Killian Gavin sounds amused to find himself in Regina between tour dates when the Straight rings him in the Saskatchewan capital. Then again, the guitarist is probably just happy to find himself anywhere on the road with Boy & Bear, since there was a time when the very existence of the Australian band seemed uncertain.
When Boy & Bear wrapped up the tour in support of its last album, 2015’s Limit of Love, singer Dave Hosking could no longer pretend that he was capable of carrying on as usual. As far back as 2011, Hosking had been experiencing bouts of extreme fatigue, but things were getting worse, physically as well as cognitively. On the road, he had been forgetting lyrics and feeling as if he were in a mental fog.
Hosking knew he needed to get help, and Gavin admits that there was a point at which he was worried that Boy & Bear had reached the end of the line. “That was a scary, scary thing for all of us, though definitely a reality,” he says. “You can’t help but get quite concerned and a bit anxious when you’re faced with these kinds of things, because you’ve spent a lot of years working really hard to achieve what you might feel is the impossible, and then to have to potentially end that prematurely is quite a hard thing to stomach.”
Rather than call it quits, though, Gavin and his bandmates—drummer Tim Hart, multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Hart, and bassist Dave Symes—opted to forge ahead and start writing a new record. This was a change to Boy & Bear’s previous modus operandi, in which Hosking would bring in skeletal songs to be fleshed out in the rehearsal space.
“When Dave brought up the idea that he needed to focus on his health and take some time out,” Gavin recalls, “we were faced with a choice about ‘What do we do? Do we find some temporary work, or do we want to just go, you know, head down, bum up and keep writing?’ We decided, ‘Well, it works better if we just keep writing music, and we’ll end up with a lot more songs and ideas to work with for whenever he feels like he’s ready to come join us again.’ ”
When Hosking did eventually rejoin the ranks, Boy & Bear decamped to Nashville to make its just-released fourth LP, Suck on Light. The album expands the quintet’s signature blend of indie rock and earnest folk, with “Telescope” straddling the line between orchestral pop and acid-etched psychedelia, and the krautrock-informed “Rocking Horse” riding a motorik pulse.
Hosking’s health issues, it turns out, were rooted in problems with his gut flora. The singer is doing much better now, thanks in partto some unconventional treatments. These included fecal microbiota transplant (which is exactly what it sounds like) and, more recently, laser therapy and the use of a light-therapy helmet.
“He’s doing remarkably well given what he’s been through,” Gavin says. “He’s had some pretty interesting treatments along the way, and it’s been a really lucky thing that we sort of stumbled across these doctors that had some pretty out-there ideas about what was going on.”
Ordinarily, spending your day off in Regina wouldn’t could be considered lucky, but in this case we’ll allow it.
Boy & Bear plays the Commodore Ballroom on Wednesday (October 2).