Boy & Bear have come a long way in seven years. What started out as a solo project for singer-songwriter Dave Hosking in 2009 became a duo with the addition of Killian Gavin, also on vocals and guitar, and kept expanding into a quartet and finally a five-piece band. The Sydney, Australia-based group, who relied on an online band name generator for their moniker, have firmly made their mark in their home country and are now steadily establishing their brand of indie-folk rock in North America and around the world.
Currently on their fourth international tour in three years, the band’s drummer and vocalist Tim Hart spoke to the Martlet while the band took a day off in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“We’ve actually had a really good time [so far],” Hart mused. “We’ve been pretty surprised with how the crowds have been. Not that we were expecting bad crowds, but people were really into the music and singing every song. When you get a bit of radio play over a couple of years for maybe two songs you expect a bit of a lull, but no, it’s been great. People are into it and that means a lot to us.”
Hart’s modesty is refreshing, but those familiar with the band’s work won’t find singing crowds surprising. Singles from Boy & Bear albums are like peaks within mountain ranges: a few songs stand out more than others, but the quality of every track is consistently high.
Asked what he was looking forward to on the current tour, Hart was unequivocal: “We love playing in Canada. Toronto and Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, I think, are [all] going to be great . . . It’s probably a little bit more like Australia so it seems like a bit more of a safe space, but we’re really looking forward to Canada.”
When asked whether Victoria made the cut of lovable Canadian cities, Hart was quick to clarify. “Victoria’s beautiful. It’s more my lack of memory this afternoon than the beauty of Victoria. It’s amazing.”
Boy & Bear’s first visit to Victoria was back in 2014 at Sugar Nightclub, and Hart remembers it fondly. “We went for a bit of a walk down to the water,” he reminisced. “It kind of reminded me of Australia in a way, like, rugged coastline and nice people, good food, that sort of thing.”
Hart also shared an intriguing piece of trivia for local fans. “The first time we went to Victoria, which I think was the only time, that ferry trip, I was blown away by it. My brother Jon [vocals, banjo, mandolin, and keyboards] took the album cover picture on that ferry trip for Limit of Love.”
Despite their first two albums Moonfire and Harlequin Dream topping charts in Australia and racking up a combined 11 Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) nominations and awards, Boy & Bear maintain a genuine quality in both their public persona and their music. Limit of Love, the band’s latest release, was recorded straight to tape, which meant small mistakes stayed put and resulted in an album filled to the brim with authenticity.
“Our producer Ethan Johns, it was how he wanted to do it. So there was no computer involved,” said Hart. “It was done on live tape which is kind of daunting, because most records these days, you can fix things and make things sound perfect, but . . . getting through a record like that . . . gave us great confidence to play it and we were stoked with the result.”
The chance to work with Ethan Johns was a memorable experience in itself for Hart, who was full of praise for the renowned producer. “He’s phenomenal . . . He’s worked with some of my favourite artists like Ray LaMontagne and Ryan Adams and Laura Marling. His instinct for music is pretty phenomenal. He was so encouraging too, to us players . . . He was there with you. It was amazing because he’s got such a wealth of musical knowledge.”
The band’s current tour is hectic, to say the least, with their Victoria gig coming amongst a slew of nine shows in ten days, ranging from Saskatoon to San Diego. “I didn’t know it was that heavy,” Hart admitted when asked about how the band will keep performances fresh. “[But] I think people that make it in music . . . most know that every night people have made an effort to come and see you . . . People have come and given up their time and their money to watch you play, hopefully, you’ve got to give them something a little bit different to what they’ve seen before. It’s a motivation that doesn’t really die.”
When asked what to expect at a Boy & Bear concert, Hart didn’t sugar coat his description. “There’s no smoke and mirrors. It’s our music . . . What I love is the magic that comes when you go and see a band play and they bring their album to life for you. There’s no fireworks and no ridiculous stage moves. Hopefully, you’re going to hear us play our records pretty close to what they are with maybe a little bit more life. If you’re into that you’re going to have a good time.”
Boy & Bear play at Sugar Nightclub on Friday, Oct. 28. Tickets are $20 and available at ticketfly.com. No minors.