Not many bands go out of their way to make their jobs harder. But after a successful year touring behind 2017 record VOIDS, that’s exactly what Minus the Bear plan on doing, as they embark on a 10-year anniversary tour for their 2007 masterpiece, Planet of Ice.
“That record is fucking challenging to play live,” says frontman Jake Snider. “But the challenge was one of the things that brought us back to it”.
The Seattle outfit has been reinventing guitar-driven indie rock for the better part of two decades now, but Planet of Ice stands alone in their catalog. It’s the record my guitar nerd buddies and I would blast driving around on summer nights, all trying to wrap our heads around the intricate compositions.
It’s a dense prog-rock odyssey, and compared to the playful math-rock hooks of their previous work, Planet of Ice felt less like evolution, and more like full-blown transformation.
“Menos El Oso had done pretty well,” Snider reflects on their 2004 breakthrough record. “But we wanted to take a detour and make it bigger and more ambient — songs with more breadth to them.”
On the first day of the anniversary tour, the band released a Spotify playlist of songs that influenced the record, including Yes, Pink Floyd, and even The Mars Volta. One trip through Planet of Ice, and you hear all of these prolific rock icons reverberating through its halls.
While engaging, it’s also a challenging listen. With its frigid textures and relentless pace, the record is a far cry from the wine-soaked summer boating adventures of Menos El Oso.
“We were apprehensive about the response to it,” Snider remembers. “We always tried to do pop with lots of intricacies and layering, but then we were like, ‘Hey, King Crimson’s pretty good! Let’s try that!’ Looking back, it seems like it was risky.”
Revisiting the record now, the risk factor is reversed. Planet of Ice has aged well in fans’ hearts, and with the anniversary tour, the band is living up to a decade of careful listening, and culminated memories, on stage.
“As a 17-year-old band, some people are brand-new to us, while others have this nostalgic experience with the album," Snider explains. "You get to play to both sides."
Furthermore, performing a record straight through has its own unique set of challenges. The band has to somehow navigate the drastic separation of context between a pair of headphones and a mosh pit.
“It is a different vibe, definitely,” Snider explains. “It feels different than how we would arrange a normal set. You are committed to this 10-song pattern, where if you weren’t, you could pump it up or take it down in different spots as needed.”
With the second half of their set, Minus the Bear plan on exploring more new terrain. “We tried to keep the set toned consistently,” Snider says, “but really, we’re just trying to see what we haven’t played in a long time. It’s been fun relearning, and re-creating them in the practice space, and then bringing it out on the road.”
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On Planet of Ice’s return, Minus the Bear will play Tempe's Marquee Theatre, the same venue they played on the record’s first go, back on November 1, 2007. It’s funny to think about what has, and hasn’t, changed since then.
“It’s interesting playing that record in today’s politics,” Snider says, “When we wrote it, it was 2006-2007, during the Bush years. That had a heavy influence on that record lyrically, contributing to its coldness.”
Throughout the record, underhanded politics, and backdoor dealings, are translated into icy relationships, wrought with loveless sexual economics. Sound familiar? “It definitely plays well to the current environment,” Snider laughs.
Minus the Bear bring Planet of Ice back to the Marquee Theatre on Wednesday, June 6. Tickets are $28 to $58 at luckymanonline.com.