Minus the Bear has one tour left. After this year's final snake through the country, the Seattle-based band won’t be playing anymore wild shows or recording albums or writing songs. In its near-two decades together, the crew has grown from Pacific Northwest obscurity to indie rock middledom — meaning that while making music is their full-time gig, they’ve never nabbed true mainstream attention.
Still, they could have gone on like this for a long time, making their impending breakup such a surprise.
The announcement came in July in a Facebook post: “What started as a silly inside joke inside the dingy confines of Seattle’s original Cha Cha Lounge back in 2001 quickly snowballed into years of adventures, creativity, and friendship. We could have never predicted the wild journey about to begin. We’ve accomplished so much over the past 17 years, and we are grateful for the experience,” the group said.
Earlier this month, speaking via phone from his home in Seattle, bassist Cory Murchy gets emotional as he talks about the band’s ending. He doesn’t exactly want it to stop, but he knows it must. Like an incredible birthday party or wedding, he says there are things that just can’t go on forever. Strangely, for the bigness of the tour they aren’t doing a hell of a lot of shows and are barely on the road for two months.
Yet, they chose to put Cleveland (they play the Agora
on Friday, Oct. 19) on the list of stops.
“We’ve found out through the years ... that Cleveland rocks,” says Murchy, who’s been playing in bands since he was 13. “We wanted to make [the tour] focused and concise, and Cleveland was one of the places that rose to the top of the list.”
Plus, it turns out that the band’s touring drummer Joshua Sparks, who helps out with the Cleveland-area School of Rock, has moved here. “So we have roots there right now,” Murchy says.
Together, the core four-piece has crafted six albums, including last year’s VOIDS
, but a final EP, Fair Enough
, comes out the same day as the Agora show. In the meantime, there are a couple of singles fans can listen to — the disc’s namesake and “Viaduct.” Murchy says that most of the songs were written during the VOIDS
process, but for whatever reason, they didn’t make it on that record.
“With the songs that did end up on this EP, it felt perfect,” he says. “I was never a full supporter of ‘Fair Enough’ from the early go, it didn’t click with me. Then, [keyboardist] Alex [Rose] sent over the track, and we all listened to it on the bus and just sat listening to it altogether. It was super emotional because we knew it was going to be the last thing. It clicked. It made sense from the lyrics that this was the last thing.”
This band has always made music that make people think, walking the fine line between repetitive/stop-and-go math rock and power ballad-filled prog rock. But while some may find their music boring, the crew has never prized technicality above all. There’s always been feeling at the core.
“I don’t care if it’s technical or easy; it’s got to tug at the heart and not tug at the brain,” Murchy says. “For me, I’ve been able to put my heart into it. We’ve wanted to push ourselves, and that means it has to keep our interest. And we’ve managed to do that.”
As far as what fans can expect from these last shows, Murchy says they’re trying to break out all of the stops.
“We’ve never played this many songs all in one go,” he says. “It’s going to be a damn fine night of digging deep in the catalog. It’ll be interesting to see at which point of the night I start crying ... can I hold it together?”
Murchy says he’s the one most likely in the band to shed tears, something he wears as a badge of honor.
“Honestly though, we’re all an emotional bunch,” he says. “This band has always had heart. We’ve taken it very seriously. It’s an honor to be given this opportunity. It’s not something that’s taken lightly for me.”
They’ll end everything in December, as it should be, with three already sold-out shows in their hometown. Then, they’ll go their separate ways — possibly on to play music with other people — always knowing they brought a little bit of happiness to this world.
Minus the Bear: The Farewell Tour with Caspian, 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 19, Agora Theatre, 5000 Euclid Ave., 216-881-2221. Tickets: $25 ADV, $30 DOS, agoracleveland.com.