Daniel Rossen on the Road with Department of Eagles

Daniel Rossen
Daniel Rossen

That is a breath of fresh air,” says Department of Eagles frontman Daniel Rossen, tongue planted firmly in cheek in regard to his band’s latest achievement. “The Gossip Girl number- one ring tone.”

On a break from mixing an album with Grizzly Bear, in which he plays guitar, Rossen was marveling at the aftermath of his other band’s appearance in a recent episode of the teen drama.

“It would be funny if the ring tone was like ‘Phantom Other’ or some really eerie song.”

The track, “No One Does It Like You,” lends a catchy tune to the lives of television’s richest love-stricken teens, but Rossen isn’t quite sure how the iTunes generation will react to the rest of Department of Eagles’ second record.

“‘No One Does It Like You,’ thought it has an eeriness to it, is very much the odd man out on the entire record.There’s a lot of pop-like songs on the record, but that’s certainly the poppiest, catchiest one,” he says by phone from Brooklyn.

These days, Rossen alternates between his “number one job” in Grizzly Bear and his secondary one promoting In Ear Park, which has left him a bit tired.

“It’s both a breath of fresh air and a real headache to be honest,” he says of his schedule. “Logistically it’s a nightmare, it’s difficult to balance everything going on right now.”

Despite the lack of sleep, Rossen is having his cake and pigging out as well. The songwriting guitarist has sold out a Jan. 19 show at Bowery Ballroom and even the New York Times is marveling at his talent pretty early in the game.Which begs the question, what constitutes fame?

“I wouldn’t say I’m famous in any way,” Rossen replies. “At this point I don’t know if the record will do anything else or if we’ll be launched to any level of success.”

So far so good. With upcoming shows on both coasts, Rossen says he looks forward to experimenting with some new ideas in front of a live audience.

“It’s harder to do that sort of thing with Grizzly Bear.When we’re doing big shows we’re expected to play a rip-roaring set, you can’t really just bust out some random demo. “When [Department of Eagles] was in Europe, I kind of came up with a song the weekend before we left and I just decided to play it because it’s kind of interesting to play incredibly new material for an audience—when the song is practically not done it’s like a very scary open mic.”

Rossen says he enjoys the leniency Department of Eagles provides him as a venue for some of his and collaborator Fred Nicolaus’ songs that might not be as well suited to Grizzly Bear.

“Department of Eagles is not exactly a band, it’s kind of a project—it can be whatever we want it to be.”

Though he might soon find himself the center of swooning Gossip Girl fans, Rossen and Department of Eagles have no plans to tour extensively but are focused on Grizzly Bear’s forthcoming effort.

“You can’t tour your entire life away,” he muses. “You’ll die 30 years younger than you’re supposed to.”

Last night, Department of Eagles played their fourth show to date at the Bowery Ballroom. Now they will hit a few choice spots on the West Coast, and beyond that turn into Grizzly Bears, with a new album slated for spring.

Here are the Q&A outtakes.

Brooklyn The Borough: Is the present somehow an ideal time for your sound?

Daniel Rossen: I don’t really know if now is really the right time for either of my bands to be doing what we’re doing, it seems to be doing fine. I don’t know if we’re capturing the mood of a generation or something like that. Despite being in Brooklyn I kind of feel like we’re in an insular little family, we just kind of do whatever we want.

BTB: Does having other bands from Brooklyn, like the National, around have an influence?

DR: I love the National and we know them, they’re friends and they’re great people but I don’t really think Grizzly Bear, or Department of Eagles probably even more, really feels like part of any larger Brooklyn scene. We stay pretty separate from all that stuff that’s going on.

BTB: How so?

DR: I always felt like we always make everything we’re doing in a vacuum. I always feel like we’re making records in a vacuum, I always feel very cut off. Though I know certain bands, I’m otherwise pretty disconnected from most music that’s going on right now, besides who ever we know.

BTB: How are the other members of Grizzly Bear handling your romp with Department of Eagles?

DR: It’s totally fine actually, you know Chris and Chris, two members of Grizzly Bear, were involved on the record. You know, pretty much, the moment we finished working on In Ear Park, we started in on the new Grizzly Bear record, which is what we’re doing right now and what we’re almost done with.

In Ear Park is an album and I’m very happy with it, but we’re not pursuing it like a regular band. We’re not touring extensively, we’re doing some shows this month but we’re pretty much keeping the promotion of it to a minimum, a very bare minimum, so as to allow lots of time to work on the Grizzly Bear record. That’s my main – it will always be my number one job.

BTB: What’s your schedule like?

DR: It’s both a breathe of fresh air and a real headache to be honest. Logistically it’s a nightmare – it’s difficult to balance everything going on right now. I love about Department of Eagles shows so far, I’m able to try really random stripped down ideas. When we were in Europe, I kind of came up with a song the weekend before we left and I just decided to play it because it’s kind of interesting to play incredibly new material for an audience when the song is practically not done it’s like a very scary almost like open mic way of finishing a song. I’ve been able to do stuff like that which is exciting, that I really enjoy a lot. It’s harder to do that sort of thing with Grizzly Bear when we’re doing big shows, we’re expected to play a rip roaring set, you can’t really just bust out some random demo.

BTB: Despite it’s age, is Department of Eagles a Grizzly Bear side project?

DR: Yeah, that’s true. I think it’s going to be inevitable because Grizzly Bear has more visibility. This record ended up having three members of Grizzly Bear and also Fred [Nicolaus], so there’s kind of no way around that. it would be kind of a lie to say it wasn’t somehow a related project to Grizzly Bear. At this point the bands have become so intertwined, it only makes sense.

I go back and forth between wanting it to be a side project and wanting it to be it’s own thing, but I think it’s pretty inevitable that the two projects will be intertwined.

BTB: Are you post-emo in a way?

DR: Definitely not! I guess I think of emo as a very specific pop punk type of American genre. I think honestly at this point, I don’t think any of us want to think of our music as being overly emotional. I guess that sounds ridiculous because I just said it was an introspective record but I hope it doesn’t sound too much like bleeding heart on your sleeve. I think usually they’re going for something a little bit more realistic and older than that. I guess it’s just that I grew up on such different music that I would never even think of that.

[Band mate] Fred [Nicolaus] and I grew up on a lot of jazz, old classical music, 60s folk stuff. I feel like I’m always directly ripping off that sort of thing. I was a pretty emo kind of guy when I was younger, so it’s alright. I respect that.

Were you ever a fan of punk?

DR: That’s one area that was never really one of my main interests. I dabbled. I was always too much of a technical music nerd. When I was younger I was obsessed with free jazz and avant garde classical music. I was pretty much the nerdiest possible opposite to being in a punk band.

Nicole Brydson Written by:

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