script and the film getting made that the band had intended to do some original work for the film? Is that the case?

That's Rossen on the far left.

Yeah we kind of wish, we kind of just didn’t have the time unfortunately because we were in the midst of touring and recording, but yeah there was talk initially of the band coming up with themes for each character. Like coming up with a ukulele theme that Ryan Gosling’s character would play in the film or play on a piano or something, or coming up with a different sort of theme for Michele Williams’ character; things like that which unfortunately we didn’t really have it in us.

So is scoring a film something that maybe you or the band would be interested in doing?

Yeah definitely, I think absolutely, we just, in this particular case, you know its funny that in the whole amount of time while the film was being made we made our last record (2009’s Veckatimest) and he (Director Derek Cianfrance) by the time the film was finally being wrapped up had started using all these pieces from the album we were recording the whole time the film was being made, sorta funny. But we were so busy with that we couldn’t actually score the film.

Right in 2009 Veckatimest came out, and the band proceeded to tour in support of it. Was that the tour with Radiohead?

Well the Radiohead tour kind of happened while we were recording Veckatimest years after that we were touring, all that touring finally stopped a few months ago. And now were back to making another record so….

I was going to ask if we could expect anything new from either Grizzly Bear or the Department of Eagles or perhaps anything else on the horizon for 2011 or 2012?

I think as we tend to take things kind of slow and you know there’s a lot of writing going on and we’re definitely working but I don’t really know what our time line is. We tend to just work at our own pace and go slow. So it probably won’t be until 2012 until we come up and actually release something.

Sounds Good, the band has lots of high profile musicians that count themselves as fans of Grizzly Bear, between Radiohead guitarist and There Will Be Blood Composer Johnny Greenwood, Jay-Z, Nine Inch Nails Trent Reznor, who scored this year’s The Social Network, (Reznor is known for hand picking his house music before shows utilized both Grizzly Bear and Department of Eagles as house music during the Lights in the Sky and Wave Goodbye tours) with fans like that, and having read that you’re a fan of Radiohead what other artists inspire you to keep doing what you’re doing? Past? Present?

I mean it depends; I’m sure everyone in the band would have a different opinion. But obviously I think Radiohead was a huge influence on all of us, we all have a lot of respect for them and the way they’ve kind of, the way their whole career has gone, they’ve managed to keep working and into these later albums its been kind of inspiring to just see. I don’t know, that question is also kind of loaded because everyone in the band has such different ideas about that and just you know we have a very wide range of tastes. Back to old film music and a lot of classic music from the sixties, seventies, especially in there. All kinds of acts like Dirty Projectors or Beachouse all kinds of different people that are around now that we really love, Jay-Z is amazing too, (laughs). There’s too many things to really count I guess. But sure very grateful for any praise we’ve got from any one. That has been kind, great, or awesome.

So being involved with Blue Valentine this year and being that the Oscars are Sunday, do you keep up with film much? Do you have any picks or favorites this year?

I didn’t really keep up too much cause we were pretty busy and I kind of vanished under a rock most of the time we weren’t touring so I don’t think I could really give any good insight. I wish I did…

Since a lot of existing music was used in the film, do you have a hard time watching the film and separating the music from the film?

Yeah, especially the first time we watched it was particularly hard to really focus on everything that what was going on. You keep getting distracted by the fact that some piece of some song is being used and it brings back whatever memories of making that music. That and I was also kind of wondering, obviously having our own music in the film makes it hard to really have a good objective opinion on it and in a way it makes it more of an emotional experience and like it more. Its such an emotionally charged film to begin with (laughs) clouding my perspective on the film a little bit but you know I’ve seen it three times now so by the third time I kind of stopped thinking about the fact that it was random bits of songs and could just watch the film…but its still really depressing.

Yeah it is a pretty brutal film to watch

(Laughs)It doesn’t get any less ugly each time…

It’s been branded the “anti date movie”, its nice to have a realistic film I feel.

Yeah I agree.

Any thoughts about the end credit sequence? We were pretty big fans of it here at the site.

I don’t know, it was interesting because it didn’t exactly, I think it ended up working, but its funny because I didn’t really expect them to end the film with that kind of a visual bang because its kind of a different style from the rest of the film you know? Like all the sudden it was a Hollywood style movie technique during the end credits especially since the film was a little more modest, but I think it worked and it was cool in a way because its kind of a jarring way to end the film. It kind of takes you out of how depressing it was toward the end and kind of jolts you back out of it; and makes it more of a big sentimental gesture.

Rossen is also part of The Department of Eagles who also appear on the Soundtrack

Internet question time…I threw out to my friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter that I was interviewing you and I got a couple of responses. The first was, between Grizzly Bear and The Department of Eagles do you have some kind of contract in place with animals?

(Laughs) I wish that were true…you know it sounds so unbelievable but it actually is entirely coincidental that I am in two animal-named bands. The Department of Eagles was a thing that I named with my friends when we were in college and just being art history nerds its a random art history reference and has nothing to do with the bird, animal-band name trend but it did just (laughs) fit right in… And Grizzly Bear I didn’t name but I joined and you know its a lot of animals, a lot of animal themes going around so what can I say? I got folded into that.

Well I didn’t really have any other questions…

(Laughs) I like how that was the one question…

Well there was one other one. Someone wanted to know what guitars you were using right now.

That sounds like we’d be going a little too far…pretty technical

Do you have anything else you wanted to get out there and let them know?

Being a part of the film was a real honor and I really love what they did and we were really glad we could be a part of it.

Blue Valentine is currently playing in select theaters, its scheduled to  hit Blu-Ray and DVD on May 10. The Soundtrack is available now on Lakeshore Records and on iTunes.

By John Coovert

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