Interview: Boy & Bear guitarist Killian Gavin
There were high expectations before the release of Sydney-based alternative folk-rock band Boy & Bear’s second album, Harlequin Dream. That’s no surprise considering the group’s 2011 debut, Moonfire, garnered five ARIA awards and achieved a platinum status on the Australian album charts. The band, riding high on that success, hit the road for 18 months of solid touring both home and abroad, playing extensively throughout America and Europe.
Although they’ve built up a healthy amount of frequent flyer points, the band has never been one to neglect their loyal Australian fans. Boy & Bear have ensured they return to their motherland for not one, but two national tours in 2014, with a massive 30-date regional tour taking place earlier this year, and a national tour currently underway. It’s been a hard slog for the boys, but it’s a journey that lead guitarist Killian Gavin describes as a good and incredibly rewarding ride.
In the lead up to their two shows at The Palais Theatre last week, Makers spent a late afternoon in the company of guitarist Killian who, along with singer David Hosking, Timothy Hart (drums and vocals), Jonathan Hart (vocals, banjo, mandolin and keyboards) and bassist David Symes, formed the group in 2009.
Killian: “I’m sure that a lot of people find themselves in a similar situation when they’re busy like this and time flies, but I’ve found this year in particular to have gone remarkably quick. We started touring last year just after the record came out then we had a little bit of time off in January, then we left in the beginning of Feb and we haven’t stopped since. Now here we are in… what month is it?”
There’s good-natured laughter: while most travellers would be in the midst of a heavy jet lag, the performer is in fine spirits, obviously happy to be back on home turf.
Of course there’s no getting around his memory lapse is the ultimate rock cliché; a young band hits the road and loses track of time, dates and names of cities. For Boy & Bear, the recent American tour also included travel in a deluxe tour bus – the vehicle serving as the backdrop to a series of shots posted on social media.
For the group, the vehicle itself proved something of a significant milestone: it was the band’s “first bus”, indication in concrete form that Boy & Bear has reached a certain level of success.
Killian: “We haven’t been doing this for a long time, but long enough to gain an understanding of how things work. We’ve always wanted to be in a band that builds slowly with touring and I think that’s how you build up a credible fan base. Fans that like every song on the album, not just the one song that they’ve heard on the radio.”
Tune in to most Aussie radio stations and it’s near impossible to not hear either Southern Sun or Three Headed Woman, the first two singles lifted off Harlequin Dream. The album was recorded in Sydney, which allowed the band to stay close to friends and family. As a result, it reflects a far different personality to the debut album recorded in Nashville.
Killian: “Fortunately we were off to a great start with the first record but this record has been better in many ways. It has helped build a stronger audience for us overseas and that’s why we’ve been busy touring nonstop, to make the most of it while there’s so much momentum.”
And the momentum doesn’t seem set to stop anytime soon. Not only are there more dates booked in Canada and America (the band’s fame boosted by a recent appearance on Late Night With Conan O’Brien) there’s also a slew of Australian dates to fill up their September and October schedules, including a sold-out show at The Opera House.
Killian: “Sydney shows are probably always a bit more nerve-wracking because your family and friends are in the crowd. Just to make it a little bit more intimidating you’re also playing at the Opera House. To be completely honest I’m super excited to be playing it, it’s going to be a fun night.”
The future is sure to hold plenty more fun for Boy & Bear but near the top of the guitarist’s priority list is some more time off.
Killian: “We’ll finish up in December and after that I’m going to take about four weeks off and do nothing. I’m really going to make the most of it.”
He laughs, but we can’t help but think the summer break won’t last long.