For Boy & Bear’s lead singer David Hosking, the return back to music has been rough. After suffering a debilitating illness which was revealed in May, the band has been revived following a four-year hiatus with new album, Suck On Light. Infused with the same ’70s tones and relaxed demeanour the band are known for – which has won the five-man cohort a slew of ARIA awards – the newly-released tracks are more refined and teem with a sense of confidence and hope, “it needed to also be a celebration of life”, Hosking explained. And according to the lead, the reuniting of the group has reinstated “how important it was” to be in the same room again.
ICON: Congratulations on an epic comeback. Firstly, I wanted to check in with you, how are you feeling?
David Hosking: “I’m doing pretty well actually, I’m not completely out of the woods but I’ve actually been on a new protocol – I’ll give you the short story – it’s something known as photo biomodulation, it’s a use of different wave lengths of light and essentially lasers which of course I’ve moved to lasers but it’s meant I haven’t had to do the whole FMD thing for over a month now, which is great. I don’t miss that.”
‘Suck On Light’ is said to push your sound to places never explored. Can you explain what this means to you?
DH: “In terms of the sort of sonic approach, I think it’s been interestingly… we wrote a brief for this record, we still very much have a soft spot for 70’s tones, I think that comes from the instrument stand choice, the guitars and I think my melodies are maybe more from that era. I think in this case Collin Dupuis who is the producer engineer we worked with, he had a real love and knack for modulating sounds and playing with the tape machine and doing interesting things, whether it was to the rhythm section or to synths that just meant we were able to kind of move into a different palette, as well as things like coming up with some interesting percussive loops, like ‘Work Of Art’ where there’s kind of straight away a dominant industrial vibe to it.”
You’ve had amazing success with the Triple J Hottest 100 and the ARIA Awards with your last three albums. Do you hope to have the same with the fourth?
DH: “Yeah of course, I become weirdly fatalistic about it all. All the pleasure these days comes from the writing and recording, and I mean I love releasing new music its great and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care about reviews because you do, and you want them to be positive but I’m also succumbed to the fact that you just rock up and you bust your ass and you enjoy that process and then see what comes and don’t hold your breath for too much because it’s a tricky, fickle industry. So that would be great but I’ve had bigger challenges on my plate before than bad reviews.”
What was the pressure like amongst the group to create an amazing fourth album in those early writing stages?
DH: “We had thought about it … we had a lot of conversations on the back end of the last cycle about what was important and tricks we’d missed on the previous record and things to think about, so those conversations had been happening for a long time. I think we’re also well aware that you have to pace yourself… Because if you try to get everything right from the start you’re f**ked, you’re better off trying to write four or five bad songs and then kind of start to get momentum and feed that space.”
Many artists say they write 100 songs before they get their first 10. Is that something you guys had to do, was it a lot of song writing?
DH: “It was interesting and because of some of my health challenges I had less input at the start, more at the back end of the writing and some days I was exhausted but I think it was like don’t stress too much about writing the perfect song and just accumulate, and write. And what was great was that over time some songs were just clearly holding up, they were lasting even 6 months down the track and then we’d start moving into a second or third session on some songs to start to craft the arrangements.”
What is the band-dynamic like now after this four-year hiatus? Has anything changed?
DH: “I think we’re just as close as we’ve ever been really. It’s a bit of a cliché but I think after going through quite significant challenges to just get back in the room with each other, there was a sense of how important that was and how we’d become so used to that with each other and there was a sense of comfort in it, and so I think once we got momentum everyone was just hungry to take the opportunity…”
How do you balance home/work life now that you’re older?
DH: “It’s probably a question for our partners. In terms of touring it is tricky but I think there are lots of occupations which have to go away for long periods of time, I think the challenge is just giving yourself time particularly coming back from tour [which] can sometimes be a shock to the system for everyone because you’re just used to a different routine. You know you’re going to have some sort of argument or blow up within in the first week (laughs).”
What has been the biggest lesson you’ve endured since the beginning of Boy & Bear?
DH: “I think the power of relationships. We worked that out relatively quickly when we saw really great bands fall apart, bands that were far better than us and amazing musicians, and we just saw them implode and we’ve realised that’s one of the overlooked things, no one tells you when you start a band ‘oh you need to have good communication skills with each other,’ you’re going to have to be able to navigate serious problems because you’re spending more time with them than just about anyone in your life.”
After personal and professional struggles, you feared that this album may have never come to exist but now that it is here, what do you hope fans take from this new record?
DH: “Well I hope they enjoy it. I think something we’ve spoken about it is we just want to keep progressing keep producing and keep moving forward. It feels like this record we’ve left nothing on the table, there’s been a lot of accumulation of work to get it to that point and we’re really proud of it. I just hope people ideally can connect with the music and connect with the story and feel what we were feeling when we were making it…
The whole record is really about struggle and isolation, but also about the really profound lessons that can be grasped from that. We didn’t want to make a really heavy record, it has heavy moments but it needed to also be a celebration of life and hopefully those stories are kind of a cross section of pain and discomfort on one end but also this is the really amazing side of struggle which gives you an incredible sense of appreciation for life which we’re celebrating.”
Boys & Bear’s latest album ‘Suck On Light’ is out now. For more information, visit the website here.