Hero Worship: Grizzly Bear's Daniel Rossen on Mark Hollis
A recent obsession for me is the band Talk Talk; their singer Mark Hollis has become a real hero. Just him as a character, his career and what he chose to do with it. Their approach relates in some ways, I think, to our new record too. When we first started as a band we were doing shows around Europe. People kept telling me, and the whole band for that matter, to check out Talk Talk. Some of us in the band had listened to them but never fully. They weren’t really from our era; when we were kids, especially when me and Chris [Bear] were young – I think Ed [Droste] too, we were a little too young for that to really be part of the music that we were exposed to.. I grew up on jazz and classical music in the 90s – a lot of music that was outside the sphere of indie rock.
Finally, a couple of years ago, I heard [1988’s] Spirit of Eden – it just blew me away. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but there was a real sense of space in the music – there’s a quality to it where it doesn’t feel like any particular genre. It’s kind of a rock record, but not really. You don’t get a sense that they’re really trying to make a rock record at all, they’re just trying to make music! I became obsessed with that record; Talk Talk’s early music is great too, but there’s this inspiring trajectory of being this pop band and having success doing that, then completely ignoring that in their later period. You get the impression that, as Hollis got older, music just became this very meditative exercise.
As the records went on they got quieter, more open, and more peaceful, until eventually you reach this point where you get to Mark’s solo album and he’s essentially sitting at the piano playing two notes – it’s almost a jazz record. He just completely let go of anything that would even be considered a song. For Grizzly Bear especially, we have a tendency to make very dense records, I found it inspiring to listen to music that was that sparse. I even like the fact that he reached this pinnacle where he was making his life’s work – these really interesting and slightly crazy records, unlike anybody else – and then he just walked away and said ‘I’m going to focus on my family’ and left the industry. It was a case of ‘here’s my music, goodbye.’