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BOY & BEAR Pushing the Boundaries

Boy & Bear’s second album, Harlequin Dream will feed its eager fans this week followed by their ’16 Days under the Southern Sun’ tour approaching Perth November 22 at Metro Fremantle. JAYDE FERGUSON reports.

Front man singer/songwriter, Dave Hosking sits in his car outside the rehearsal studio in his hometown Sydney, anticipating the arrival of the album on August 16, and partially distracted by the other band members.

He seems pretty chilled considering the huge buzz that surrounded the release of Southern Sun, the first single off the album but admits it’s the waiting game that’s most painful.

“I’m trying not to think about it to be honest. The irony is we’ve had more time on our hands for the last two months than we’ve had in a long time, which isn’t always a good thing. I’m just focusing on what we have to do in the immediate future. I’m looking forward to the release, I’ve hit a point now where there’s not much else we can do, we worked really hard I just want to get it out there.”

The new album is a different stepping-stone for Boy & Bear and illuminates recollections from past eras, exploring and incorporating classic songwriting styles from Bruce Springsteen and Fleetwood Mac, but in the hope to have had their magic rub off, Hosking concedes they simply don’t compare.

“I think they’re particularly good! At least from my perspective, a lot of the approach to this last album was listening to my favourite music from that 70’s late 60’s era, but on the side we’re listening to REM. I think the whole goal is to get your favourite parts of those artists and start to subconsciously mold them together to create your own sound. I guess time will tell if we’ve done that effectively or not, but I think we went for it. We definitely embraced slightly more classic structures and melodies.”

The five ARIA awards Boy & Bear have locked under their belt is a clear indication of their accomplishments from the first album, so it can be debated that taking this new direction with their sound was a bold move. But, despite the pressure to live up the previous success Hosking recalls that it was a relatively natural progression in moving towards a more “classical, well, classic pop sound.”

“I think that…oh I have to say the boys have arrived and are hassling me in the car (laughs). Tim (drummer) is being particularly rude! I think there was pressure coming out of the EP going into the album, there’s always pressure going into records, that’s the game you play in this industry. I know it’s the obvious thing to say but it’s true, you’ve got to follow what feels and sounds good. You go crazy if you try weigh up everything but it seemed really obvious that it was the right move to make early on. As long as everyone is committed and knows the vision then it makes complete sense to go for it.”

The new direction in sound isn’t the only variation Boy & Bear took for Harlequin Dream, but also brings them back to their roots with a different recording sensation. The album was recorded at Albert’s Studio in Sydney and co-produced by the band and Wayne Connolly (Powderfinger / Silverchair) enabling them to balance producing well-crafted songs, and the isolation that is sometimes needed to do so with family and friends.

“Just being home, actually sleeping in our own beds and people going back to their partners was really beneficial, we needed that. It’s a challenge – not so much in regards to the physical distance, but what tends to happen when recording is you get so embedded in this process. Your brain moves to this wonderfully indulgent state where you’re just this kid in a candy shop. I love it, but it’s utterly exhausting and I think that in itself can create a barrier and cause distance between people. That’s the challenge, but we’re getting better at that; I’m single these days (laughs) so I didn’t quite have that problem as much as some of the other guys.

Hosking also reveals how the culture alignment was another advantage. “Everyone has a slightly different way of doing things, it’s a long process and the key things are making sure everyone’s comfortable, that you’re getting the best out of each other and the producer. Recording locally with someone we knew well meant that we were all communicating effectively and super comfortable, that’s a huge benefit.”

Working on the album since October 2012, Hosking states he thought they would have finished earlier.

“More songs came flooding in the back end of the recording process, we could’ve kept going but you’ve gotta pull an end to things sometimes. The record is just a snapshot of the moment in time, if you can see it like that you can let go of it, otherwise I’d still be in there slightly crazy (laughs) and still tweaking things!”

In the writing stages, Dave Symes was recruited as the new bass player and Hosking amusingly admits he is quite the competitive bloke at Ping-Pong.

“He’s one of those guys you don’t think is competitive because he’s super chilled but he was getting really frustrated at loosing! At one point he jumped up on the table and snapped it (laughs) so we had to prop it up fairly precariously. He’s a good dude!”

In the mix of chatting Hosking reveals the creativity behind their music clips and how clips are becoming less MTV/Channel V and more about doing something really fascinating and pushing the boundaries.

“My favorite movie is Into the Wild. I’ve somehow sublimely based my life around what that guy did (laughs) although I obviously don’t quite live in the wild!”

Hosking describes his pick off the album, Arrow Flight and how in the recording process of the song, the key focus was solely on groove.

“I loved how Wayne had such a simple approach. I learnt you don’t always need bells and whistles to create a good song, just to embrace simplicity at times and that’s why I really love this song.”

The deluxe CD version of Harlequin Dream includes a unique Polaroid taken by the band, tying nicely into the 70’s vibe but Hosking confesses it was “people’s universal great ideas!”

“I wish I could claim it was ours but it’s not! We got pitched the idea then just had fun taking photos of each other. Most of them have been appropriate, not all of them (laughs) so there’s been lots of them binned, binned Polaroid’s unfortunately!”