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Minus the Bear’s Menos el Oso Gets the 10th-Anniversary Treatment

It’s interesting looking back on the albums that informed a generation’s musical upbringing 10 years after their release. Some manage to hold up nicely, while the decennial reveals other records’ faults. Several standout records of the mid-aughts have recently reached this milestone, prompting re-examination from fans and critics, including Interpol’s bleak post-punk revival, Turn On the Bright Lights; The Postal Service’s emotive, cross-country electro-pop debut, Give Up; and Minus the Bear’s Menos el Oso, which found the band refining its math-y, finger-tapped guitar stylings and leaning towards a more straightforward, serious indie rock sound.

Things have changed a lot since 2005, as they tend to do, but as more of these essential listens reach their respective anniversaries, deluxe reissues and celebratory tours have become commonplace. Done right, these re-visitations play less on nostalgia than on the genuine connection a band has with its audience, and Menos el Oso is a fine example.

The Seattle five-piece has recently posted captured fragments of the 10th-anniversary experience on its Facebook page, including old photos taken during a tour of Spain, one of the band’s first international excursions following the release of its initial material—a debut album, Highly Refined Pirates, and two EPs.

Bassist Cory Murchy says that string of shows abroad had a large influence on the writing of Menos el Oso. “It was completely inspiring for all of us. We had such a great time with the people we were with. It colored the record quite a bit,” says Murchy.

Indeed, traces of the Spanish tour peek through on the record in darkly romantic ways, as guitarist Jake Snider sings about “staring at the ocean crashing on all the rocks below” and “midnight on a beach on the Mediterranean”—on “Drilling” and “Pachuca Sunrise,” respectively. The time abroad supplied Snider’s lyrics with scenic observations and individual perspective, but a clear maturation seemed to be taking place, too; he was no longer fixated on boozy getaways, but rather on someone a continent away with whom he wanted to share these experiences.

Appropriately, around that time, Minus the Bear’s sound began to strike a chord with larger audiences. Menos el Oso found the band fine-tuning its two-guitar interplay, each melodic line more pointed than before. Samples and electronics also took a more prominent place in the album’s compositions, and the drums sounded more deliberate.

“It was definitely a record that opened our fanbase up to that many more people. It galvanized the fact that we were a band, and we weren’t going anywhere,” says Murchy. “People were showing up to the shows. It was a good thing.”

Minus the Bear has released new material consistently since then, including a Menos el Oso remix album, three full-lengths, two records of re-worked acoustic material and a collection of B-sides and rarities. Plans are in the works to enter the studio next year to record an album with new drummer Kiefer Matthias, who joined the band earlier this year after longtime member Erin Tate took his leave. “We’re all super excited about the process,” says Murchy. “We’re all just gelling really well.”

And while the band is already preparing for its next move, for now, it’s time to focus on 2005. “We’ve been rehearsing for this tour now for a couple weeks,” says Murchy, who’s en route to the band’s Seattle practice space. “It’s been fun to kind of roll up the sleeves and figure out what it was that we were doing and replicate that again,” he says of the Menos tracks, many of which the band rarely plays live anymore.

When Minus the Bear takes the Georgia Theatre stage, they’ll return to that dog-eared page, its words and melodies, and the band’s many fans, calling them back once more.

WHO: Minus the Bear, O’Brother, Aero Flynn
WHERE: Georgia Theatre
WHEN: Thursday, Nov. 5, 7 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $22 (adv.), $25 (door)