A decade after the world was first introduced to their soft harmonies and compelling songcraft, Boy & Bear show no signs of letting down. After establishing themselves as titans with their amazing early trifecta - 2011's Moonfire, 2012's Harlequin Dream and 2015's Limit Of Love - the Sydney indie-folk outfit marked a triumphant return with last year's soothing return Suck On Light, recorded in the wake of a significant health scare experienced by frontman Dave Hosking that threatened to put the band's future on ice.
Now, less than 12 months after that album was released into the world, Boy & Bear have released At Golden Retriever: a collection of stripped-down, acoustic cuts primarily pulled from Suck On Light and finished up with a number of fan favourites. For fans, At Golden Retriever helps provide some kind of solace for not being able to witness the band's live show, with each stripped-down track showcasing the band's unrivaled songwriting abilities in a manner that's both intimate and exciting.
To celebrate the release of the new record, Boy & Bear were generous enough to supply us with a number of photos from the Golden Retriever sessions, taken by the band's own Jon Hart, allowing for an exclusive behind-the-scenes look into the recording of their new album.
How did you go about selecting the tracks that appear on At Golden Retriever?
The project came together after we finished recording Suck On Light. We often find ourselves on tour visiting radio stations and performing stripped-back versions of our songs. We decided to go to a studio back in Australia and rework some of Suck On Light in this way... It felt nice to be in acoustic mode, so we revisited some older songs too.
The new record sounds very much in the moment and quite intimate - what was the vibe of the recording sessions like at Golden Retriever Studio? How long did it take to record it all?
Golden Retriever has a great live room that feels very inspiring and comfortable to make music in. We had three days, all set up in the round playing together. It wasn’t rushed, we took our time, did some recording are great food and recorded again. It was a lot of fun!
Can you tell us about some of the equipment you used to record the album? Are there any particular guitars, microphones or techniques you guys are fond of for sessions like these?
Performance is key for this kind of recordings. Everyone being able to listen to each other and react in real-time effortlessly. It didn’t hurt that we had our favourite vintage Gibson guitars, pianos, double basses, Neumann microphones, Neve preamps and Studer tape machines to track on.
It seems like your songs would be relatively easy to transition into an ‘unplugged’ set-up - were there any songs that were challenging to perform in an acoustic setting?
In some ways that’s true: our songwriting could go either way sometimes, rock 'n roll or folk. However, sometimes the songs you think would be easy to translate just don’t work like you want them to.
The cover of Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Games’ is a bit of a welcome surprise - the harmonies and double bass on that are sensational. Can you tell us about why you chose to cover this track for the album?
It was a cover we had tried in New York originally for a radio show. We did a different version but it was also stripped back. We then moved to a full band version at soundchecks on that tour for a while and then we kind of left it alone for a while. It naturally fell back in our lap for this recording session.
‘3 Moons’ is a great way to end the album - even though it’s a lot different from the other songs on the record, it taps into a similar vibe. Did you record this one at Golden Retriever, or does it date back to when you were making Suck On Light?
You're right, it was a track we recorded for the Suck On Light sessions in Nashville but we decided not to put it on that album. That’s why the sound world is quite different, but the sentiment and approach still felt like it could belong with the Golden Retriever sessions.
Boy & Bear's new record At Golden Retriever is out now on all streaming services.