BOY & BEAR Suck on this

Boy and Bear are back with a new album, Suck on Light (out this week), after an absence while lead singer David Hoskins dealt with health issues. KAREN LOWE sat down with Killian Gavin, David Symes and Tim Hart at their show in Perth last month. They talked about recording in Nashville, touring and name regrets.

You guys have got a new single out, Hold Your Nerve – your first new song since 2015. Why so long? And how did the recording process go with the new album, Suck On Light?

KG: We have had a little time out of action because Dave, our singer, ran into some health issues. We didn’t want to stop but it was pretty dramatic and he wasn’t able to do anything for a period of time there so we had to give a bit of time to look into treatment options for him but the four of us kept writing throughout the whole period. We’d meet up, everyone would fly into Sydney and we would do six weeks on, six weeks off. We did that for almost two years.

DS: It was about two years I guess because we went into the studio in February this year but we finished up our touring cycle in December in America.

KG: It was a two-year period of writing which I think was our way of making the best of a bad situation where we couldn’t tour and we couldn’t commit to recording. I think we ended up having around 50-60 demos of songs which previously, we had maybe 16 or 17. We ended up recording the album in Nashville, Tennessee with a guy called Collin Dupris and mixed by an awesome mix engineer Tom Elmhirst at Electric Lady Studio in New York. We were there for a couple of months and in the studio for about five weeks. Either side of that was some pre-production and mixing. We bunkered down in a big old southern Nashville house and lived together and worked in an amazing studio called Southern Ground. It was an inspiring place for all of us.

DS: It was originally a church and then a studio in the 60s but was recently bought by someone who did it up and had great instruments. It was a beautiful space and so inspiring just walking around and creating sounds. We really enjoyed the whole process.

You are also about to head off to America for a massive tour and of course Europe next year. Where are you looking forward to playing the most and why?

DS: Canada. I guess it’s not a place but I guess it is. We’ve always had good shows over there. They are always really good to us. I don’t know if music between Australia and Canada translates easier or something but the shows are a bit bigger than the rest of the States.

KG: I always love LA and New York as well because they feel like shows where you have to… I don’t know, maybe proving yourself is the wrong way of putting it but it does feel different so you want to succeed in the places where there’s history there

DS: Music history – there’s so much in those places. Chicago is always fun for that reason too. I’m also looking forward to playing in Paris because I live in Paris at the moment and while we always play in Paris when we go through Europe, we haven’t played a show there in three years. I’ll be able to sleep in my own bed after the show! That will be the other end of the scale for us. We do some reasonable sized shows in the Netherlands, England and Germany. Paris will be a nice little club room.

Being on tour can be tough on mental health and general well-being. How do you guys go with touring and do you have any strategies to keep each other’s spirits up?

KG: Yeah it’s definitely all of the above. Strategies? Yeah absolutely. We’re very open with each other. I mean, you have to be when you are in a band – especially when you tour together and live with each other. You have to be sensitive to everyone else and what’s going on with them and how they are feeling and energy levels across the board. I think the biggest strategy we have for coping is that everyone is really good at compromising. We understand that everything is a compromise and that’s the only one to keep everyone happy as much as possible.

DS: You learn to develop some comforts on the road. We employ certain things like, we have a tour bus in America and there’s a way that we like to set up the tour bus that suits everyone and yeah as Killian says, we definitely look out for one another. You have to. If someone is having a real rough time, whether it be health or personal issues, with five of us, usually someone’s ok that day and they can take the reins (laughs).

There’s a photo I wish I hadn’t lost but the first time we were in LA, there was a list on the fridge about something about road life and one of the points was “don’t make important life decisions when you are hung over on tour” and that really stuck with me. We’ve definitely learned to moderate. After a show, it’s easy to get excited and have a few drinks and touring in a bus, you have to make decisions and listen to yourself a little bit because when you are the first or second show in a run going on five weeks, you’re like ‘great!’ and then like ‘hang on, it’s gotten away a little bit’ as you are up early the next morning on the radio doing promos. Maybe there’s some advantage to doing this all before where we can be a little more sensible and also having some perspective and knowing it’s all going to be ok tomorrow.

It’s the 10th anniversary Boy and Bear. How do you feel that you guys have grown since the early days? Anything you look back on now and think… “Wow? What were we thinking?” And how about some of the highlights?

TH: The name?

DS: The name is the most obvious one (everyone laughs) What weren’t we thinking with that?

KG: How do you get a better answer than that hey? I think though, outside some actual truth in that, I think you look back at your music and it’s totally understandable to go through a period where you think “what were you thinking?” and then you get past that period and you finally get to a point where you can appreciate it was its time and place and served its purpose and I think creatively, you sort of fluctuate how you view your history.

TH: the band name – everyone regrets that band name.

KG: We were too young. We had to make one.

TH: In terms of our music, it feels a bit like we are a pendulum at times so you are constantly responding to what’s happened. Our first record was a high production with a producer who really wanted to… had a result in mind and really achieved a certain thing, and then we went the other way with a chilled out guy in Sydney, and then we went back again and worked with a guy in England who really knew what he wanted. You feel like you are always learning lessons but then sometimes you look back and think well actually we did ok, even though at the time we weren’t sure and even months later you may wish you did things differently. You sort of settle with it eventually – the longer you do it for. If you produce good quality things, while your taste and what you should have done may change, if you keep the quality high then it does pay off.