Since being unearthed by triple j in 2010, they have gone on to become one of the biggest names all over the world. Infamous for their blissful five-part vocal harmonies and their relaxed acoustic vibes, Boy & Bear have over the years woven their music into the hearts of Australia. On the back of the release of their sophomore album, Harlequin Dream (2013), they are touring around the country and stopping off in several regional centres along the way. Although he’s been in the band for a good 18 months, bass player Dave Symes is still the new kid on the block, as I found out.
A couple of days out before the band set off for Europe and America, I got the chance to catch up with Symesy to find out a little about life on the road. With three entries in the Hottest 100 Countdown in January, Symes feels that it is a great accomplishment and reward for all of the hard work put into creating the follow-up to the ARIA award-winning Moonfire (2011). “We did alright with the countdown, didn’t we? It’s a great day listening to the countdown and so much great music came out last year; it’s great to be featured amongst it all. Triple j have had great support for us once again with this album, which has been just wonderful.”
If you have been following Boy & Bear’s Facebook page you will be well aware that they recently toured throughout Europe and America in the lead up to this Australian tour, and speaking a couple of days before flying to London, the band were finally able to relax after some passport and immigration issues with the American embassy. “For one reason or another, a couple of our passports got hold up and we just got them back this morning, which was the last day we could get them before we fly out on Sunday, which is really lucky. To be able to fly across the world and play gigs and have people rock up is really lovely, and we are really lucky to be doing what we are doing,” Symes said about the tour.
One of the most renowned spots on their American leg of their tour was a stop at the infamous SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. There have been several opportunities since Symes joined the band that are real bucket list moments, but being able to play at one of the biggest music conferences in the world is high on the list. “The original plan for this tour was to play some shows in North America and Canada but we got the opportunity just before Christmas to head along to Austin, so hopefully we get to see some of the great music that is on offer there.”
In mid-2012, Jake Tarasenko left the band to pursue other interests, and that’s when Symes stepped up to the plate to fill the role. As you would expect, having to fill the role of an original member in a band would be a daunting task; however, the reality is the direct opposite. “The new kid on the block terminology still gets used from time to time, but this partnership just really seemed to gel from the first moment we played through the songs. I did a few gigs with the boys and we took it from there and it felt like a right match. It’s been really nice to jump on board with it and make a record and start touring and all that stuff.”
It may seem that Dave Symes has joined Boy & Bear and been thrust into the limelight, yet he has been kicking around the music scene for many years and has played with the likes of Sarah Blasko and Missy Higgins, to name but just a couple. “I have been working very hard on my music for many years and to be back in a band with the boys is great. You never really know what is going to happen when you release a new song or album. All of the success that has followed the band since the start has been great, but we don’t play for the awards and the accolades. To be doing something that you love and to have everyone enjoy the music and come out to shows is a dream come true, I believe.”
On Moonfire, their award-winning debut, Boy & Bear were lucky enough to work with Wayne Connolly and headed over to Nashville to record. This time around, the boys opted to record in Sydney, which had several benefits to the creative process, as Symes relates. “This time around we made a conscious decision to work at home and I think that has really paid off for us. We were able to take our time a bit more instead of smashing it out in one block. It definitely had a healthier vibe to the record, but we will just see how it changes into the future. Each album is a learning curve and you therefore approach it in a different way.”
With massive touring schedules for the next six months or so, Symes emphasises the importance of keeping fit on tour. One such example is when Boy & Bear took on Matt Corby and Ball Park Music in one massive game of backyard cricket in the backstage of Southbound Festival in Western Australia over New Year’s. “Matt Corby and Ball Park are all pretty handy with the willow, and I think I am more so the water boy or 12th man of the team. That said though, we played yesterday and I was pretty handy with just a lemon and a bit of fence post, so there is hope for me yet!”
Although a little daunting looking at the upcoming tour schedule, Symes and the band are excited about heading out around the country once again and relates that you can expect to hear all your favourites: “It’s still early in the campaign and we have only done one tour, so we are excited to be heading out on the road. We have a great team around us and will be playing tunes from our whole back catalogue. See you out there!”
When&Where: Black Swan Hotel, Bendigo – May 8; Regent Cinema, Ballarat – May 9; Deakin’s Costa Hall, Geelong – May 10; and Lighthouse Theatre, Warrnambool – May 11
Written by Tex Miller