Eleven years after releasing their first EP, Minus the Bear returns to their progressive indie-rock roots. The Seattle-based outfit departed from the danceable, guitar-heavy tracks of their previous albums for 2010’s Omni, opting for keyboard-driven melodies, many with no trace of guitarist Dave Knudson’s signature chords. But with the August release of Infinity Overhead, the musician, who recently spoke with Vegas Seven, says he’s proudly back on the six-string and delighted to be creating the classic Minus the Bear sound fans love. The band plays the Hard Rock Café on the Strip on Nov. 7.
Your album Infinity Overhead is more aggressive than Omni. Why?
It was a conscious decision on my part. The last album was keyboard-focused—on “My Time” I didn’t even play guitar—and I think we were trying to experiment with some new stuff on that record. I was jaded about the guitar, and I wanted to step outside of normal guitar stuff. [For] this record, I wanted to create some stuff that is a little more upbeat, a little filthier and get a little more into guitar acrobatics if you will.
It’s funny to hear a musician say they’re jaded about their instrument. Does that happen often?
It was just a phase. That was our fourth full-length album. All of us have been working with [former band member and producer] Matt Bayles for a long time, and it felt like we were doing a lot of the same things. We wanted to step out of our comfort zone. That was probably the first time I felt that way, but it’s awesome to come back and pick up a guitar again and be totally inspired.
Does your guitar have a name?
I have one I call Goldie, but no names like B.B. King’s Lucille. But when I come home and I’m writing and I pick up my guitar for the first time after being on tour, it’s nice to be like, ‘Where have you been, old friend? Let’s go to the basement and make some noise.’
Minus the Bear has been around since 2001. And in that time, popular music has shifted from being rock ’n’ roll-focused to electronic. Have you felt pressure to change your sound?
No, at the beginning we were all coming from more punk-rock backgrounds, but we still really liked Daft Punk and electronic music. So that electronic undercurrent has always been a part of the band. On this record we’ve made an effort to go back a little and be influenced by what we were doing earlier in our career. This record is a mixture of all of our albums put into a blender and made into a delicious Minus the Bear smoothie.
You’re touring well into next year; it’s a bunch of guys on a bus. Do you want to kill each other at the end?
You would think that it would be a trying experience, but we’ve been together long enough that we all understand each other and our crew is great. We’re a pretty laid-back group of guys, so it’s not too hard and we generally enjoy being around each other. If we didn’t, the band wouldn’t be around.