Monday, 16 May 2011

Audiophiles - Ha Ha Tonka


Twitter: @Hahatonka
Amazon Links: Death of a Decade (MP3)
                        Death of a Decade (CD)

There a few things sweeter in music than:

1) Close harmony singing.
2) Despite my staunch atheism, a style that instantly makes me think of religion and superstition
3) A little bit of mandolin every now and then.

Fortunately for me, the first time I heard Ha Ha Tonka they presented all of the above and as a consequence I have not listened to anything else for three days straight. I even went for a two mile walk this morning just so I could enjoy the album from start to finish.

Signed to independent Chicago based label Bloodshot Records, you could be mistaken to liken these Missouri boys to Kings of Leon. Indeed growing up in the Midwest bible belt has no doubt created a similar sound to the Tennessee 4 piece.

But there is more to it than that. Hidden behind the southern rock guitars lays a folk sentiment which would be familiar to more recent UK folk breakthrough artists like Stornaway or even Mumford & Sons. You could even be bold enough during aspects of their new album 'Death of a Decade' to point odd fingers towards Arcade Fire with its driving drum rhythms.

Since 2005 Ha Ha Tonka have released four albums and one EP, gaining more and more friends each time. Indeed 'Death of a Decade was hailed as the 'birth of an important band' by the Austin Chronicle, while Spin Magazine, CMJ Essentials while various websites not called Choose My Music have also been extremely forthcoming in celebrating this band

Thanks to the efforts of Bloodshot Records and Ha Ha Tonka's management I have been lucky enough to obtain a short interview with the band to discuss their influences, touring the United States and the state of live music in general. But before that I urge you to have a quick listen to their new single and opening track of 'Death of a Decade' and check out the awesome video for "Caney Mountain"
"Usual Suspects" by Ha Ha Tonka by Bloodshot Records

I hope that has given you a big enough appetite to find out more about Ha Ha Tonka.  Please welcome singer and guitarist Brian Roberts, who has been kind enough to answer my questions.

CMM: Welcome to Choose My Music, could you please introduce the people who make up your band?

BR: Ha Ha Tonka consists of Brett Anderson (guitar, mandolin, keys), Lennon Bone (drums), Luke Long (bass) and me (vocals, rhythm guitar).

CMM: How long has Ha Ha Tonka be going for?

BR: Ha Ha Tonka has been active for 5 years.

CMM: Are you currently running the band on a full time basis or do you have to supplement your music with full time jobs?

BR: It's a full time job with part time pay.

CMM: There are many bands and artists which come to mind when I hear your music. Almost apologetically Kings of Leon come into my head, as does shades of Ben Harper and some recent UK folk bands such as Stornaway and Mumford and Son. Who, what or where do your influences come from?

BR:Those comparisons are very flattering!  Individually, we each have different influences.  Personally, I'm influenced by everything from REM to Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver.  I also feel that the region we hail from, the Ozarks, has a big influence on all of us.

CMM: Your video to "Caney Mountain" has an almost biblical feel. I also got this impression from the first of your songs I ever heard 'Hold My Feet To The Fire". You also have recorded an album Buckle in the Bible Belt. Is there a religious aspect to your band or is this imagery ingrained from your surroundings?

BR: We aren't a "religious band" per se, however I was raised in a relatively fundamentalist environment and I'm sure that elements of gospel music seep into our songs.  As I mentioned earlier, the Ozarks play a big role in our music.  We try to sing about the people, places and things we know.

CMM: You are currently touring the United States with your new album 'Death Of A Decade'. I have recently discussed the death of the local UK music scene here with venues closing on a regular basis. Are things any better in the USA?

BR: Actually, I think the music scene is pretty strong in most markets here in the US.  Obviously, record stores aren't doing so well what with the decline of record sales, however shows seem to be doing well.

CMM: I've seen nothing but positive reviews for Ha Ha Tonka. How is the tour going for you?

BR: It's been the best tour we've ever done!  There have been several sold out shows and lots of rowdy crowds, which we absolutely love.

CMM: You are signed to Chicago's Bloodshot Records, what attracted you to the label?

BR: Well, they were really the only label actively courting us!  And the fact that the Old 97s and Ryan Adams were both on the label at one point, that didn't hurt.  Not a bad roster to be a part of. 

CMM: And finally, as around 70% of my readers are from the UK & Europe - do you have any plans to visit us in the near future?

Yes!  There are plans in the works for a Fall tour of the UK & Europe!  Working out the details now.

So there you have it. Ha Ha Tonka are very busy at the moment so I really appreciate their time with this. I hope to see them smash up the UK in the very near future.

I am certain many of you reading this will enjoy this band very much. If you have...why not tell a friend or two?

As always, your comments are always welcome. 

To finish off, a little Ha Ha Tonka appearing on TV in the USA:

1 comment:

  1. Great post!
    I've also been listening to Ha Ha Tonka quite a bit over the past several weeks. Very addictive, and I'm always glad to see small-town, Midwest (U.S.) bands making some noise.

    I also caught the Anthony Bourdain episode about the Ozarks and was surprised/happy to see them involved... and hopefully will help spread word about this band (along with your blog!).