Mar 15, 2010 12:00AM

growing up: boy and bear

They say too many cooks spoil the broth, but when it comes to music, Boy & Bear prove that four songwriters are better than one. With three of the members former frontmen of their own bands, you might expect a clash of egos but instead you'll find a humble musical melting pot. Previously supporting frontman Dave Hosking's solo act, the band, which includes Killian Gavin (guitar/vocals), Tim Hart (Drum/vocals/guitars) and Jake Tarasenko (bass), has re-emerged with a new name and a new sound for a more democratic collaboration. Oyster's Susannah Singh caught up with Gavin for a deep and meaningful during their recent tour with Hungry Kids of Hungary.

Sydney's Boy & Bear have only been around since April last year, but its members have been playing together for years. The story begins with a 'once upon a time' when Gavin, Hart and Hosking were frontmen of their own bands, often playing the same nights in the same locations. Frequent meetings led to furtive jamming sessions, and eventually one thing led to another. Hart, Tarasenko and Gavin started supporting Hosking's solo career as a backing band, performing under his name throughout 2008, but by the time they'd written 'The Storm' things had changed.

According to Gavin, "this was the first song that it wasn't us helping Dave with his solo career. We all chipped in and added our own parts to it. There was a lot more shared creativity." The song stood out from all the other tracks they had been playing, and still stands out today. At first, they released it as a single under Dave Hosking's name, but he was uncomfortable receiving the credit for a joint creation. Collaborating as equals with shared creative control offered the chance to move beyond their individual comfort zones, as Gavin will tell you. "The possibilities you can get are so much bigger than just one mind working on a song," he explains. "This just breaks down any kind of wall and lets everyone have ownership." Thus, Boy & Bear were born, and they've been creating music together happily ever since.

Of course, collaborating isn't always a smooth process. The boys will tell you that writing music together is a bumpy, pockmarked road lined with endless conversations about who should have the final say. With three songwriters, it's inevitable that they all know which way the song should go (their way), but as Gavin (and many a conflict-resolution counselor) says, "it's all about compromise." "Even if you really disagree with someone's opinion you just try so they feel good."

In fact, it's the combination of these different musical directions that make Boy & Bear better than the sum of its parts; different tastes help to stir up their sound. Gavin admits that he and Hosking "would rather sit in the one chord for twenty bars if it sounds good and feels good," but Tarasenko favours more complex, experimental songwriting (think Mars Volta and Sigur Ros) with a constantly shifting melody. The clash of tastes adds busy twists to their songs, and when you also add Hart's love of all things Americana, things start to "come together in an interesting way." The band maintains that they've rejected the traditional 'chorus, verse, chorus, verse' style of writing. Instead they opt for interesting compositions. Often they'll try and start a new part in a song as if it's a new song entirely.

Although only one single, 'Mexican Mavis', has been released so far, Boy & Bear have already received wide acclaim. At the moment, they've been tagged as a seventies folk rock band and compared to artists such as the Fleet Foxes and The Shins. Being boxed in so early can be frustrating, Gavin tells Oyster. "We don't ever want to be following somebody else's shadow or just following their work. You want stand on your own and do your own thing." The flipside is that being compared to such bands has meant loads of people checking out their music, even if Gavin believes the comparisons are "outrageous because those bands are amazing."

At the moment, the band is focusing on laying down demos in between gigs. With an EP planned for early next year, Boy & Bear will soon be heading to the studio, and Gavin is excited. While the adrenalin from performing can be addictive, he considers what goes on in the rehearsal room a lot more thrilling. "It's where all the creativity happens and where all the excitement happens." Playing guitar was Gavin's passion since before he was big enough to pick the instrument up and songwriting has always been his priority. "I used to get a metre ruler and put six rubber bands on it when I was little and strum and pretend it was a guitar?you know when I was really little..."

Boy and Bear will be at Splendour in the Grass. Tickets for Splendour go on sale at 9am, Thursday 6th May. Visit www.splendourinthegrass.com for more information.'