You've got to admire the commitment Australian musicians have to make to their art. In America, one can tour (and tour well) without ever having to cross an international border. Big gigs, intimate gigs, weird gigs, dream gigs; all are for the taking in the comfort of our homeland. In Australia, however, one can only make the massive loop of the country so many times. Eventually, bands have to take a very long flight to get to the next level.
Boy & Bear, one of The Aussie's biggest exports, recently hopped the day long flight for North America in the name of a slew of massive music festivals and intimate club dates. Somehow we also convinced them to play their smallest show of the tour during our inaugural Bands and Brews series, held high school cool kid style in the Baeble basement. Pulling songs from their most recent album Harlequin Dream, today's session offers a dreamy, if not slightly whimsical swath of tunes, whipped up for a gathering of well lubricated guests. What follows is a pleasant brew of frontier folk that flows like a cold river over hot flashing, big city dwelling hearts, providing a nice moment to slow down, ruminate, let the buzz kick in, and appreciate such a stunning musical gift from way overseas.
To my achin' glow, you got a hold of me now How you rendered slow, but harder than hell to my ground I'm looking for my old mans' shoes Kickin' off these old town blues Don't leave me here, 'cause I just won't survive There's a raven hoverin', he's a keepin' me alive I've known him all my life He's the spirit of a young man mourning The shadow of a carving knife He's not the danger but the warning sign Kickin' off easy Hey, I can't seem to move I'm paralyzed, chokin' on my holy mood 'Cause I wanna be an old man too I wanna be a role model to my kids I wanna teach them how to love But you gotta show me how to live Kickin' off easy, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh Oh, oh, oh, yeah Oh, oh, oh, yeah And I had one of those dreams You were a three headed woman You were sleeping with my best friend I woke up in a sweat And I've been rippin' off my skin To see what's on the inside To see what's going on Oh, but I hate you sometimes For makin' me feel the way I feel, feel, feel 'Cause the love that keeps me sane Is killin' me all the same It's killin' me, it's killin' me, I'm done It's just one of those days, now I can't stop thinkin' about you, yeah I'm as heavy as my hangover is heat Woke up in a sweat See, I've been wanting to explain That I'm aware of consequence See, I'm aware of pain now, too Oh, but I hate you sometimes For makin' me feel the way I feel, feel, feel 'Cause the love that keeps me sane Is killin' me all the same Oh, and I don't see the point now In draggin' ourselves through all that shame, shame, shame No I ain't no fucking traitor I'm hurtin' all the same I'm sorry for whatever I have done Now I walk, I walk alone And your face follows where I go And I won't walk that way, you know A hurt that only makes you grow It tears a hole right through you And I'll forever know - Thank you. Such a fool, I've been only runnin' scared I use my conscious as a way to get through Well all my friends We're driftin' in the glow of love lights in tangerine All my fortunes came true You know, I've got somethin' on my mind these days It's cornering this time That I can't say in front of you so Maybe I'm just not that kind God only knows I've tried I'm a feather made of stone In the hat you had forgotten 'Cause you'll be swimmin' all alone When it drags you through the bottom of the ocean floor Flowing down, three rows of fine wine and savories Conversation just get on my view And I'm so tired, of talkin' 'bout the price of real estate You better head back down to where you came through You know, I've got somethin' on my mind these days It's warning me this time See, it don't mean much when you're alone, so I guess I'm gonna take my time I'll whistle and I'll whine For the weight of something more Oh, you tear it up in pieces 'Til my hands are red and raw 'Til it drags me to the bottom of the ocean floor Thank you. And all you'll see What was it that came down on me that night A conjuring, I held on to that moment And lied just to make it alive We sit out there in the covering In the baskings of a holy night I was lucid and conscious And hovering like a firefly I'm lying stretched out on the canopy He put his arms out slow I heard the whispers of silence Floating down from the radio So come on, come on, I'm ready now I got the feelin', honey, like I'm ready to roll You see, I'm not gonna wait 'til the ending 'Cause I got the burning fire in the bed of my soul I saw the light from a kettle gun 16 days under a Southern sun And there were times when I thought that I wouldn't mind it if I lost my mind out there You wouldn't believe me if I told you so The things I saw were enough to make the man in me a man of me Make a man of me So come on, come on, I'm ready now Go get your things out honey, let's get ready to roll For I can feel the wave comin' over me I've been waitin' for this day too long just to let it all go As a child I was wonder-eyed At the thought that I might know A life in the ecstasy of rock 'n' roll, oh, whoa And I'm takin' it slow, no, no I'm an arrow in a bow, no, no You think that I don't know, whoa, whoa What it is that makes it glow, no, no So come on, come on, I'm ready now I got the feelin', honey, like I'm ready to roll You see, I'm not gonna wait 'til the enemy 'Cause I got the burning fire in the bed of my soul Thank you.
