Over nearly the past 20 years, Minus the Bear have been quietly but consistently keeping the fringes of math rock-bent indie rock alive. Ever since the band’s 2001 debut EP put them on the map and their following full-length, Highly Refined Pirates, dropped the following year, they’ve been gathering fans in large and small numbers. Jake Snider, Dave Knudson, Alex Rose, Cory Murchy, and ex-member Erin Tate have made dozens of guitar-heavy melodies that wiggle their way into your brain. Now that’s coming to an end.
In the middle of July, Minus the Bear announced they would be disbanding at the end of this year. To aid in the send off, a proper farewell tour was booked and the band’s final record, a short EP titled Fair Enough, would be released. Though that’s enough heads-up to prepare oneself to bid the band adieu, it’s still surprising to think about—especially for the band.
“Touring is a lot of waiting around, boredom, and strange sleeping patterns, but the shows themselves are going to be easy to miss,” says Rose. “This tour is making us really appreciate playing live and how amazing our fanbase is. There’s a shared sense of humor we’ve developed over the years, too. That’s a result of the spare time and trying to make one another laugh. That sensibility is shared, and one I’m going to really miss. It’s strange to think it will all stop in a matter of months.”
To dig into the personalities behind Minus the Bear one last time, we interviewed Alex Rose for a round of Wheel of Tunes, a series where we ask musicians questions inspired by their song titles. With Fair Enough and Menos El Oso as the prompt, his answers are quick and playful—qualities that will define Minus the Bear’s sound one last time when they headline the Paradise this Thursday night.
1) “Fair Enough”
DIGBOSTON: When’s the last time you were proved wrong about something?
ROSE: Oh God. Oof. These are so tough. Oh my God. My weakness is coming up with stories on command. Let’s come back to this one. Actually, I think I’m proved wrong all the time. And it’s never a huge deal because it happens so often. I think it’s important to be open to being proven wrong. One of the things we can all be better at as a society is not being so attached to being right. However that can happen, I am all for it.
DIGBOSTON: Where was the prettiest bridge you’ve ever seen?
ROSE: I mean, the Golden Gate Bridge is pretty amazing. There’s something about popping out on the other side and heading toward wine country that’s pretty magical. My parents lived in San Francisco for a while. They’re up in Washington now, but I remember that area being an amazing time in my early 20s to explore. I think I was around that age the very first time I saw it. Actually, I saw it for the first time as a teenager. I was in journalism class and we took a trip to San Francisco for some sort of a convention. I saw it but I didn’t cross it until I was in my early 20s.
DIGBOSTON: In your opinion, what’s the most forgotten dinosaur?
ROSE: I’ve always been partial to the stegosaurus. I haven’t seen all of the Jurassic Parks or dinosaur movies, but I don’t remember them being featured in the movies much. It’s more about the velociraptors and T-rex. That guy’s got some awesome protective armor, pretty cool tail, and an overall fearsome creature. It’s such a crazy thing. I’m looking at images now. Yeah. It’s pretty crazy.
DIGBOSTON: What’s your secret talent, something that’s relatively “invisible” to anyone who doesn’t know you well?
ROSE: [laughs] Well, I definitely have secrets, but the opposite of talents. So, I’m night blind. When it gets dark or even dim, my peripheral vision closes and I get tunnel vision or a complete lack of vision. The world becomes invisible to me. I’m also colorblind! So you wouldn’t know either of those things by looking at me. I’ve chosen an interesting profession for someone who can’t see in dim lighting. [laughs] Every night on tour or in a lot of places, I can’t see. Luckily the keyboards aren’t too hard to make out, and I don’t have to move around all that much with the instrument. That’s why I settled on the name Nightblind for my other project. Nobody knows that about me, so it can be awkward if someone tries to introduce themselves to me or they extend their hand. If it’s below my peripheral, I just won’t see it.
5) “The Game Needed Me”
DIGBOSTON: Which board game from your childhood is your favorite?
ROSE: Oh wow. Well, Monopoly is the first that comes to mind. There was something about the colors and the characters and the pieces you get to play as—and the fact that it’s so long and intense sometimes. I think that was the one I always wanted to play. It’s also the hardest to get anyone to play because it takes so long. It’s such a commitment. [laughs] I want to say my favorite Monopoly piece was the little dog, the Scottish terrier.
6) “Memphis & 53rd”
DIGBOSTON: If someone was visiting Memphis for the first time, where would you recommend they go?
ROSE: Oh man. [laughs] I’ve only been to, like, probably what is the main street there. I’m not sure that is the best hang. It’s a good hang, though. We played the New Day Theatre. I’ve always wanted to go to Graceland, but I can’t personally recommend it because I haven’t been still. I think that that would be the place I would go if I was there for more than a day on tour. I’ve just heard it’s wild. It’s a time capsule of sorts, and I’m always interested in that sort of thing. You can tell a lot about people from their surroundings, so that would be amazing to see.
DIGBOSTON: Is there anything in your current home that you built yourself?
