Late one night last year, Grizzly Bear singer Ed Droste was feeling spent. He'd recorded what felt like a zillion vocal takes of "Speak in Rounds" – a new song that starts off hushed, adding bursts of percussion, shards of electric guitar, synths and horns until it transforms into a wild gallop. When Droste approached the microphone for one more try, his voice came out unrecognizably raw. "Less choirboy," he says.
Droste's voluptuous croon helped define the sound of the psychedelic indie crew's first three albums, including its 2009 breakthrough, Veckatimest. For the fourth LP, Shields, due out September 18th, the band aimed to subtly confound fans' expectations. "We tried to take things out of the comfort zone," says Grizzly Bear's other main singer, Daniel Rossen, slumped into a leather couch at the downtown-Manhattan studio where they mixed the record. For the first time, Rossen wrote melodies that Droste sang, and vice versa. "It ends up sounding like us, but also like somebody else," Rossen says. "A new version."
Since Veckatimest, Droste married his longtime boyfriend, interior designer Chad McPhail, while Rossen and bassist-producer Chris Taylor have explored side projects. In the spring of 2011, the group – rounded out by drummer Chris Bear – began writing new songs, experimenting with fluegelhorn and saxophone and a jumble of tempos. "It runs the gamut from very poppy songs to more expansive ones, with lots of space," Rossen says.
When it came time to record, the band members left their home base of Brooklyn for a studio in Marfa, Texas, and later, Droste's grandmother's cabin on Cape Cod. "It has old wood walls, family pictures, kind of dusty and sandy," Droste says. "It's been a big source of inspiration through the years." The vibe was mellow in the extreme, with lots of walks in the woods. "There was pretty much always a fire going," says Droste. "It's a good place."
This is from the July 5th, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone.