With Pierce Brothers releasing a new album just last week, who better to chat with than the beloved Australian indie folk group Boy & Bear.

Jack and Patrick Pierce sat down with Boy and Bear’s Jon Hart to discuss their creative process, live performances, and group dynamics – finding plenty in common as they both mark a decade in the industry.

It’s a bustling time for both groups in the midst of their Australian tours.

Pierce Brothers are celebrating the release of their latest album, Everything Is Bigger Than Me. Rolling Stone AU/NZ praised the record for its “catchy melodies, earworm hooks, charming lyricism and stunning vocal harmonies.”

The brothers are currently touring across Australia, including a recent stop at Bluesfest Byron Bay where they debuted songs from the album as part of their new live set (tour information here). 

Boy & Bear, meanwhile, gear up for their Harlequin Dream 10-year celebration tour across Australia this May. With 10 dates lined up, including shows with Sarah Blasko in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, and Brisbane, they’re also set to join Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Chris Isaak as part of his Australian tour (see full tour dates here).

Last year, Boy and Bear released their self-titled fifth album, a deeply personal record signalling a new chapter in the band’s journey. 

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Read on for the full conversation between Pierce Brothers and Boy & Bear below.

Pierce Brothers’ Everything Is Bigger Than Me is out now. 

 Pierce Brothers Interview Boy & Bear (Jon Hart)

Jack Pierce: What’s your general process for songwriting?

Jon Hart: Generally, the genesis of an idea will start with one of us who has a chord progression or riff, and then it’ll be thrown to Dave [Hosking] to see if he hears a melody to sing. From there we start building a demo and trying lots of different options to see what works structurally, chordally and groove wise. Some tracks go through a bunch of different versions before making it into the studio. As you guys probably know, many songs just never make it. But it’s all part of the process

Pierce: Are there ever disagreements on how a song should go? Or is that just a brother thing that we have to deal with??

Hart: Massively. We disagree on a daily basis when it comes to songwriting. What is that saying? Something like a diamond earns it shine from the pressure it endures (not saying we’ve produced any diamonds). I think disagreement and questioning of ideas is such an important part of the writing process for us. It helps to push and pull a song to where it eventually lands. Can be frustrating though as it seems you guys know…

Pierce: Do you ever write in-studio or do you have your songs fully fleshed out and demoed before getting into the main studio?

Hart: We are very much a fleshing out demos sort of band. That being said, a lot still changes when we get into the studio. I think it’s really important not to squeeze all the spontaneity out of the recording experience.

Pierce: Your album Moonfire was recorded with and produced by Joe Chiccarelli – what was it like working with him on that record??

Hart: While I’m really proud of Moonfire and grateful for what that record did for us and our career, the recording process was pretty tricky. Joe is an incredible engineer and has a really certain way of working. That meant we clashed a fair bit. In his defence, we were a very new band at the time, so being open to ideas didn’t come as naturally as it could have. Needless to say that we coped with enormous amounts of pasta and Newcastle Brown Ale after every day.

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Pierce: “Abraham” is an epic track! Are these lost songs from Harlequin Dreams ones that you’ve been sitting on for a while… or did you just happen past them and realise how awesome they truly were, so had to make them into an EP?

Hart: I think we all knew these songs existed, but it wasn’t ever a thought that we might release them. Aidan, our manager, had the idea and he must have got us on a good day. That being said, it feels quite nostalgic to release these songs. Personally, it takes me back to the recording of the album (which was our second). They were good times.

Boy & Bear Interviews Pierce Brothers

Hart: The Pierce Brothers started as a busking duo, didn’t they? How do you think that has shaped your songwriting and performance? I can imagine cutting your teeth busking helps develop a bunch of skills essential for winning an audience as well as a thick skin when there are tough days. Do you think this has helped to shape your sound and style in any way? 

Pierce: Certainly our performance! When busking on Bourke Street, we primarily focused on stopping people as they shopped, or were on their lunch break. We had to grab their attention, so we acted out. It really directed the flow of our performance as we progressed through our career. I remember the first festival in Europe we played, and I was so nervous, Pat just said, “It’s just like busking, they don’t know us, let’s just put on a show.” And we never looked back!

Hart: You guys have toured pretty extensively both in Australia and overseas. Obviously COVID hit all of us pretty hard and put a stop to touring for a long time. What is your outlook for the future of touring in general and do you have any plans to continue to build internationally?

Pierce: Yeah, COVID made a massive difference to our touring lives! After a couple of years of not going over there, we were a little concerned when we did our first tour back in 2022, but it was a great success! As a band that’s really built off the back of touring and that momentum it was hard to keep up. Luckily, we’ve been able to keep it going with a both a tour of Europe and South Africa since COVID, and we’ll be heading back in 2024!

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Hart: What are the challenges of playing a band as brothers? Obviously, I play with my brother in the band too [Tim Hart], but it’s easy for us to escape each other in the dynamic of five different players if we need to. There’d be no hiding for you two, would there? Do you have any strategies to manage that when writing, recording and on the road?

Pierce: Oh man, just ask our crew – Pat and I can really get into it! Mostly we focus on getting the job done, especially when things are getting hectic, and that can give a sense of calm when needed. We also brought an incredible keys player into the band in our good friend Dara. And while his addition was directly about his incredible talent and what it brings to our live show, a happy accident is that he can be a buffer when things get heated haha

Hart: The onstage presence you lads have is high energy, which is amazing. How do you maintain it? I know on long tours there are great nights and good nights, but also some tough nights. Do you ever find it tough to get yourself up for a show and deliver in the way I’ve seen you perform?

Pierce: Yeah man, there’s been plenty of tough nights! You know that feeling when you get all up in your head during a show, and then delivering a decent performance can be so difficult, and sometimes you want the world to just swallow you whole. However, pre-show, I’m often just very down and very chill. There’s a kind of switch that flicks when we hit the stage that it usually disappears for a while, then hits like a freight train when we come back off!!

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