Plenty of people go to see bands when they come through their town, but most people don’t think about everything that it takes to get those bands to their favorite club. Being on tour for a musician is both enlightening and daunting, as physically and mentally draining as it is stimulating. And no matter what, there are always stories to tell. In Tales From The Golden Road we let musicians tell their own stories of life on the road to get a behind-the-scenes, up-close look at what really goes down between each show.
Ha Ha Tonka is one of those few bands today that still plays to the indie ethos that was so courageously paved from the likes of Pavement, The Pixies and The Mountain Goats. The Springfield, MO/Ozarks based band just released (3/10) their awe-inspiring fifth album Heart Shaped Mountain, a collection of ten songs that even in their early release stage persevere as anthems and rallying cries of conviction. Comprised of band members Brian Roberts (guitar, vocals), Brett Anderson (guitar) and Luke Long (bass), the trio recently added Hoots & Hellmouth drummer Mike Reilly and The Spring Standards multi-instrumentalist/singer James Cleare to take their songs into new experimental yet organically driven directions.
With Heart-Shaped Mountain out now and receiving positive acclaim, the band is about to embark on a tour to support the LP and most importantly get their songs heard. If there was ever a band to listen to during these times of political upheaval, Ha Ha Tonka is it. Follow along as the band present their own version of a tour diary as their most recent journey begins…
In the space between Luke’s small fleet of motorcycles and a fridge full of Buds and venison jerky, in a garage on a hundred acre farm in the hills of Southern Missouri, on a clear and chilly evening in early March, we reckon with the old heap of tunes. We pick one out, and begin the process of shaking off the dust. Some of these old songs fit like a cherished, aging backpack; others are unfamiliar and awkward, heavy parcels we haven’t yet remembered how best to carry. It’s all in there somewhere, we remind ourselves throughout early attempts at tunes from the new record–the band’s fifth–and a few in particular which have never before been rendered outside the utopian studio context, already more than a year behind us now. The rough mixes we lived with and labored over are distant memories. The alternate test sequences, album covers, and old emails where we occasionally stumble over these–potential Easter Eggs for the hardest-dying of Tonka fans–aren’t much more than personal trivia now. The new album is out.
A road trip is in order.
First tour stop is the newly moved and improved Savor in our shared and adopted hometown of West Plains, which sets a high bar out of the gate, selling right out and sending us off in heroes’ fashion to Springfield, where the three Tonk OGs tell college war stories and recall early chapters in HHT history over Jimmy John’s on East Walnut, and where we find old friends and meet our new tour buddies for the week, the groove-wealthy and show-savvy Me Like Bees, and on this first night together, every member of Team Tonk hurries out of the Outland Ballroom green room at the first sounds of MLB’S vicious, authentic cover of Sabotage. And on to Tulsa, where our expectations are exceeded across the board at the soon-to-be-legendary Mercury Lounge, even in spite of the ‘3.2’ brews for band members. And then on to The Rustic in Dallas, House of Blues in Houston, and finally today into the heart of the festive blur that descends on Austin each March. The buzz and bright colors of SouthBy make for a friendly and pleasant milestone on our long strange trip, with many miles more to drive. We play the last of our nine SXSW shows Saturday afternoon, and we are due in Seattle on Tuesday to begin our west coast leg with The Old 97s.
We have renegotiated the trailer pack every day this week. We have also completed the first phase of the tour.
Ha Ha Tonka are on tour now and will be hitting the road with Old 97’s. For a full list of dates and to hear more music check out hahatonkamusic.com.
Stay tuned to Glide for more dispatches from the road!