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Interview: Tim Hart from ‘Boy & Bear’

Sydney folk-rock kings Boy & Bear are only days from releasing their third studio album “Limit of Love”. We caught up with the band’s drummer Tim Hart to talk about the inspiration behind recording the album ‘old skool style’ straight to tape and when they’ll buy a beach house on the New South Wales south coast.

Boy & Bear are now just weeks from releasing your third album “Limit of Love”. How do you feel the band has grown since the release of EP “With Emperor Antarctica” back in 2010?

The fact we’ve been together for that long has been really cool as a lot of bands don’t make it that long, so I think it’s a testament to the character of the boys in the band, maybe not me though! I think we’ve been evolving as musicians and we’ve delved back into the music of our folks, and I think when we first did the EP and then “Moonfire” we definitely got classed as indie folk. I like to think we’ve become a little broader and a little more mature since then, but the main thing is we’re still loving it. 

How do you want Boy & Bear to be classified?

Umm I don’t know! I don’t ever want to control how we’re classified to be honest. I hope people see us as genuine and authentic, and the biggest change on this record (“Limit of Love”) was the process of how we recorded. It was definitely a real learning experience and recording live to tape is not anything new under the sun. All the great classic records we done (recorded to tape) like The Beatles & ‘The Stones, and all the records I listen to myself at home, and to be able to do a record in that way was cool and I hope it comes across as sounding authentically like us.

How did the band come to the decision to record live to tape rather than a conventional digital recording process? 

I think it had more to do with Ethan Johns our producer than any sort of decision by us. We sat down together and we wrote a list of things we wanted to achieve on the third record and the one that kept coming to the top was we wanted it to sound like a live band and we wanted to capture the live experience. We’d done a shit-load of shows in 2014 so we felt like we’d improved as players, but we never thought we’d captured that on a record.  So Ethan (producer) just ended up being the guy that we approached to see if he wanted to work with us, and the way he said he wanted to work was to tape, and that’s how he makes most of his records, and I think he was able to bring the best out of us. I’ve been a massive fan of Ethan’s for many years, y’know with Ryan Adams and early Kings of Leon Laura Marling and I just think he’s incredible, and it was just super excited to work with him. It was slightly terrifying when we started recording to tape cause it wasn’t some kind of indie airy-fairy decision like ‘yeah man we’re so cool, we’ve got a record on tape’, it was more like holy shit if I stuff this up we have to do it again and again and again! But after a while it just became really liberating because what you play is not running into a computer and it can’t be edited or tampered with, it is what it is and that’s it. So you either like it or you don’t and that was a cool feeling, sort of like a weight off and it gave us a sort of confidence that this actually does sound like us.

Because of the process of not being able to tamper with the recordings did some songs change from their original format or did some songs even not make it on the album? 

There’s this sort of faux-illness musicians suffer from in the recording process called ‘Demo-itis’, when you record your demos you’re in your rehearsal room or someone’s garage and you set up a couple of microphones and play live. You then send that off to the producer to him an idea of what you want to record, but often you’ll go into the studio and try to recreate that but you just can’t recreate the same sound or feel. And we were always wondering why and then we got the answer on this records, it’s because as soon as you start taking the personality out of (the songs) and fixing it and making it more perfect you lose that vibe and so that’s what I believe you’re missing from demos. So to be honest there wasn’t any song that fell by the wayside in that sense but there were songs we worked on throughout (recording), but all bar one of the songs we went in with we managed to recreate in the studio. 

What’s your favourite track from the new album?

That’s tough! I really love A Thousand Faces, but probably my favourite track is Just Dumb. In that track Ethan played a drum kit with me at the same time, it was done super late at night, the whole band just did two takes through it, and we could have taken either take. I had such a good time doing this album so much, like when you listen to a song you loved back in high school, Just Dumb just takes me back to the recording process and it’s a great memory, so that’ why it’s my favourite.

“Limit of Love” has been dubbed “Boy & Bear captured in all their naked glory: honest, open, and irresistible”. Does this mean “Limit to Love” is the true sound of Boy & Bear and everything previously you’ve released has just lead up to this album?

Ahh interesting question! I don’t want to dis anything we’ve released before because I’m still really proud of it. I just don’t think we ever fully achieved what we set out to do on any previous records.  I think there’s a lot to be said about Ethan, his approach the studio is to make you feel as comfortable as possible, to be encouraging, and to capture the essence of a song. That just sounds like bullshit but he just wants a song to feel like it’s been played live and to have life. If there’s imperfections he wants to keep it because it’s y’know human beings playing a song, it’s not computer generated, and in that sense I think he did manage to capture the true sound of Boy & Bear. But at the same time “Moonfire” and Harlequin Dream had to happen to get us to the point where we could do this record. I think those representations of Boy & Bear are where we were then but (“Limit to Love”) is a slightly more accurate representation of us. Again though I don’t want to slag off all the people who helped make those records but I guess this is where we’re at now and we’re super happy with it.

For the first time in the band’s history all Boy & Bear members helped Dave Hosking (Lead vocalist) with writing the songs on “Limit to Love”. Do you feel those songs particularly are stronger than those just written by Dave?

