Tuesday, November 5, 2013

{INTERVIEW} ha ha tonka

TIOJ recently had the pleasure of chatting with Lennon Bone of Americana rockers Ha Ha Tonka. Read ahead as Lennon tells us about making music, crazy tours, and a certain Travel Channel celebrity.

Listen while you read:

Tell us about yourselves! How did you guys meet and decide to start making music together? 
Brian, Luke and myself went to high school together in West Plains, MO. Brian and Luke met Brett at Missouri State (formerly Southwest Missouri State) when the band was initially formed as something to do in college. I actually didn't join up until November of 2004, and it was at that point we started writing the songs that have become Ha Ha Tonka.

How would you describe your music to someone who's never heard it before? 
I think it's much easier to give somebody a couple of songs to listen to. I feel like our sound has sort of evolved from an alt-country sort of vibe to more of an overall rock and roll sound... but I don't really know. I think most musicians will tell you that this is the dreaded question... Music is so subjective, and everything has been done so many times (in pop music) at this point that I feel like we're seeing genre's sort of slip through the cracks a bit more.

What is your songwriting process like? Where do you find inspiration? 
Usually it starts with a riff or a melody that we all listen to, and then play over a bunch of times. Some songs can literally be tens of hours of all of us playing in a room together before we find the arrangement that everyone is pleased with. We demo everything during each rehearsal and try to give the song some space before the next session, then we listen back and see what seems to be working and what isn't. Musically, it's a very collaborative process.

As far as inspiration is concerned, I personally feel like inspiration is found in work. I'm always listening to music and trying to take notes on tones, patterns or melodies that I like, but it's not until I sit down and actually begin to work that I find what some might call "inspiration." One of my friends is a classically trained trumpet player, and he always said, "The hardest thing about practicing is getting the horn out of the case." I find the same to be true with writing. The only way for me to get in the mood and be firing on all cylinders is to just start.

Click ahead to read more from Lennon, including about his favorite president and dream musical collaboration... 

Tell us about one of your weirdest or craziest experiences on tour so far! 
We've been touring for nearly nine years, so there's a lot to pick from. More recently we spent some time in Hamburg, Germany where a guy died next door to the venue, we saw a drunken brit jump off of a party barge in his underwear and have to be rescued from drowning, and we chased down a guy in the streets that had stolen some woman's cell phone. We saw prostitutes lined up next to a Burger King and drank beer where the Beatles used to play cover shows. Not bad for a 24-hour period.

What was it like to hang out with Anthony Bourdain?? (Color us jealous.) 
He's very much like he appears to be on TV... an intimidating but very kind gentleman. He came in and introduced himself to us, but didn't make any idle small talk until it felt natural. There was nothing "Hollywood" or forced happening during any of our conversations; we just waited for subjects to pop up, like normal human beings do. He's an absolute professional. It was truly a treat to spend the day with him... and kick his ass at poker. Ha!

Who would be your dream musician to collaborate with? 
For me personally? Probably someone like Steve Reich, Philip Glass or Glenn Kotche of Wilco. I'm a big fan of minimalist composers, and love the mindset that those guys bring to music. Minimalist music, to me, is like the pop of the classical world. I think pop music can sometimes be stifling creatively, but it's what I know. If I had the balls to do something more avant-garde, I would. Maybe someday!

What is one song that we need to add to our iPods right now?
"Katie" by Luke Temple, from his most recent release Good Mood Fool. Awesome 80s tones with such a cool voice.

You're coming through DC on this tour, so we have to ask: Who's your favorite president?
Being a born Arkansan, It was sort of engrained in me to be a big Clinton fan. When he was governor, my grandfather once put a $100 bill in his pocket. He was (obviously) a big Clinton fan...

Thank you so much to Lennon for talking with us! Be sure to check out the boys of Ha Ha Tonka on Saturday, November 16 at Rock and Roll Hotel -- tickets are available here!

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