– by Maggie Bochat
After a killer sneak peak at Splendour In The Grass, Boy & Bear are about to release their third studio album, Limit of Love. Maggie Bochat chatted to bass player Dave Symes about the recording process, their upcoming Aussie tour, and getting distracted by good surf.
Where did you record the new album?
We recorded the album in a small town in England called Box with Ethan Johns who’s an incredible musician and producer (Johns has worked with Kings of Leon, Ryan Adams, Paul McCartney).
He took us to the Real World Studio, which is owned by Peter Gabriel (singer-songwriter for English band Genesis).
The whole experience was pretty special. We recorded with the most beautiful old gear. That studio was perfect, with its lovely big windows overlooking Peter Gabriel’s property and all that natural light. It’s a really inspiring environment.
What is different about this sound to your past albums?
This record was it was all about capturing our performance and keeping it with the band as we are. We didn’t add lots of layers or over edit.
In terms of writing, there was a lot more collaborating. Sometimes [lead singer] Dave Hosking would get a song outline and bring it to the group, but sometimes we all wrote together from scratch. There’s a slightly new sound on some of the songs because they’re written rhythmically rather than melodically.
Where did Boy & Bear write the album?
We did a lot of writing down on the coast of Sydney in a little town called Berry. We’d rent a house from 7 to 10 days, take heaps of food, have big cook ups, surf, and set up in the lounge room and play. It’s the best environment to write – away from everything.
What was the effect of writing in Australia and recording in the UK?
It gives the whole project a new inspiration. England and Australia are similar in so many ways. We felt very at home in England, in a beautiful location in the countryside; it was sort of similar to where we were writing. Just without the good surf.
Maybe that’s how you guys smashed out the recordings! The waves didn’t distract you.
You guys are gearing up for an Australian tour early next year. Have you played any shows in Perth that stand out for you?
The Fremantle Arts Centre last year was amazing, a beautiful outdoor venue with a really great crowd. We’re super exited to play at the Red Hill Auditorium in January. We’ve heard great things about that place.
On your last tour, Boy & Bear performed 170 shows from November 2013 to December 2014. Was there ever a point where you thought, “I just need a break from this?”
Yeah totally, there were some hard moments. The first few months were grueling – we had crazy scheduling. It almost wiped us out.
There were times when you’re in the middle of America, you have to drive for 10 hours and you stop in the middle of nowhere and all there nothing but a mall with some chain restaurant. You’re sleeping in a bus in a car park and you think, “I just want to go home”.
But we worked out how to cope. We’d kick the footy and throw Frisbees around and get yelled at by hotel management for taking up all their space.
You have hard days, but the next day might be the best day of the tour, so it’s all worth it.
Where does the band bond more – on tour or while recording?
While touring you’re spending a lot of time in each other’s personal space, which is a challenge. We are lucky as a band because respect one another and give each other space. I’ve heard stories of intense touring schedules breaking people and causing all sorts of dramas, but we tend to cope really well.
It helps that we like hanging out together – it’s a band of 5 guys that are really equal. We enjoy a lot of the same stuff. It’s the same when we’re going away writing. We enjoy being together and jamming and getting on the Barbie and having a cook up and listening to records.
The challenge while recording is the creative process everyone has a different view. How we entertain 5 different ideas before we decide on one thing?
Do you ever pinch yourself that being a bass player is your career?
I feel very lucky to be given this experience. It can be hard to keep it going and to make a living off it, but that doesn’t really matter. You’re doing what you love. You have to pinch yourself sometimes and go “Whoa, this is big dream and it seems to be happening”. But you can never rest assured that it’s going to keep happening. You’ve got to strive for success by being better and learning. I don’t think you’ll ever make it if you don’t do that. I think if you feel like you’ve made it then you loose your hunger and drive to improve.
What inspires you to make music and keep improving?
Seeing other musicians perform – other bass players or even drummers. Listening to records turns me onto sounds that I want to emulate in my own music. I find reading biography books – I’m reading the Keith Richards one at the moment –really inspiring. It’s great to hear those first hand stories of the times and experiences they had. So the whole musical community is what inspires me.
Maybe one day you can write your own bibliography for a young bass player to read.
It might be very short. (Laughs) Maybe it could be a short story?
Limit of Love is out of October 9, 2015.
Boy & Bear are playing at Red Hill Auditorium of January 20, 2016.
Photo Credit: Boy and Bear