Interview: Boy and Bear

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For a band that’s only on the brink of being 5 years old, Boy and Bear have certainly made their presence known within music scenes both here in Australia and abroad. The 5 piece rock-folk outfit who started up in Sydney back in 09 received critical acclaim for their first studio album Moon Fire, which went on to win 5 Aria’s in 2011. Not bad for a band’s first album and a feat that many artists can only hope to aspire to.

Now we’re a couple of years down the track and Boy and Bear show little sign of slowing down. Releasing their second album Harlequin Dream in 2013, the album has already been nominated for best rock album.

“We can only hope that Australia finds the new album as engaging as the previous one” says David Symes (bass) on the phone to XXIV from his place in Bronte, Sydney. “Since Moon Fire we have all had to challenge ourselves in order to grow not only as musicians but also as songwriters. There was a massive temptation with Harlequin Dream to write music that sounded similar to the first album. In the end we all said hell no to that and I think we ended up with an album that encompassees a much broader sound then our previous works.”

Creating new music is no small feat and every band has their own unique way of conjuring up rhythms, hooks and melodies. Dave explains how the dynamic creation process within Boy and Bear enables them to create their remarkable sounds. “I think we’re really collaborative for a band, possibly more so than other bands that I’ve met and spoken to. Someone will come into the studio with an idea and then we all just work on it together. It really enables us to hear a variety of different possibilities before we decide on the final product.”

However with such a collaborative process, there are bound to be a couple of downsides to this creative method. “By helping each other so much it means that each track goes through a number of stages before the finished item. When we record something usually we will soon think of something much better which means we then have to re-record it. It’s all worth it when get a tight and polished track though.”

With the band always thinking of something new to add to a song, it makes for an interesting performance when playing at a venue. “The live versions of our songs are almost that, they seem to be alive. We’re all just so creative when we play so if someone thinks of a little lick or melody to play at a show then they will. It makes for an interesting show and we never know which one will be our best because someone might pull out something amazing one day and then forget it the next, so performing live is always just such a joy and even has a kind of mystery about it.”

The initial success of Harlequin Dream can be observed simply by looking at the band’s touring itinerary for this year. Beginning in February, the band will be on the road until the end of May and will see them going through numerous locations across Europe, the United States, and Canada before finally wrapping it all up back here in Australia. David explains how they prepare themselves for such a mammoth event. “We’ve had a much needed break over Christmas and New Years. Just a little time for each of us to spend with our families and also to get away from each other before what is soon to be too much time with together (laughs). Until the tour starts though I’m just going to be in relax mode. I’m looking forward to Australia day when I can have a few drinks, enjoy some backyard cricket and go for a swim at the beach.”

To successfully perform in so many countries there has to be a defining element in a band’s music that resonates across such a diverse group of audiences. Dave guesses at what their’s could be. “I guess our music is just so relaxed so anyone looking for a good time and more importantly, good vibes, probably enjoys the atmosphere at our gigs. It’s hard for me to say where our biggest fan base is overseas but if I had to guess it would probably be in England or Germany. I hear that we get a bit of airplay there so i’m guessing that our crowds will be biggest there. With any luck we will be able to break into the U.S market when we do the SXSW showcases. Last year there were over 50,000 people there so yeah were all really excited about that.”

However performing overseas isn’t all fame and glory. There are elements to extensive touring that any person would struggle to cope with. Dave lists just what he thinks is hard about the travelling muso’s life. “The travel can be really gruelling and worse it can be fairly hard to stay healthy. For example most nights we will performing until about midnight and then we have to pack up and get out of there. Usually we don’t go to bed until 5 in the morning and because we’re so tired we won’t feel like doing any exercise. I think that’s one thing people not in the industry don’t think about. Exercising is a drag and you eat so much crap because you’re on the road. But in spite of all that I wouldn’t change a thing because there’s so many positives about touring it’s easy to keep finding the energy to continue doing it.”

Harlequin Dream is available now. For more touring info check out the band’s Facebook page or website.

Journalism student, music obsessor, internet sensation and Xbox fanboy. Currently reading the latest Game of Thrones Book. George Martin is a literacy god.

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