by Victoria Wasylak
Photo courtesy of Boy & Bear Facebook
Transitioning from touring on a massive island to the continental United States isn’t smooth, but Boy & Bear have always been up for a challenge. After relishing in their latest album Limit of Love hitting No. 1 on Australian charts, the indie Sydney quintet prep for their upcoming tour dates in the states, including a stop at the Paradise on Thursday, before returning to their home country for another slew of tour dates. Multi-instrumentalist Jon Hart, the group’s keyboardists, mandolin player and banjo player, tackled some questions from the Buzz about the band’s travels and achievements in 2016.
The Buzz: How is touring in the states different than touring in Australia?
Jon Hart: Touring in Australia and the U.S. are different for a few reasons. More people know about us in Australia; there are [fewer] places to play and there are no tour buses in Australia. Right now as I type this I'm sitting on the bus in Virginia somewhere and we'll go to sleep tonight and drive to Philadelphia and then on to New York. It makes touring easier in a lot of ways, less airports, the same bed every night, but sometimes you miss having your own space. As far as the shows go, crowds are pretty nice to us everywhere, but we have noticed that people in the states seem to really love guitar solos!
You recently visited Austin for the first time (outside of SXSW)—what was your experience like in the all-American music hub?
It was super cool seeing Austin in non-SXSW mode. There some pretty hip neighborhoods in east and south Austin, so we found some great coffee and food. And we had great crowd at a nice club and then after the show, three of us went next door to a bar on 6th Street where a three piece band was playing amazing soul and blues standards, and the musicians were incredible. Anyone who hasn't been to Austin should go!
What’s your response to being hacked on Instagram recently? Was it funny to be “big” enough to be hacked, or more annoying?
I hadn't really thought about the idea of being "big enough" to be hacked, as we're pretty small time on Instagram really, but we like doing it. So it's actually been super annoying; we've had to pay someone to spend hours going in and manually unblocking all our followers so they can even see our Instagram account again, and it's still not finished. If we were "big" enough, say like Coldplay or Lady Gaga, I'm sure Instagram could have pressed a few buttons and made it all better.
What’s one thing from America that you wish you could bring back with you to Australia? What’s one thing from Australia that the States could use more of?
I'd like to take baseball from America back to Australia. I mean baseball exists in Australia, but it's not a big thing at all. And I like watching it, and it's on so many nights a week, it's great.
From Australia I'd like to bring proper bread. Again, if you really search and you're in cities with hipster culture around you can find good bread. But normally it's over sweetened and tastes like cinnamon and not like bread. I really miss being able to buy proper bread in a supermarket when I'm in the States, haha!
If you had to rank the North American festivals you played this year—Firefly, Bonnaroo and Field Trip—how would you rank them?
That's an unfair question! They all have their own thing going. Bonnaroo is the most famous for us, in that we'd all heard of it before we ever toured here. And it was big and we had a great set and we saw Father John Misty play and he was great, knows how to handle a big crowd and really delivers. And they had a great festival photographer named Danny Clinch, who's work I really like and he had a throw together studio and it was a different experience being photographed by someone who really has it together and makes you comfortable while it's all happening; I can see why Bruce Springsteen likes hanging with him.
Firefly was massive; I think possibly the biggest festival crowds of all three. Our show was a lot of fun there too, and we got to watch our Aussie mates Rufus play and they were cool and we also watched Tame Impala (who we don't really know, but who are our greatest export at the moment, in my opinion) and their set was really interesting for me as I haven't seen them play for about 5 years and they had a massive crowd too—the sort of crowd where you can't see how far back it goes.
Field Trip was a small boutique festival, and it was the best experience for me all up. The show was great, we watched Meg Mac (also Australian) play before us, and she was amazing, and then we hung out afterwards for a bit and listened to a familiar accent and saw what I think was my show of the summer which was the National closing on the night we'd played. They were so compelling and I just stood side of stage mesmerized. And in terms of the festival itself, because it was small, the organizers came and said hi to us and that they were excited to have us play. It felt really personal which is sweet.
It’s been a year since you released Limit of Love. Any new tunes in the works?
We're always kind of jamming ideas. There aren't any whole songs together yet, but lots of little snippets of ideas that are ready for when we have some time to work on them. We'll be getting into full writing mode next year I think, so stay tuned!
See Boy & Bear at the Paradise Rock Club on October 13. Tickets available here.