With its live premiere at this year’s Splendour In The Grass Festival, Boy & Bear have released ‘Walk the Wire’ the first single from their third studio album Limit of Love, the follow-up to their #1 ARIA Album and platinum-selling Harlequin Dream. PEARL’s Jess Taylor caught up with Dave Hosking and Dave Symes for a chat at Universal Music headquarters this week.

 “I was shitting myself” – says Hosking, lead singer of Boy and Bear when asked to reflect on the recording process that was. Guided by renowned producer Ethan Johns the guys took a different approach to their third studio album. ‘Limit of Love’ was recorded in Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studio the old fashioned way, live, one take at a time with no overdubs. I know right? Amazing. Perhaps the preparation was in the 170 odd shows they played last year, which spanned three continents? The proof is in the pudding, and my-oh-my does it warm the eardrums. The best news is you all get to hear the album live when they come to Melbourne’s iconic Festival Hall for a show in January next year.

PEARL: Hosking is your usual lyricist, however on this album you all worked together during the writing process, how was that?

HOSKING: “We did these writing trips where I’d go down with a bunch of songs, we would still flesh them out as a group and then on the other side we would work on songs from scratch so it’s kind of like we doubled our approach I guess. It was really fun I mean we didn’t know how it was going to go.

SYMES: “It naturally happened”

HOSKING: “Other People were jumping on instruments more and more we found, we’ve gotten quite good at problem solving when it come to writing songs. Once we had an idea of a song in there, we clicked into this problem solving mode quite quickly and naturally and it was as if nothing had really changed but it was refreshing and brought a new life – a whole new raft of songs which would otherwise not have been written from my end. I think it’s broadened our approach.”

PEARL: Did you feel the pressure was off your shoulders (Hosking) this time around to come up with material or did you feel like you had to let go of the reigns a bit?

HOSKING: “Yeah I did, 100% I mean I definitely love writing and there was stuff I was really happy with but yeah I was definitely feeling the pressure. I wasn’t as prepared this time around as I would have liked. In January we all knew we wanted to record and when we were gathering momentum as a group and it was a really great feeling going along with this process. There was a little bit of weight off my shoulders.”

SYMES: “The new approach gives you confidence to try new ideas and knowing you don’t have to finish this song now, we can throw other stuff in there new colours on the palate.”

PEARL: You teamed up with Ethan Johns on the album, what was it like working together?

SYMES: “We were talking last year when we were touring, we started to think about who we should work with on the next record, we had quite a big list of people that we had all brought to the table. We discussed the kind of things they had done previously and the people they had worked with and whet some of the results were and Ethan was on that list. We were really excited by a lot of the records he had done so we reached out to him and managed to meet him in London at the end of our tour last December. We had lunch with him and talked to him about music and the kind of records we were hoping to make and he seemed really excited and enthusiastic, we feel very fortunate that he was available and into doing it.

PEARL: His approach to recording is quite different to what you guys are used to – recording songs in one hit. Was that stressful recording this way?

HOSKING: “Yeah that’s the emotional hurdle that stops a lot of bands taking this approach as it can be quite stressful. But I think once you get your head around that, there are multiple components that come into being comfortable in that approach, I think having someone like Ethan is key to that because he is such a big advocate for that approach.

SYMES: “He’s got a lot of experience recording that way in that whole analogue technology and he really encourages the band to get the best out of their performance in that situation.”

HOSKING: “Yeah and you do just settle into it don’t you, you start to approach things differently. I mean as a singer you stop and I guess we knew in January after the conversation with Ethan this is what we were getting ourselves into. Every time I was playing guitar in the rehearsal room I was mentally training myself knowing what was going to happen. Once we were in the studio, you do you just start to get into the flow of things a little bit more and you start listening back to the track less – you stop singing from the perspective of what makes you sing in tune, but you sing the song as a performance as a whole. Even if you know in the first verse there was an error you just kind of roll with it. Whatever it is, I can’t do much more than what I’m delivering now and let the band kind of carry it, as opposed to worrying about every note.