 

Again interesting question. I think a big part of Boy & Bear is collaboration, and that’s been there since the start. I guess the genesis of the songs this time for some of them was different and if anything I think that gave Dave more freedom melodically because he didn’t have to worry about what he was playing on guitar or structures. So in that sense I wouldn’t say these songs were better or worse, rather just different. And that’s cool cause it felt different for us, which makes it feel fresh and exciting, and I think that spontaneity leads to positive energy.

Most of the writing for “Limit of Love”, as well as for your previous albums, happened at a rental houses on the South Coast of NSW. Why is that part of Australia so inspiring to the band? 

We like going away cause it means we’re distraction-free and we like surfing… It’s a formula that seems to work for us, and it’s never been one specific house, but just to be near the water and to be in place just the five of us cooking food and trying to be creative it’s just the formula that really works.  And it’s a whole bunch of fun too cause you’re there with your mates and a few beers. It’s something we’ll definitely be looking to continue. 

If “Limit of Love” is successful enough will Boy & Bear finally bite the bullet and buy a house down there instead of just renting? 

Hahaha! That would be amazing! Look I’m not sure mate, that’s a good question. I think I’d be stoked if we could just keep doing what we’re doing, keep being a band, and keep doing it fulltime. I remember as a kid just thinking if I ever got to do music fulltime I’d be the luckiest man in the world, and I think I am and I’d love that to keep going. But if something amazing happens like someone calls us up and says ‘we think you guys are amazing and we want to buy you a house in Berry because we love your music’ I don’t think we’d say no!

I guess that would be the cherry on top of everything! 

Yeah it would be amazing but things can happen though Jack! 

Between November 2013 & December 2014 you did 170 shows. How did you guys approach that situation in terms of not getting on each other’s nerves and did you learn anything new or strange about each other?

You’re always going to get on peoples nerves but it’s been pretty good with the boys to be honest because well you’ve go no choice. You’re all there for the same reasons and same goals. But we’ve got things in place like you have your own room how ever many times a week and on the tour bus you have strategies to y’know have space. I think we’ve become closer as mates through it, but before (the last tour) we’ve been travelling for about 4-5 years anyway, so there’s not much about these boys I don’t know...

So it’ll be a happy family when you start touring again?

Yeah absolutely, we’re looking forward to getting back on the road. I think it’s been nice to have a break from it but it’s what we do, we’re musicians and there’s a lot of people who would love to be out touring and don’t get the opportunity, so we feel pretty grateful for it!

During that hectic 13 months of touring you guys did shows in the U.S, Canada, and Europe in support of your single Southern Sun. Was the song popular in all the countries you played in or were there some unorthodox crowd favourites?

Its funny cause in Europe there’s a few songs from the first record and then Southern Sun from the second (album) is the one. But in ‘the states we didn’t do much from the first record so Southern Sun I guess is the one that connected most immediately with people, which was really interesting. I ’spose it was the result of radio play and that sort of thing, but in general the crowds were pretty good. People are smart though and the way media is today you can just go out and get the music that you like, so the people that were at the shows generally knew the songs and wanted to be there, which was so special to us! They didn’t just know one song, usually they’d know a whole bunch and be fans and those are the kind of people you feel pretty humbled that they want to come to your show. 

During your tour through the U.S Boy & Bear played Southern Sun live on Conon O’Brian. Is Conan a top bloke and was the band more nervous meeting him or playing on the show?

Mate, there was a lot of nerves flying around that day, which you could probably tell by how fast we played Southern Sun! He was a top bloke, he sort of just sits around noodling on a guitar all day and he’s pretty in control of the show, but he was really nice, approachable, and was super awesome for having us on the show. It was pretty nerve racking though cause American TV so well done and so like on the money time wise and everything happens to schedule to the point where it’s intimidating. But they treated us really nicely, made us feel at home, and it was a privilege.

Finally, I was able to catch the back half of your set at this year’s Splendour in the Grass and was surprised to be stuck next to a few fans I deemed to be ‘lightly moshing’. Who’s the best crowd Boy & Bear have played to and who’s been the strangest?

The strangest was probably this crowd in Holland in a place called Groningen, it’s a college town but we were basically playing to lake and people were sitting around the lake. But right in front of the stage and out for 50-60 metres was just no one and it was just weird! There were a couple of people who got drunk and jumped in the water and swam over (to the stage) but that was about it. It was super strange, like people sitting out where they couldn’t really hear properly and so there was a weird disconnect…but crowds around the world are the best for different reasons. We always love coming home and playing for Australian audiences cause y‘known they were the ones that gave us the start in this game and I guess we’re always grateful for that. But we’re lucky to have played to a lot of great crowds to be honest! 

Boy & Bear’s new album "Limit of Love" will be released on Friday 9th October.

Boy & Bear – “Limit Of Love” Tour

Friday 22nd January

Odeon Theatre, Hobart

Saturday 23rd January

Festival Hall, Melbourne

Fri 29th January

Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide

Saturday 30th January

Red Hill Auditorium, Perth

Friday 12th February

Hordern Pavilion, Sydney

Saturday 13 February

Riverstage, Brisbane

Get Tickets Here

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