Boy & Bear are back; stronger and using the poo emoji more than ever

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Boy & Bear are back; stronger and using the poo emoji more than ever

Words by Claire Morley
Photo by Daniel Boud

In the single ‘Feeding Line’, Boy & Bear frontman David Hosking sang of a pain in his chest and his body “cumbersome and slow”, but no one clued in that was literally the case.

Hosking was, at times, experiencing bouts of fatigue so intense that he could not stand and debilitating pain that, in the coming years, would only get worse.

Boy & Bear’s 2011 debut smash hit Moonfire skyrocketed them to the kind of success that many bands only dream of, and was followed by two similarly successful albums, Harlequin Dream and Limit of Love. But the touring cycle of the latter pushed Hosking’s health to new depths.

Though you would never have guessed from the outside, the frontman’s days were plagued by crippling exhaustion, lack of cognitive function, memory loss and pain. So much so that the band were forced into an indefinite break.

It wasn’t until the band toured their third album Limit of Love four years later that the illness truly took hold. Dave Symes, the band’s bassist, explains that the biggest challenge of the touring process became managing Hosking’s pain, and ensuring that he could fulfil the band’s commitments.

“During Limit of Love, the biggest thing with us and Dave was that he really needed to conserve a lot of energy. Everything, socially as much as professionally, was about keeping him comfortable and happy so that when it came time to get him on stage, he was able to get through that,” Symes says.

Suck on Light is their new album, only possible after a four-year hiatus. And it is special. Not to fetishise illness and suffering, but there’s no denying that the story behind the album is compelling. Years of searching for answers and relief proved unhelpful, until Hosking underwent a radical treatment and turned his life around. The saviour? Faecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT).

Hosking’s bravery in including detail of this procedure in the album’s press information cannot be overlooked. In an era of inclusivity, bowel issues and invisible illness remain taboos that many individuals struggle with daily, and largely hide for fear of ridicule. Symes confirms this was a reality for Hosking.

“It’s a bit of an icebreaker, but it is something that makes people uncomfortable,” he says.

Admitting that the band uses the poo emoji more than the average person, Symes is quick to add that being honest about the nature of Hosking’s health is important in reducing stigma around such illnesses and promotes conversation about the gut-mind connection.

“What’s really fascinating, since we’ve shared the story to the public … it’s amazing how many people have come out with support, and also an interest to talk about [bowel health]. FMT has been happening for 20 years, and they now really know what’s going on with that sort of treatment and how the gut is related to the brain,” Symes says.

“So it feels like the right thing to do, to share that story.”

The treatment required Hosking to stay in Sydney indefinitely, so the band put down roots, halted their touring schedule, and began an unconventional routine.

It was then that Boy & Bear, minus Hosking, began regularly writing. And sooner than they’d anticipated – as the treatment began to help – Hosking joined them. Scheduling six-week blocks of writing, with months of breaks in between, the album slowly came together until Hosking was ready to start recording.

“Because we took our time writing this time, in pre-production and writing we were able to experiment with our production before we hit the studio. We added a real contemporary edge to the way we recorded. So this record has a little more oomph, a lot more layers going on. We’ve pushed the sound and experimented with the way we’ve put together the bricks and mortar of it all, the sound design,” Symes says.

Boy & Bear’s new album Suck on Light is out now via Island Records Australia. Give it a spin on streaming services.