Drummer Tim Hart of the indie rock-folk band Boy & Bear said that the group’s fans kept coming up to them at shows and saying how they really loved hearing them live, sometimes better than their albums. That led the group to attempt to achieve a live sound on their latest album, Limit of Love, which they released in October 2015.
Now they are bringing that live energy from their album and their acclaimed stage performance to North America with a tour this summer, which stops at The Birchmere on June 15. To achieve that live feel, Boy & Bear recorded Limit of Love straight to tape with minimal overdubs and worked with veteran producer Ethan Johns. Hart said that capturing the band’s live sound on tape was the one thing that was missing from their first two albums.
“The thing we wanted to achieve coming from our second album Harlequin Dream into Limit of Love is we wanted to capture the live sound of the band,” Hart said. “And we sort of talked about asking a whole lot of producers to work with us and in the end [we chose] Ethan Johns….We really didn’t know that we were going to be working to tape, but we got in the studio and there was no computers there and he said ‘You know, guys this is the way I work, I hope you’re okay with that.’ We were kind of thrown in the deep end there.
“But actually it’s quite a liberating experience because when you’re working with ProTools or Logic or whatever you can go back later and change things and shift things, but when you’re working to tape you have to make decisions at the time and stick with those parts that you play….It was a really enjoyable experience.”
The creative decisions that Boy & Bear made on Limit of Love set the album apart from their earlier offerings, their 2011 debut Moonfire, which went platinum twice and reached number two in Australia, and their 2013 sophomore album Harlequin Dream, which went gold and reached number one in Australia. Whereas the songs on Moonfire were solidly in the folk, acoustic canon and Harlequin Dream saw the group bucking that tendency a bit with a more rock-folk sound, Limit of Love is groove heavy. Hart said that sound was influenced by the group listening to a lot of 70s pop music going into the creation and recording of the album.
“We were really enjoying…the simple song structures and the groove-based elements and that’s the stuff we wanted to listen to, so that’s the stuff we wanted to play,” Hart said.
“And that’s how the songs ended up writing themselves in many ways. It wasn’t something conscious for us…. I think that on Harlequin Dream we were moving toward that, but we went further on Limit of Love and I love listening to it because you can hear the progression and that’s kind of a cool thing.”
Despite going in a different creative direction than their first and second albums, Boy & Bear’s latest album went number one in Australia. Although they have enjoyed success in Australia, that same level of success has yet to translate to the U.S. and, if Hart’s comments on their chart success is any indication, the group is conscious of that. Hart said that it was a “bit of a surprise” for the band to go number one again.
“You never expect that sort of thing, unless you’re Jay Z,” Hart said. “It’s one of those things that you don’t expect. You work hard at writing songs and you put it out and you don’t know if your fans are still going to be there or if they’re going to like the new stuff with what they heard before.
“But we’ve been really fortunate, especially in Australia, people are staying quite loyal….It’s something you think is never really going to happen. As a kid you dream about it, but you don’t really think it’s going to happen, so for it to happen twice is pretty special.”
• For more information about Boy & Bear, visit boyandbear.com.