Ha Ha Tonka describes their music as “foot stompin indie rock” and hails from the breathtaking Ozark Region of Missouri. OurVinyl caught up with them while they were playing at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall this past summer while they were touring with Langhorne Slim. We sat down with half of the band; Lennon Bone & Brian Roberts. Where did we have the sit down? The only place in the venue in which one could count on a relative level of silence; the upstairs men’s room (isn’t it nice and spacious?). And while this seems like an odd choice, it actually provided for an unobstructed, laid back and friendly conversation – save the one waiter who interrupted thinking someone in the bathroom ordered Eggplant Parmesan (true story).
Ha Ha Tonka has been playing for about 8 years now and in that time have released 3 full length LPs and 1 EP. It is a four piece band comprised of the traditional rock instruments of guitar, bass, drums, keyboard and vocals. However, describing their music as traditional would be a misnomer. Ha Ha Tonka plays what could be considered a unique synthesis of Americana musical influences. One can hear bluegrass, blues, southern rock, gospel, folk, and indie influences emerge in different manners for different songs. They don’t limit themselves to a certain level of energy or a strict “sound”, instead choosing to have each song be its own distinct expression.
Ha Ha Tonka started to expand their reputation after the release of their 2nd LP, “Buckle in the Bible Belt,” which gained the attention of Bloodshot Records, who subsequently signed Ha Ha Tonka and re-released the album under their label. Bloodshot Records is a well respected blues and indie/roots label that is based out of Chicago, and to be taken on by them is indeed a substantial compliment to their musical abilities.
In this interview you will hear the band explain how they have found success; it’s not through a musical genius being in the band – but through the combination of their musical beliefs, ambitions and talents. In short; their whole is greater than the sum of their parts. And as one listens this becomes readily apparent; both in that one can palpably sense that these guys gel and have fun while playing, and that this factor actual helps to make their music superior. The same could at times probably be said of their approach to their music, that through the fusion of assorted Americana roots music they can create something that transcends the sum of the musical influences on their own. They make it their own (and kinda give that approach a name – the ‘Bit-Torrent approach’ of taking a little bit from every musician they respect).
Ha Ha Tonka talks about the interesting animal that touring is, the never ending ‘working vacation’, and about how they are slowly starting to have success in touring with other acts they really respect – such as Langhorne Slim. So it apparent that even when one grabs the attention of a respected record label, and starts to see some success, it can still take a little something more to gain the respect of fellow musicians. But be assured, the snowball is rolling downhill now for Ha Ha Tonka, especially after last year’s release of “Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South.” So take in these videos and get to know these laid back musicians from Missouri – but make sure to catch them in person as they tour nationally with Rocky Votolato this autumn and winter.