It was on the road in America that BOY & BEAR began to write their 2013 sophomore full-length and Nettwerk debut Harlequin Dream (out October 29).
In 2011, mere days before the release of their US debut album Moonfire, the group played one of its most memorable gigs to date in front of a sea of people at Lollapalooza. "That was pretty much insane," smiles lead singer/guitarist Dave Hosking. "To be a part of one of the most highly regarded festivals in the world was enough to feel really good about, but to get a few thousand people to walk up to our tent was a genuinely special moment. As we began playing, a storm started to settle over Chicago, and it created this palpably beautiful, electric, and moody vibe that we lapped up on stage. It felt totally right and, of course, as we hit the last chord, it instantly started pouring down!"
You could say that perfect storm heralded their arrival in North America, quite fittingly. Recording Moonfire in Nashville's legendary Blackbird Studios with producer Joe Chiccarelli [My Morning Jacket, The Shins], the quartet - Hosking, Killian Gavin (vocals/guitars), Tim Hart (drums, vocals, guitars) and Jon Hart (vocals/keys/mandolin) - toured the entire country for the first time, carving a sizeable fanbase in North America.
Hosking catalogued everything - the heritage in Nashville, the history (and gear) of Blackbird, going to the West Coast for the first time, tramping through New York City with locals, and "seeing parts of the world you would otherwise probably never see."
"We started writing on the road mainly because we realized we weren't going to have enough time when we got back to flesh out an album. It turned out to be a good decision as the road draws out some fairly sharp emotions and at times, real creative headspaces. I found it personally therapeutic being able to pick up my guitar in my hotel room and just pour myself into it."
In 2011, they returned home to Australia to claim 5 ARIA Awards including Album Of The Year, Best Group, Breakthrough Album, Breakthrough Single and Best Adult Contemporary Album for Moonfire. By the time Boy & Bear arrived at the legendary Alberts Studio [AC/DC] and added David Symes (bass) to the band, they were brimming with ideas for Harlequin Dream.
"The vision came early to focus on a lot of old pop and to really embrace classic structures and choruses in an adulterated way," says Hosking. "If it felt musical, we knew we should track it." When all the songs were finally laid down, the band enlisted the talents of Seattle-based Phil Ek (Band Of Horses, Fleet Foxes, Built To Spill, The Shins, Sea Wolf) to mix the album and flesh out that vision.
On Harlequin Dream, there's more groove and color. It's warmer and fuzzier. It's less rock than the last album, but there are sexier guitar moments. These are songs that tell stories.
"Southern Sun" is a shining example of that dreamy pop panache and vivid storytelling. Coasting along on a lilting acoustic guitar, it builds into an undeniable hook. "It's a really simple song," Hosking adds. "I was always fascinated by something like America's 'Horse with No Name'. The song is only two chords, but it's completely captivating. That was in my mind. The longer I do this, the more I appreciate subtlety in music."
Elsewhere, "Old Town Blues," washes over the listener with a pensive poetry, and the title track boasts a jazzy reprieve in the form of their first saxophone solo. Meanwhile, "Three Headed Woman" explores a fraying relationship with a slow drum beat and soulful delivery. "It's a simple breakup love song," admits Hosking. "I was hurt and I was on the road. The song was nothing but therapy for me. We really embrace that super simple structure. I would love for people to say, 'Boy & Bear are pretty pop, but fuck it's cool!'"
In fact, this is just the right kind of pop. Now signed to Nettwerk, they're ready for their most exciting and intriguing chapter yet. There's something much deeper behind every heartfelt harmony and majestic melody. "I would love for people to be able to sing these songs in the showeror anywhere for that matterwhile discovering new sounds along the way. It's pop music with hidden surprises."
"Were ambitious and love growing as a band. Ive come to see this process from a broader perspective these days and the truth is I just want to keep getting better at our craft and have a long and happy career," Hosking concludes. "That takes work but we're ready for it."