Minus the Bear plays no-apologies guitar rock, with doses of danceable synths, pop melodies and some balladry for good measure.
They bring it all back to the Belly Up this Wednesday, April 3.
Often lumped in with the “math rock” crowd, Minus the Bear has developed a hard-to-pin-down guitar-driven sound that puts Erin Tate’s propulsive drumming and Jake Snider’s powerful voice up front. His soaring vocal delivery is at times reminiscent of Incubus’ Brandon Boyd. Yet his cadence can also recall hardcore band frontmen in the way it alternates between spoken words and booming deliveries.
What keeps the band interesting, though, is their sharp turns in time signatures and sounds, and their ability to blend them into cohesive songs.
“Toska,” from their 2012 album “Infinity Overhead,” is exemplary of the band’s multi-dimensional abilities, weaving synth interludes between straightforward rock verses, cathartic choruses and chugging guitars.
“We don’t try to force anything,” Snider told me from a tour stop in Pennsylvania. “Something can be very immediately inspirational and send us in one direction. On another song, we might write a certain style of song but we don’t talk about it like, ‘Hey, let’s write a pop song!’ or ‘Let’s write a dance-y song!’”
Formed in Seattle in 2001, the thirtysomethings of Minus the Bear were teenagers as grunge and the legendary bands of the city changed the face of rock and pop music. But, Snider says, the legacy of bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Screaming Trees and Soundgarden hasn’t really played into their life in music.
“It doesn’t really seem to factor into much at this point,” he explains. “It never felt like it was much of an advantage being from Seattle, because there are a lot of bands from Seattle. It’s a musical town with a lot of saturation. But that’s also what makes it good and what makes Seattle prolific: having all the people around you that you can work with and play with.”
Over the last dozen years, the band has toured constantly — making them regulars on the club circuit and at massive festivals including Bonnaroo, Coachella and Lollapalooza.
Snider says Minus the Bear will pull its Belly Up set from their whole catalogue and all five of their full-length albums. Unlike the last time they came through town, on a tour for 2010’s “Omni,” the show isn’t part of a tour supporting a specific record.
“We wanted to do something comprehensive on this tour,” he says.
They co-headlined a string of dates this winter with Philadelphia’s Circa Survive, which Snider says led Minus the Bear to drop any bells and whistles, and to put on a straight-forward live show.
“I think it’s going to be a little more stripped down than we usually do,” he says. “We’ve stripped our production back. So it’s basically us doing what we do without any fluff. Just kind of a rock show.”
The quintet drew members of Botch, Kill Sadie and Keep Sharks Moving when they formed, and have outlasted untold indie trends over their 12 years playing together. Along with Snider and drummer Tate, the band consists of guitarist David Knudson, bass player Cory Murchy and synth/singer Alex Rose.
While they’ve grown and evolved and experimented with different sounds over the course of their career, they’ve dropped one signature of their past. They drew a lot of attention, early on, for clever and funny song titles like “I Lost All My Money at the Cock Fights” and “Hey Wanna Throw Up? Get Me Naked.”
The last thing they wanted attention for, Snider says, was silly song titles. Their growing fan base, of course, came out to hear the songs and not the titles. So, in recent years, they’ve dropped the schtick and the distracting names.
“We just got a lot of attention for song titles and most of the articles people would write about us were talking about what the songs were titled and not the songs themselves,” Snider says. “So we backed off on it.”