Ahead of touring new album Harlequinn Dream and performing at this year’s Fat As Butter festival, Jacqui Wonder had a phone-date with Boy & Bear‘s Dave Symes. Inspiration, gigs and booze were hot topics.
Where are you and what are you wearing? I’m in Newtown and I’m wearing (chuckles) some Thai fisherman pants, because the weather has turned things up…and just a blue t-shirt.
You were in the studio for a long while. What was the feeling when you finally released Harlequinn Dream this month? Excitement? Relief? I think it was excitement and relief! But also a bit of that feeling of ‘wow it’s actually out there.’ It’s something that you live through as a band and everybody involved in making the record. It’s a very personal experience for so long; there’s a lot of anticipation when it comes out to how people are actually going to respond to it but generally all the boys were just really excited to have it out there. Definitely looking forward to playing a lot of the new songs and getting our new music out there to everybody.
People have responded to it really well. It debuted #1 on the ARIA charts. You’ve sold out the Sydney show for the upcoming tour! Yeah, it’s a great start for us for sure. It’s fantastic!
What are some of the inspirations and experiences that you collectively put into the album that people are connecting really strongly with? I think the way that all the new songs came together in terms of influences, as a band everybody was listening to sort of older music; not that old but anything from the 60s up to the 80s and a lot of 60s and 70s kind of stuff. That influenced the grooves and rhythm section, and the harmonics and melodics that have come through in the new songs. I don’t think it’s radically different to the previous song writing of the band, I think it’s just evolving from where it was; I think that those influences from the old-school stuff are a bit more present, things like references to Fleetwood Mac, Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon. There have been some classic records over the years that we have definitely drawn upon as inspiration.
What’s your favourite track off the album? That’s a funny one actually as we’ve had a few laughs as a band when we were recording, dubbing, mixing and mastering. Everyone’s favourite song kind of kept changing, all the time, from day to day and it’s actually the same for me now personally. I keep having different songs that are my favourite and it’s a result from our recent Splendour in the Grass show and the couple of launch shows we played, and I think what’s changing for me is that a lot of the songs from the new record are getting a whole new life played live. I’m loving playing the ‘Harlequin Dream’ track – loving playing that live at the moment so that is right now my favourite track.
They do take on a different life from the studio to actually playing them live, and with that in mind, what are you most looking forward to playing in the upcoming tour? Bringing those songs to life in a live sense and interpreting what we created, and so far so good – it’s feeling really natural playing them live and all the boys are really excited to be playing them. It’s so exciting taking new music to your audience and hopefully they’ve had your album for a couple months. Hopefully they’re enjoying the record(!) and encouraging us to play those new songs. I think for any artist it’s about moving forward always with your repertoire; you love playing your old songs, but you want to play your new songs as much as possible. We’re going to be getting together soon working on the new sets so we can present all our stuff as best we can, and so far it’s been very exciting!
You’ve toured with everyone from Angus & Julia, Laura Marling, and the Hungry Kids of Hungary but who’s your ultimate/dream act that you would love to tour with? It’d be fun to go out with Fleetwood Mac at the end of the year when they’re touring in November – that’d be really fun! I think it’d be great to go on tour with Aretha Franklin – that’d be incredible. There’s so many great bands, aren’t there? So many bands right now that are really inspiring us, we really loved the latest National record. We were all up at Splendour and stuck around an extra night to watch them – it was a wild gig. All those sorts of guys, it would be great to have more of a musical relationship with people like that. So many great bands out there at the moment, so much music available and a lot of it is really pushing the boundaries. It’s a good time for music at the moment.
What’s it like working, touring and recording with two brothers, Jon and Tim Hart? Is there any sibling rivalry or are you just one big group of brothers? It’s kind of one big group of brothers, a family actually. The Hart brothers certainly have nothing out of the ordinary in terms of any rivalry or competitive nature, it’s really an equal band like that. Everyone looks out for one another, everything’s really fair and even, we keep each other in the loop and we all hang out. Like we all got together yesterday and had a big game of squash and did some damage, we were all definitely competing, we all get competitive but I don’t think the brothers are a particular standout in that. Jon and Tim get on really great and their family are big supporters of the band. Overall I think it’s an extended family, it’s nice having the brothers too, the Hart boys have that connection and it’s nice to have that in the band.
I heard a rumour that you guys used to work at the Blue Gum Hotel, and that is where the band started. Is it a wild rumour or is there some truth there? It could be a kind of true rumour – originally a couple of the guys in the band met at Macquarie University doing a music double degree. I did a different course but it definitely started there and there was definitely some beer pouring going on. I missed out on the Blue Gum but we recently did a Rolling Stone function at a little pop-up bar in Oxford St where we DJ’d, playing a whole lot of music as well as made cocktails and ran the bar for about 3 hours, which was actually a lot of fun. It was a little bit chaotic but a couple of the boys were definitely better at it than me.
Here is the album’s latest single, ‘Southern Sun’:
Boy & Bear will be on the road from October for a string of shows to promote the new album, including a spot at the Fat As Butter festival in Newcastle on October 26. You can get all of the tour details from their event page.