PEARL: The last track on the album, Foxhole your voice is a bit husky and I read that you didn’t like it… I think that tone summed up the record quite nicely like you’re taken on this journey and this song is the end of that journey. Did you guys choose this song to be last on the album for that reason?

SYMES: “We had a bunch of different track listings and that one popped out, I think when we did record that track though it does sum up the whole recording process.

HOSKING: “That was the first take wasn’t it?”

SYMES: “Yeah the first or second take, we felt couldn’t match it.”

HOSKING: “I wanted to re do it (laughs) I hated the vocal on it”

SYMES: it’s just really honest. I think the whole performance from everybody just locked into the right sort of gear straight away on that track, the groove I don’t know, I think you’re right it’s nice at the end.”

PEARL: And that recording studio… Wow?

SYMES: “It was a magical setting, it was in a small town called Box, 25 minutes out of Bath. The countryside there is beautiful it’s really green and idyllic and old quaint in an English way. The studio and its surrounding cottages are beautiful stone. You’re just sitting there in this natural light with running water and you know you’re very happy to sit in the studio for 12 hours a day. You aren’t at all bothered by its very beautiful setting.”

PEARL: “So the first single from the album ‘Walk the Wire’ the guitar riff in there reminded me of the same riff in Southern Star, what’s the story behind this track?

HOSKING: “We wrote that as a group. Tim and I wrote the lyrics together, the melody came first then the lyrics and the Walk The Wire sound-bite came very quickly. We tried to build up around that. I rang Tim and I said I’ve got this idea this classic scene where boy meets girl and he is kind of nervous about it and that kind of internal battle you’ve got with yourself when you want to approach someone but you’re white nervous about it and fumbling and you don’t know what to do. Tim’s a wonderful songwriter as well, that kind of concept it’s a bit cliché but together it was like let’s do this it will be fun and it’s light hearted. We thought it was cool and ended up working quite well.

PEARL: Man Alone was one of my other favourites on the album – the track I listened to the most. The interpretation I made of it was you have this guy who is constantly amongst the nightlife picking up girls, yet he is lonely and searching for love, he wants to settle down and change his ways but at the same time does that same thing week in week out?

HOSKING: “Yeah I think that’s it, in terms of the idea of limit of love I think that’s one of the songs that explains that explains the grimy end of love. You know the things you do when you’re in need. Yeah that’s exactly what the song is about.”

PEARL: Take us through the piano at the beginning of ‘Hollow Ground’ it reminded me of Billy Joel.

HOSKING: “I do like Billy Joel”

SYMES: “The keyboard we were recording was kind of going for that Beatles Penny Lane thing.”

HOSKING: “Ethan was a part of that wasn’t he, plotting the piano in the choruses and a classic example of Ethan’s subtle producing, he is genius at work. That song was sounding good not brilliant and Ethan was like yeah let’s bring in the piano at the start and get rid of the acoustic and the vocals. It was one of those classic moments where the whole thing went boom and holy f*#! that sounds great.”

PEARL: Do you guys have any personal favourites on the album? Songs you hold close to your heart?

SYMES: “I’m really enjoying whole thing but if I had to pick one song I really love Breakdown Slow.”

HOSKING: “Yeah, I really like Just Dumb that was a lot of fun, Ethan played drums on that track we had two drum kits on it.

SYMES: “It was a fun one to record. It was the only one we recorded late at night – late night recording it soothed the whole vibe of the song in the end and helped it find it’s place because I didn’t think we knew where it was going to go.”

PEARL: Let’s talk gigs, you are about to head back over to Europe, but you are coming back to the homeland in January?

HOSKING: “Yeah we are playing at Festival Hall in January and we can’t wait.”

SYMES: “We love coming to Melbourne.

HOSKING: “It’s fun playing at home, Sydney’s is great but there’s pressure because it’s family and friends. It might seem like I’m just saying this but it’s really fun playing in Melbourne.

 

Boy & Bear’s brand new album Limit Of Love is released Friday October 9th with the lead single Walk The Wire available now through Universal Music. For more details visit boyandbear.com

 

**INTERVIEW BY PEARL’S JESS TAYLOR AT UNIVERSAL MUSIC HQ MELBOURNE 2015!