Boy & Bear’s Dave Hosking discusses finding inspiration in recovery and reclaiming life, celebrating challenge through song, and the expansive dimensions of the folk rock band’s new album ‘Suck on Light’.
Stream: “Telescope” – Boy & Bear
For years, I didn’t write a thing as my cognitive function was too impaired. I would pick up the guitar, play some chords and instantly forget what I was doing. It was an impossible task.
From seeing his band reach #1 on the ARIA album charts to being crippled by a debilitating illness, Boy & Bear’s frontman Dave Hosking has been through the ringer in the past five years. Now, Hosking and the band are back and sounding better than ever on their upcoming new album Suck on Light, a vibrant folk-rock journey inspired by hope and possibility, positivity and (as its name suggests) light. Occupying a bright space on the record is “Telescope,” a delightful ray of warmth whose infectious energy is as spiritually uplifting as it is simply heartwarming.
Just my luck
I found a place high amongst the constellation
Can I call you up
I’ve been meaning to tell you all about the exchange
Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering “Telescope,” the final single off Boy & Bear’s upcoming fourth album Suck on Light (out September 27, 2019 via Nettwerk Records). The long-anticipated follow-up to 2015’s #1 ARIA Charting Album Limit Of Love, Suck on Light arrives in the midst of Boy & Bear’s current 44-date Hold Your Nerve Tour, which began in North America in mid-September and will run through mid-October before picking up again in the UK and Europe next February. Promoted through pre-release singles “Work of Art,” “Hold Your Nerve,” and the title track, Suck on Light finds Boy & Bear exhibiting an impressive level of maturity in their music and lyrics: Each song feels intricate yet deceptively simple, with accessible takeaways for even the most casual listener built atop deeper layers of emotion and intent.
Sitting at #4 on the track list, “Telescope” is a moment of revelry and joy on an album that sets out to dispel darkness. “It highlights some of the more positive sentiments that are found on the album,” Hosking explains. “On a record that dives into some deeper subject matter it was really important to portray a lighter more uplifting side of the story. In short, the song is about the higher plains we can access through struggle and turmoil. It is a celebration of challenge.”
It is a celebration of challenge.
In truth, Suck on Light almost didn’t happen; Hosking suffered an increasing level of physical and mental pain around the time of Limit of Love‘s 2015 release, and soon after found himself setting down instruments altogether as he sought a remedy for his situation. A recent feature on Australia’s triple J lays out the extent of the Sydney artist’s sickness, as well as what he’s doing now to remain healthy. For several years, Boy & Bear remained on hiatus; it was only once Hosking really got into a routine in 2018 that he could fully invest himself in songwriting, and getting the band’s career back on track. With an extensive tour underway, it would seem like Boy & Bear find themselves in something of an unwanted “success” story – a tragedy with a happy ending, as far as this chapter is concerned.
“Telescope” is the celebration of that transition from dark days into light, as Hosking sings in the song’s chorus:
And darling it’s inspired
What a struggle can do
Over water under fire
It’s got nothing on you
Suck on Light finds Boy & Bear reveling in their “good times,” soaking up the sun as they know you don’t get “good” without some “bad.” Dave Hosking spoke with Atwood Magazine about finding inspiration in recovery and reclaiming life, celebrating challenge, and the expansive dimensions of new album ‘Suck on Light‘. Stream “Telescope” exclusively on Atwood Magazine, and dive into our interview ahead of Suck on Light‘s 9/27 release!
Stream: “Telescope” – Boy & Bear
A CONVERSATION WITH BOY & BEAR
Atwood Magazine: Hey guys, thank you so much for premiering “Telescope” with us! For starters, what is the significance of this song on your album?
Boy & Bear: The significance of ‘Telescope’ on the album is that it highlights some of the more positive sentiments that are found on the album. On a record that dives into some deeper subject matter it was really important to portray a lighter more uplifting side of the story. In short, the song is about the higher plains we can access through struggle and turmoil. It is a celebration of challenge.
Suck on Light is your fourth full length album; at this point in your career, nearly a decade in, how do you find the music making process is changing for you as a band?
Boy & Bear: I think it has become more flexible and more open. It’s about drawing inspiration from who and wherever it comes from. Anyone can rock up to a session with a riff, a groove etc and we can dive into it as a collective and see if we can turn it into a song. It’s far less structured.
To that end also, how do you keep things fresh in the recording studio and creative space? What is different about Suck on Light, perhaps, than Limit of Love?
Boy & Bear: I think keeping things fresh is easy when you stay open to possibilities and ideas. People are also happy to jump around onto to different instruments and see if they can get a vibe. I think that’s sometimes a nice way to keep things interesting. I think though one thing that stands out on this record is that we have actively been more experimental and more playful with all the elements of the songs.
This is also your first album in four years, and I know in between Dave you had a significant health scare. How did that experience impact your approach to music; did that change things for you?
Boy & Bear: It changed everything. For years, I didn’t write a thing as my cognitive function was too impaired. I would pick up the guitar, play some chords and instantly forget what I was doing. It was an impossible task. As I improved I found it helped to just stay instinctual and expressive. Don’t worry about the big picture just yet, just keep coming back to what feels nice. I’ve decided that writing songs became like trying to find your keys blindfolded. You know you’ll find them eventually; you just have to stay patient, methodical, and feel your way around the house!
