words by Meredith Tucker
photos by Susana Meza
For our first live in-studio session at Engine Studios in Chicago, Ha Ha Tonka offered a boisterous live set straight from the Ozarks. Named for a local wilderness reservation, Ha Ha Tonka’s performance was equally wild â€“ if this is how Ha-Ha Tonka play â€œwhen no one is watching,â€ then catching their live set with the Meat Puppets when they come through your city this fall is a no-brainer. If you missed their set full of songs about the plight of humankind delivered through strong male vocal harmonies, you can go back on our fourteen day Streaming Archive.
Luckily, I was able to chat briefly with Luke Long (bass), Lennon Bone (drums), Brett Anderson (guitar/piano), and Brian Roberts (guitar). The band, formerly called Amsterband, have been together for three and a half years and recorded their latest release in an abandoned church converted in a studio outside of St Louis.
Ha Ha Tonka sat down briefly to talk about their songwriting process, their sound, and their new record, Buckle in the Bible Belt, on Chicago’s own Bloodshot Records.
Brett: We donâ€™t listen to it a lot except for when weâ€™re playing it which is just about every day.
Brian: One thing Iâ€™m most proud of about the record is that we tried to make it live as possible, we can produce everything we did on the record at a live setting. If you listen to a live show and then buy the record, this is what they sound like live.
Luke: â€¦Just super tight
Brett: We all just sort of morph an idea into a song.
Brian: Thereâ€™s just a general consensus, you know when itâ€™s reached the point it needs to be at, otherwise itâ€™s just not there and itâ€™s just not good, everybody has to approve.
Lennon: I think thatâ€™s getting better and better the more that we do it, at first it was more a harder thing to get in to that mind set. I think St Nick that we really wrote in that manner. Itâ€™s easier to talk to each other and â€“
Luke: – Itâ€™s an open discussion.
Lennon: We only try to do what weâ€™re good at, we donâ€™t try to overstep our boundaries. Obviously we want to push ourselves, but we never want to try so hard to where something just isnâ€™t comfortable. We donâ€™t really need a lot of crazy licks or anything like that, we feel like vocally thatâ€™s our strong point that we sing together and we just try to highlight that.