Boy & Bear are an incredible band cementing their position as one of Australia’s finest with their fourth album Suck On Light which has been doing great things since its release. To protect the purity of their musical vision, the band – which also features singer/ guitarist Dave Hosking, guitarist Killian Gavin, drummer Tim Hart, bassist Dave Symes and keyboardist Jon Hart – wrote a brief for the album; a clear memorandum of exactly how they wanted it to sound, and how they would achieve it with the result speaking for itself. The band has been challenged and while Hosking’s health remains a work in progress, the fact that he and the band have reached this point is nothing short of a triumph. Motivation was never hard to find as Tim Hart explains to Hi Fi Way.
With all the personal dramas and illness, and things like that, did you actually think that you’d actually get there in the end?
Mate, there were definitely moments where I wasn’t sure it would happen anymore. I think you start to not get your hopes up because Hosking would get sick, then he’d get a little bit better and then he’d get worse. It was very up in the air for a long time, so you try not to get your hopes up and not think about it too much. It feels pretty surreal that as much as we were able to do record we did, but to come out of it feeling so good about it. He’s well enough to be on the road now.
He’s continuing treatment but he’s got his head in the game, feeling better and better month by month. I didn’t know whether it was going to happen anymore but a lot of it did because we so fortunate to be able to do what we do and you feel like you’ve got the golden ticket in a way and as a selfish human being, you don’t want that to be taken away from him. Yeah, I feel pretty fortunate.
Do you think that sort of experience has really helped shape and define what the album had become?
Massively, mate. Literally that’s what the album is all about and it’s just about overcoming challenges and it’s about hope. I think we’re the kind of band that we write whatever is going on in our life. That’s what comes out in our songs. This album was definitely shaped by those experiences.
Particularly, Suck On Light? Is that one of those moments that is really close to the band?
Yeah, totally. That song’s all about hope and trying to just draw on any little bit of positivity that you can when it gets really tough, really drawing on that experience of when you were feeling so low and so down. Just trying to glean any sort of hope you could.
Do you think particularly when times are tougher that you learn a lot more about each other and their strengths and those sorts of things in terms of pulling all that together and delivering again?
We’ve been a band now for ten years and you don’t survive as a band unless you keep really good relationships. Interestingly when we had to go through all this, it just showed how strong those relationships were, because the priority was always just our mate getting better. His health was bad and we just wanted him to get better. I think it showed the true colours of the band in that sense. I know I never had any doubt that that’s how the other guys would react, because when you see someone in that much pain and confusion, no one can tell him what the deal is, you’ve got to have empathy for him. Especially when it’s one of your best mates and also the lead singer of your band, too. So in the end it brought out the best in us, because we were able to put aside our own wants and needs and just focus on trying to get Dave better himself and if that could happen, then of course we wanted to get back to what we love doing, which just seemed like a bonus.
Does that change how you approach the massive amounts of overseas touring that you do?
Yeah. It’s an interesting question because I’m not going to say, “Yes, it has.” But it’s so funny the way that the labels manage our work is that they’re like, “As long as you guys made the tour a little bit less hectic and blah blah blah, and there’s a rest day here and there.” And then it’s just like, gradually, there’s more promo and more promo and more promo and the extra dates. Yeah, it’s pretty much the same as it’s always been but they check with Dave before they put something extra on. If he’s cool to do it, which he is at the moment, he’s cool to do it, then we’ll think next year. The end of this year and then next year it’s going to be really hectic so we’re just going to have to take it tour by tour. In theory, it’s changed the way we tour but in practice it doesn’t feel like it has, but we’ll see.
I guess the tough thing as well, is particularly being a band in Australia is that you’ve got to make hay when the sun shines because you just don’t know what it could lead to. It might lead to that next big break that could change the life or fortunes of the band, so to speak?
It’s very true. I remember hearing in an interview with Ben Folds and someone asked, “What was your big break?” And he said, “I never got a big break. I just kept getting a lot of little breaks by working hard.” We’ve got a similar attitude to that. We definitely feel so fortunate to do what we do and to be a band that people want to listen to. So, if we’re not doing it, then thousands of other bands are lining up behind us to do it. You just have to keep working, you have to keep rolling.
Sonically, do you think that the Boy and Bear sound has changed much particularly on this album?
I think you’re always evolving as musicians. So, whatever it is you’re listening to and whatever is inspiring you, I suppose it does shift the way you go about things. We experimented with a few different elements on this record, like making up electronic loop samples and that sort of stuff. It was more borne out of curiosity than wanting to deliberately change. I think other than that, it’s hard for me to know being so close to the project.
There hasn’t been a deliberate shift but as songwriters and as artists we’ve always tried to continue to improve and continue to break new ground for ourselves because it keeps it interesting when we’re writing songs. Otherwise, you just keep writing the same song over and over again. I mean, it worked for Nickelback but, I don’t think could we do that necessarily, so I don’t know. It’s probably our fans are the better ones to judge whether the sound has changed, but I think there’s definitely new elements.
Is there an Australian tour in the cards and is it going to include Adelaide this time because we’re feeling a bit unloved?
Yes, there is another tour coming and yes, there is an Adelaide date for sure. That’ll be in the first half of next year. I have to say there’s a disproportionate amount of people that give us shit for not coming to Adelaide. It happened twice through the years where we didn’t come to Adelaide on a tour and you get so much shit from people. We love coming to Adelaide. I’ve got really good friends in Adelaide. I always try to spend a few more days and see them and drink wine. I just think it’s extremely fricking great place. Best pubs in Australia! We’re definitely coming back!
Interview By Rob Lyon
Have a listen to Suck On Light on Spotify…