FEATURE
Image Credit: Boy & Bear

Boy & Bear Are One Helluva Band: Say Hello To The Big Stage

by Gil Melott
I was introduced to Boy & Bear, these boys from Sydney, by a friend of mine - said I would really dig this band. He had seen Boy & Bear open up for Mumford and Sons in 2010 on their Australian tour. The group formed in 2009 and immediately hypnotized their homeland with their silvery melodies and hopped up beautifully concocted acoustics. And even though it sounds a bit cliché, looking at what has happened with these guys over the past year – it has been a wild trajectory upward. And the more I listened to them the more I liked them a lot.

From the moment you first hear Boy & Bear, you’ll know they are something special, something different. Rich harmonies, music that breathes full of unexpected twists and imagination, a sophisticated timelessness. This has only assisted them in the trippy ride across continents.

“Our reaction is pretty similar to yours really, trippy. Sometimes you have to pinch yourself to realize how far and how fast thing have come,” says Killian Gavin, guitar/vocals. “It’s awesome.”

photo by Bret Grafton

After playing and charming the pants off the SXSW peeps, earlier this year, Boy & Bear were immediately asked to play Lollapalooza. An example of how fast things are moving. When you are still trying to create your identity, but need to prepare for the experience of playing a venue like Lollapalooza, it takes a lot of clear-headed work.

It was pretty full on,” declares Dave Hosking, lead vocals/guitar. “I had no idea what SXSW was going to be like. None of us did. We did five shows in four days, which seemed like a lot at the time. We realized a lot of bands do a helluva lot more than that. It was just really cool to be a part of it.”

Bass player and one of the originating members Jake Tarasenko adds, “(SXSW) was a bit of an introduction to American crowds and the way it rolls over here - and in many ways prepped us for Lolla. We can’t wait to play today. We are simply excited.”

Given their folksy vibe and boyish, yet roguish charm it’s only natural that the band has begun to find their groove with how it rolls in the US.

“Things are really solid back home, and things are just starting to get momentum here. We’re playing to a lot of new people. That’s exciting again. No room to get comfortable only better and fresher.” adds Hosking.

  

photo by Bret Grafton

The style of music they are playing seems to be hitting a sweet pocket across the industry - with Mumford and Sons, The Avett Brothers, Local Natives and others. Yet Boy & Bear still seem to bring something unique to their sound. The writing of early songs like “Mexican Mavis” and the spooky “Feeding Line” (video below) off their new album Moonfire give them a seriously personal drive and fresh feel.

It seems all of their focus and hard work paid off. Boy & Bear's new material attracted American producer Joe Chiccarelli, whose bio includes collaborations with Elton John, U2, Augie March, Counting Crows and Rufus Wainwright. But it was Chiccarelli's work with the Shins and My Morning Jacket that convinced Hosking to team up with him.

“We just finished our record Moonfire and it’s just released. I think part of what makes us different is certainly knowing what we want to sound like, but equally important knowing what we didn’t want to sound like. We knew that going into the album!” states Hosking confidently.

Boy & Bear are often compared to bands like Mumford and Sons or Fleet Foxes. Not always such a bad thing as you get your footing. But they are determined to shake off the ‘new folk’ tag. “Something that comes in a wave disappears as quickly as it came and we were really conscious of not being a part of a trend and just standing on our own two feet,” adds Gavin.

“We don’t want to spend our careers in the shadows of a bunch of other bands,” adds Hosking. “No band we’re speaking of in particular, we just want to deliver the Boy& Bear sound. It’s good creatively for us, pushes us to get our voice out in different ways by continually refining and testing our limits.”

Any more videos coming along with that sound? “Yeah we have a few more coming and we think their fun.” Their videos will be another way to push the boys forward. I asked around how to describe these guys and I got “nerdy cute”, “hot folksy hipsters”, and “damn fine Aussies”. So take your pick. Seems there is a little something for everyone.

photo by Bret Grafton

They also seem to have a big fan in Glee star Dianna Agron. And when I mentioned it, there was a universal, “Oh, yeeaaah.”

And Gavin was very quick to jump in with, “But I don’t think it’s like that happened, and we were number one, not that we don’t think it’s a good thing.” Group laughs. “We do see a lot of the Tweets. And it’s a good thing.”

With all the action around them and so little time they were able to take in at least one show. “My Morning Jacket blew us away – the sound, the vocals. They are so entertaining. They just do it so well,” says the enthusiastic Gavin. “It’s just so impressive. Guys that are in top of they’re game, just shredding it.”

So I asked them if they had that fantasy band, the dream band they would like to open for next and Tarasenko pops in, “My Morning Jacket. I play electric guitar. So if nothing but for that selfish experience, it would be pretty rad to support them.”

“Not because of the bear thing,” Hosking adds with a big smile, “but I’d like to open for Grizzly Bear. I think they’re incredible."

As if this year wasn’t enough the hungry band, which also includes Tim Hart and Jon Hart, Boy & Bear have a lot planned.

“We are looking at relocating for awhile to the US. We want and need to tour. It is one of the things a band can control. There are so many things out of our control but the music and how much we tour we can take charge of. So we will be on the road a lot next year,” explains Hosking.

And it’s exciting and terrifying and everything in between,” adds Gavin.

So with all this enthusiasm for the music, the fans, the travel, is there one thing they wish someone had told them about the business before you got started?

photo by Bret Grafton

Hosking starts with, “Well I would talk about business affairs and labels, but I don’t like talking about it, so I won’t.” --- big chuckle from all of them.

“Perhaps that you spend your whole career waiting.  It’s what we call the waiting game. Go to airport and wait. Then you catch a plane then you wait; you arrive and wait to get your hire bus; then you drive to the hotel, then you wait to go to the venue. Once you’re there you wait to do sound check. Then you do sound check, and then you wait to play your show. Then you do one hour of a show. And you’ve waited for 16 hours of your day to play that one hour. And then you get to do it all again the next day.  But that one hour is rewarding, killer.” Says the winded Gavin.

“The best.” Hosking adds ruminating.

Their energy is as infectious as their music. Boy & Bear maybe feel like they spend a lot of time waiting, but they have a long career ahead and if managed just right they can break free from the “sound-a-lot-like” moniker and make it a super long career. So get comfy.

  • Gil Melott is Publisher of JACKarcher and head of JACKarcher | JA+. Gil digs all things that haven't happened yet but probably should in music, fashion, art, film, design - you get the picture. Likes the influencers of all things NEXT and the strategies to get them there. Can appreciate great fried chicken, an amazing Malbec, a 1971 Ford Bronco, finding hot bands, and riding a bike any time. He spends a lot of time with his American Bulldog Chap who is the biggest influencer of what happens NEXT.