Do you perhaps feel any differently toward this batch of songs than you do toward previous Boy & Bear albums?
Boy & Bear: Yes and no. They are different in lots of ways, more pieced together over time than a single moment of expression but they also still fit in the same box to me. They are simply stories with music.
It’s a challenge though
But I’m convinced there’s a second key
Through the telescope
I saw Simon and Peter and John on the hill
So darling you’ve been trying
To discover it to
Over water, under fire
We got nothing to lose
– “Telescope,” Boy & Bear
Musically, how do you feel this album expands upon the groundwork you laid in Limit of Love? What’s new or different this time around; what’s the same?
Boy & Bear: I think this time round we managed to capture the live “essence” of the band without having to make a live record. I’m all about using the technology in a human and playful way where possible. This record is still very much us, but I think we have enjoyed using some more modern approaches and sounds which have ended up enhancing the songs and the stories. It’s added a new and important dimension.
I love the album’s title; what inspired this name and the song?
Boy & Bear: It was loosely inspired by a Leonard Cohen lyrics. “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” In my darkest moments, being stuck in my house for years, feeling horrible – it was about finding the way forward, desperately hanging onto the smallest slither of positivity and opportunity. Suck on light seemed to encompass that concept and feeling.
You open with the wondrous, wide-eyed “Work of Art.” Why begin the album with this song?
Boy & Bear: It felt like an opener from the very beginning. I think the book ends of a record are so important and this seemed to suggest a nice tone to kick things off with. It was mysterious, positive but also had enough weight to hold up the rest of the songs.
“Something inside me is changing, it’s strange how all the colors bleed,” you sing in the title track. What do these words mean to you, and how do they and the chorus help to capture the spirit of this song?
Boy & Bear: ‘Suck on Light’ (the song) always felt uplifting. The choruses were written after the verses and it became important that they felt celebratory. Those lyrics are a direct reference to the moments things began to change in a positive way in my life, where seeing colour and vibrancy is a direct correlation to feeling alive.
I love the incorporation of strings and fuller arrangements across the album! How did you go about growing these songs; did you hear them like that from the start, or were they often the result of experimentation or trial & error?
Boy & Bear: We’ve always had a soft spot for strings. I love the cinematic quality they can bring to a song, they are also so suggestive of a strong era of 60’s and 70’s pop music. I think they are an important part of our sound these days.
What are your personal high points on the album?
Boy & Bear: I really love the outro for “BCS.” They were the first real lyrics I wrote on the record and I felt like I was able to say exactly what I was trying to say. I love how it just keeps rolling, punching the listener, emphasising this desperate point of discovery and realisation.
Which song(s) if any summarize or capture the overall importance or meaning of the album Suck on Light?
Boy & Bear: I think that’s hard to pin point. They all hold a different roll in the story. To some extent none of them are a pin up for the record, it’s how they work together.
“We’ve got nothing to lose,” you sing in “Telescope.” What is that song searching to find?
Boy & Bear: It’s about rocking up consistently to challenge. Remembering in the context, that frankly one day we’ll be dead so keep turning up, keep failing and making mistakes and try your best to enjoy the process.
There’s a sense of freedom, or being unlocked, that permeates “Telescope.” To what do you attribute this sensation?
Boy & Bear: I read a Dalai Lama quote about seeing challenge as opportunity. I think that’s a big part of the song. Struggle is simply an opportunity to grow and when your mind can see that it does unlock the way we feel about adversity.
Struggle is simply an opportunity to grow and when your mind can see that it does unlock the way we feel about adversity.
“Hold Your Nerve” served as the other single for the album. To me, this is the anthem song - and a grounding one at that. It feels matured and sage; how did it come about?
Boy & Bear: Very instinctually. It was recorded later on in the session and a little bit like ‘Suck on Light,’ it felt like a celebration. The song is about the fact that I met my partner five years ago just as I was beginning to get sick and it didn’t work out. We managed to cross paths in 2018 and reconnect. Being sick took everything from me, but as we finished the record and this song, I felt like I had really managed to claw back the important parts of my life.
Finally, we come to our close in the 5+ minute “Vesuvius.” Where did this song come from, and why is it the album closer?
Boy & Bear: It came from a simple chord progression and melody that we were jamming on in 2017. It was always felt a little bit ‘America’ or ‘Crosby, stills Nash’. We wanted a little more psychedelia in there, so we messed with the outdo and the strings. In short, it just feels like a nice journey to complete the record. Its lyrically a homage to the power of our minds and to escapism in general — when we have no other option but to find some place of solace in our minds. To some extent, I was grateful to have discovered that within my own mind and that seemed a nice way to finish the album.
Do you feel this album was inspired by the stage, or is the live show this time around going to be more reflective of the record?
Boy & Bear: I don’t think it was inspired by the stage. This was a very insular, personal feeling record. I think it will go the other way round.
Who are you listening to right now? Who should be on our radar?
Boy & Bear: I’m currently enjoying Big Thief, Amen Dunes and Julia Jacklin.
Stream: “Telescope” – Boy & Bear
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11 2/2020 | Les Etoiles, Paris, France
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24 2/2020 | Institute 3, Birmingham, UK
25 2/2020 | Thekla, Bristol, UK
26 2/2020 | Shepherds Bush Empire, London, UK