ROSE: This is not a question for me. [laughs] I just moved out of our place and into England! I followed my now-wife over there. We just moved out. I’m in the process of purging everything. I don’t even have a permanent place to live at the moment. But on every tour, we adjust our pedal boards to fit the tour. So I look at that as something that is built from different pieces and cables and power supplies, as it’s a DIY thing that keeps evolving and expanding with us. It’s something we all carry with us. So I would say that’s something I built, as all of our pedalboards are unique to each of us. I would say my pedalboard is the closest thing I have to a project I’ve built recently.
8) “The Fix”
DIGBOSTON: What’s your favorite topping on ice cream?
ROSE: [laughs] Let’s see. There was a flavor of pralines and cream that I was always into. They’re kinda mixed in already, but yeah. Throwing some nuts on there. Almonds, pistachios, those are all good. But I like ice creams that have those in them, so I’d put a caramel topping on top of those. I’m kind of indecisive and open to any food, when it comes down to it.
9) “El Torrente”
DIGBOSTON: What is the closest body of water to your home, and do you go to it often?
ROSE: Let me think. Living in Seattle, it’s been amazing because you see water all over the place. I lived fairly close to Lake Union in Seattle. Living in London, I think one of the reasons we’re moving is to be by the water. We thought about living in Brighton and hope to move there in the next few months. So I think it’s the English Channel? I should know this. [laughs] But yeah, that’s something I miss about Seattle. Also my parents and sister live on Cambridge Island. So I cross the sound all the time and stay with them on the island. Most days I’m on a ferry, which is such a gorgeous ride.
10) “Pachuca Sunrise”
DIGBOSTON: Which traditional Mexican meal, snack, or drink is your favorite?
ROSE: Ooh. Well, growing up in New Mexico with Cory, which is how we met, I loved New Mexican enchiladas. That would be my go-to. With red and green chile. I’m a both person, but maybe that’s because I don’t live there anymore so I get everything all at once when I do eat there. We call that “Christmas style” if you get both down there. I don’t know how into New Mexican cuisine you are, but we’re very protective of it and very snobby when it’s compared to Tex-Mex and other variations. We’ve got our own thing going on. Cory and I are actually going to fly to New Mexico a day early after Austin because we have a day. We love it. That’s our answer to “The Fix,” really.
11) “Michio’s Death Drive”
DIGBOSTON: Where was the scariest road you’ve ever driven down?
ROSE: Oh my God. Aspen in a tour bus in the winter. It just came right to me. I’m sure there have been others, because one of my first tours was when it randomly snowed in California in March and we were snowed in. But being in a gigantic bus going around the windy, tiny road that leads up to Aspen, Colorado, jumps immediately to mind. You just have to let go and hope at that point. There’s sometimes in a big bus where you feel safe and fine, where the vehicle is so large that it feels like nothing could happen [to you]. But when you’re on the edge of a cliff? God. I’m sure the other guys who are in the car ride that inspired this song would say that ride, but I wasn’t in it at the time. [laughs]
DIGBOSTON: When was the last time you celebrated something?
ROSE: Well, this tour is meant to be a celebration! Three nights in our hometown will be a good way to send us out. I’m trying to think of something specific that has happened already. Truthfully, I’m bad at celebrating. That’s something I need to do more of: mark occasions, be mindful, taking time to soak it in. That’s not something I’m extremely good at. So yeah, this tour is a celebration of our career and our fans, so I’d say that.
13) “Fulfill the Dream”
DIGBOSTON: Looking back at the dreams you had for yourself when you were in your 20s, what’s a dream you still have left to accomplish?
ROSE: Man, these are good questions. I’d say as far as band dreams, this has been hugely fulfilling as far as accomplishments go. I would love to continue on and do more of my own stuff. I’d like to do more personal statements, either in a band release setup or composing for pictures. I think my dream that I still need to work on and that I still have is to do more personal music.
14) “The Pig War”
DIGBOSTON: Who is the greediest figure in pop culture?
ROSE: The greediest? Wow. I’ll just go with the person who comes to mind: Donald Trump. It’s hard to look at that and not just see insane amounts of greed. Every decision that he’s made seems to be pretty easily linked to financial gain.
15) “This Ain’t a Surfin’ Movie”
DIGBOSTON: What’s your favorite movie that takes place in the water but isn’t related to surfing?
ROSE: The Abyss. It came out in 1989. It’s a James Cameron joint. They find these creatures deep in the water or they find something, a presence, in the water. I haven’t watched it super recently, so I’m not sure how well it’s aging. At that time I was 10, and it was probably using some of the same effects as Terminator 2. Visually it looked amazing, to take water and shift its form like that. It was amazing to me at the time. That’s what I remember the most.
MINUS THE BEAR, CASPIAN. THU 10.25. PARADISE ROCK CLUB, 967 COMM. AVE., ALLSTON. 7PM/18+/$28. CROSSROADSPRESENTS.COM