BOY & BEAR
Their unexpected success story.
IT’S the Youth Group dilemma. You’re an established band that have surprise success with a cover version.
Youth Group’s remake of Forever Young, an accidental No. 1, became an albatross they never recovered from.
Sydney band Boy & Bear’s ( pictured) version of Crowded House’s Fall At Your Feet is also on an unexpected trajectory.
The folk-friendly band rush-recorded the song for the Finn tribute album He Will Have His Way late last year.
‘‘ Our bass player Jake Tarasenko hadn’t even heard the original,’’ Boy & Bear’s drummer Tim Hart says.
On tour in the UK they learnt Triple J had playlisted their cover. It would go on to make No. 5 in 2010’ s Triple J Hottest 100.
‘‘ We came home and the song had blown up,’’ Hart says.
‘‘ That was weird for us because it’s a cover.
‘‘ But if you’re going to do a cover at least it’s a Neil Finn cover.
‘‘ That’s a privilege. It sounded like a song we could take ownership of.
‘‘ We enjoy playing it, people enjoy hearing it. It’s become part of our band’s make-up.’’
Earlier this month, at Splendour in the Grass, Fall At Your Feet, cleverly dropped mid-set, became one of the festival’s moments – a mammoth singalong from the get-go.
‘‘ I couldn’t hear a single thing on stage because of the crowd’s singing,’’ guitarist Killian Gavin says.
‘‘ It went further than we thought it would. I had to acknowledge it as a moment and not move on in some arrogant way.’’
Now comes the Youth Group factor. The band made sure the cover wasn’t on their debut album Moonfire.
‘‘ You don’t want a cover to become the biggest song on your album,’’ Gavin says.
‘‘ But then look at Florence + the Machine. You’ve Got the Love is an amazing cover.
‘‘ We were worried about the success, that was out of our control, but it’s hard to complain about a song that’s done a lot for the band.’’
There’s very few complaints with Boy & Bear right now.
Feted from the moment they formed two years ago, they received the seal of approval from Brits Mumford and Sons and Laura Marling early on.
‘‘ Anyone with that folk element – Laura, Fleet Foxes, Mumford – they started the hard yards, getting people open to hearing and enjoying that music,’’ Gavin says. ‘‘ That helped bands like us.’’ Signing a worldwide deal with Island, they were given time to follow up last year’s EP With Emperor Antarctica.
‘‘ They kept their hands off 100 per cent,’’ Hart says of their label.
‘‘ They said ‘ Go do what you want’. It’s very rare but it’s clever too.’’
The band went to Nashville to record with producer Joe Chiccarelli ( The Strokes/ The White Stripes) to focus away from their friends and family.
‘‘ We were living pretty much in each other’s pockets 24 hours a day for seven weeks,’’ Hart says.
‘‘ Miracle upon miracle we’re better mates after it.’’
Chiccarelli was also instrumental in pushing the band out of their folk habits.
‘‘ I love folk, I’m a folk head, but Joe brings more of a rocky edge,’’ Hart says.
‘‘ It was heading that way, a bit rockier, bigger and grander,’’ Gavin says.
‘‘ We didn’t want to be just another folk record coming out in the wave of ‘ new folk’ it runs the risk of disappearing as fast as that wave does.’’
Spies suggest Moonfire is headed for No. in Australia.
‘‘ We put the lowest expectations on ourselves so it feels like we succeed,’’ Gavin says.
‘‘ If we sell 47 copies in three months that’ll be a win. But then you set yourself up for a massive failure if you don’t sell those 47 copies . . .’’