Words With Boy & Bear

This duo of Daves, Hosking and Symes, sound more like pair of gumshoe sleuths than two fifths of Boy & Bear. Sitting around the boardroom table at Melbourne’s Universal Music office, the only mystery solved is exactly the best way to describe Ethan Johns, the band’s famed producer of Boy & Bear’s third album Limit Of Love

So said Johns’ website (before the quote mysteriously disappeared):

 

Johns has been obsessed with authenticity of expression, it’s the quintessence of his rigorous aesthetic. From the vivid analogue sound of his records, to the inspired immediacy of the performances they contain, the aim being to capture the moment so fully and honestly that the term performance no longer applies.

“Sounds like Ethan Johns!” says Symes, definitively. “You’ve just made me realise how much we’ve been fumbling all day trying to explain the way Ethan works, and we could just have checked his bloody website!” laughs Hosking. (You stick to singing and songwriting Dave Hosking, WildnFree will stick to band interview research).

“I can’t explain how much that resonates,” Hosking says. “It’s spot on,” interjects Symes. “The amount we learnt from that experience, the amount we took from it, it was full on,” continues Hosking. “Not from a dramatic perspective but from a learning curve. Even the way I listen to music now has changed because of him.”

How so, Dave Hosking? “There were certain takes where we’d be tighter, or more in tune, but Ethan would say, “That might be the case, but this is the take that I love, this is the one that makes me want to move, makes me feel.”

“He was looking for the moment when the musical conversation starts to do something really special, when it’s full of personality. What squashes my musical excitement now is when I hear records and great bands, and I can now hear the over-editing. It’s all the things we’ve done a thousands times and hopefully won’t do again.”

One of these ‘moment’s came during the album’s final track Fox Hole, a gentle and hushed number with a melancholy feel. “I was pretty tired, I was feeling drained and my voice was a little rough when I recorded the take, but Ethan loved it”, says Hosking. “I looked at him and said, “You’ve lost your fucking mind!” Intending to go back and fix it, Johns was having none of it. “No, I’ve seen too many vocalists fuck up vocal takes and I’m not going to let you do it!” he told Hosking. Turns out he was right, because for Hosking, its become something special. “Now I listen to Fox Hole and it’s one I really love.”

Symes also feels changed by the recording experience. “I’ve learned to let go of things, take a step back and leave it. Ethan’s whole thing is about collaboration. It’s about the band, the whole sound, not the way you played that chord on bar 14 on that song. It doesn’t matter.”

The sense of freedom and flow is strong throughout Limit Of Love. As WildnFree confesses her experience of genuine unfolding joy in hearing track after track of rocking beauties, Hosking’s face melts into a look of happy relief. “I was wondering” he says to Symes, ”Do you think people are liking it?” They sure are, Daves.

Turning to the topic of songwriting, fab first single Walk The Wire was written in a newly collaborative style by absolute necessity. After a mammoth 170 live shows across the world throughout 2014, usual chief songwriter Hosking just hadn’t had the time to pen a whole new album by himself. “It was pretty cool with Walk The Wire, I had joined the guys a day later on a dedicated writing trip, and they’d already spent time on it,” recalls Hosking. “Once I heard it, I started mumbling some lyrics, then had so much fun trying to find the melody, I could feel it, it was so fun to be freed up in that moment.” Looks like this will be the way forward for Boy & Bear Songwriting Co. from now on. “We’ve really honed in on it, where the initial ideas come from has shifted and opened up now, which is really awesome,” says Hosking.

With so many interesting things going on throughout the album, this approach most definite suits. Title track Limit Of Love offers a seriously intriguing experience in the album’s very first moments, find yourself caught totally off-guard with a fresh, swinging, almost calypso beat getting your shoulder popping in surprise. Where’d You Go offers lazy rock with intricate melody while Breakdown Slow’s swinging beat/slide guitar combo is all magic. WildnFree‘s favourite is the gentle Just Dumb, with its intricate guitar riff colouring the song in, plus some spacey synths towards the end added by Johns. “It was the only song we recorded late at night” says Symes. “We were supposed to pack up and start again, but we got the vibe and kept going. Everyone just got in and played, Ethan played drums, and took it’s own shape.”

“It was a jam song, a D to A minor type of song, but the repetition was something hypnotic that we liked”, said Hosking. ” That melody for me is right in the sweet spot of my range, so I love singing it. If I’m allowed to say it, I love listening to that vocal, because there’s something about it that was easy to sing.” “We didn’t even know when it was going to end, we were all feeling it, says Symes. “There were lots of ‘eyes closed moments!” he laughs, along with Hosking, miming some mock-eyes-closed air-guitar action to demonstrate.

After hearing Man Alone’s opening lyrics, “Woke up this morning with ribbons in my bed, and I could not remember how they got there, just the warmth of someone’s body gone”, the question had to be asked: Is Man Alone the sequel to Harlequin Dream’s bad boy track Bridges? No!” laughs Hosking. “I had that moment, thinking, this is a less brutal moment than Bridges. I love that it’s brutal though, it is what it is, there’s no bullshit and I crave that most of the time.” In terms of what the record explores, Man Alone is the grimy end of loneliness and what we do when we’re in need. It needed to be on there I guess.”

Fair enough Boy & Bear, fair enough, we’re all human.

Talk turns to the Limit Of Love tour coming up early in 2016. Playing some new venues, such as the Hordern Pavilion and Festival Hall in Melbourne, the band are looking forward to getting back on the road. Then what’s next for these world-beaters? “At the end of every tour cycle we usually have a new direction to go towards, there’s some ideas already floating around already,” says Hosking. “We’ll keep building on what we’ve got and keep doing what we love to do.”

Sounds like an excellent plan.

Pre-order Limit Of Love right now, guaranteed zero regrets. Out on October 9 through Universal Music. Check the tour dates below and get your tickets now.

Now watch this mad video for Walk The Wire, it’s everything that could go wrong in a video clip shoot and then some:

BOY & BEAR – LIMIT OF LOVE TOUR

presented by triple j

FRI 22 JAN | ODEON THEATRE, HOBART TAS

Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au | 1300 762 545 | All Oztix Outlets

SAT 23 JAN | FESTIVAL HALL, MELBOURNE VIC

Tickets available from www.ticketmaster.com.au | 136 100 | All Ticketmaster Outlets

FRI 29 JAN | THEBARTON THEATRE, ADELAIDE SA

Tickets available from www.ticketmaster.com.au | 136 100 | All Ticketmaster Outlets

SAT 30 JAN | RED HILL AUDITORIUM, PERTH WA

Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au | 1300 762 545 | All Oztix Outlets

FRI 12 FEB | HORDERN PAVILION, SYDNEY NSW

Tickets available from www.ticketek.com.au | 132 849 | All Ticketek Outlets

SAT 13 FEB | RIVERSTAGE, BRISBANE QLD

Tickets available from www.ticketmaster.com.au | 136 100 | All Ticketmaster OutletSgreat pic by Lucinda Goodwin

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