Boy & Bear revels in sounds of Sydney 

click to enlarge Boy & Bear
  • COURTESY LUKE KELLET
  • Australia’s Boy & Bear is touring the U.S. promoting “Harlequin Dream,” its second album of melodic rock.

Rocker Killian Gavin loves celebrating his hometown, Sydney, and its local delights like Harry's Café Du Wheels, a meat-pie food cart that stays open late.

"Whenever I get the chance, I'll get myself their massive Tiger Pie -- with mashed potatoes, mushy peas and gravy -- and feel like I'm really living," says the guitarist for Boy & Bear, a five-time Australian Recording Industry Association Music Awards winner.

He also recommends the "beautiful weather, beautiful waves, and beautiful girls" of Bondi Beach.

"I've been to a lot of cities with the band, but there's just something nice about flying back home into Sydney," he says, sighing.

Gavin and the group's co-founder, singer Dave Hosking -- who met while registering for courses in college -- felt so strongly about Sydney, they decided to remain there to track their new sophomore album, "Harlequin Dream," which they'll play on tour in San Francisco this week.

They traveled to Nashville to record 2011's debut album "Moonfire," with Joe Chiccarelli.

But in a pricey studio so far abroad, Gavin says, "The clock kept ticking, and we didn't have enough time to get the songs to a point where we were truly happy with them. So maybe with half the record we got there, I think."

This time around, Boy & Bear wanted to explore every last sonic idea, so the musicians took a casual eight months.

"And recording on your own doorstep was the only way we thought we could actually do that," Gavin says.

With Wayne Connolly engineering and co-producing with the band, they entered Sydney's Alberts Studios, with the members commuting in from their respective neighborhoods.

"After a year-and-a-half on tour, it gave us a break from living out of a suitcase, and we could spend time with all our families and friends," he adds.

The studio itself was a majestic old building, partly owned by AC/DC and its publishing company.

"But unfortunately, I felt pressure every time we walked in and saw all these photos of AC/DC on the walls," says Gavin, who always noticed the glare of that band's rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young. "It was like he was saying 'Do you want me to play your part? Because I'll play it better!'"

Still, "Harlequin Dream" - featuring the axman's aqueous tones and Hosking's folky style - coalesced as a chiming love letter to Sydney. Its catchy tunes "Bridges" and "Southern Sun," follow in the skewed-hook, Down Under tradition of Powderfinger and Australian Crawl.

"I would love to think so, at least," Gavin says. "But to even be mentioned in the same mix as those bands? It's scary and beautiful, all at once!"

IF YOU GO

Boy & Bear

Where: Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday

Tickets: $13 to $15

Contact: (415) 626-4455, www.bottomofthehill.com

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Tom Lanham

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