Ha Ha Tonka made their way into our studio a couple weeks back on a beautiful, Indian Summer day. I arrived late and walked in on the band setting up. After the usual introductions and pleasantries, we just started shooting the shit.
I asked them about their previous name Amsterband and what led to the name change to Ha Ha Tonka, a state park in the Ozarks near their hometown. Basically they said, Amsterband was leading to some confusion on a couple of fronts: 1) that they were jamband set and 2) that they weren’t serious musicians. While the boys can certainly put out a fine racket, I wouldn’t label them as a jamband and I can attest that they are certainly serious and tremendous musicians.
Soon all were settled in and I took my place in Shirk’s soundbooth as the boys rans through five tracks from their phenomenal debut, Buckle In The Bible Belt. It was great to hear Brian introduce a few of their songs with the inspiration or story behind them, like the VH1 Storytellers or MTV Unplugged that we all know and love (or loved).
One cut that really stood out was their a cappella rendition of “Hangman.” As they eased into the tune, I commented to their booking agent, Matt, and JP from Bloodshot, about how Phish used to do a number of a cappella tunes back in their day. Phish went so far as to take barbershop quartet lessons to better their skills. While HHT’s a cappella dabbling is more gospel based than Phish’s efforts, its something I hope they continue to pursue as their harmonizing is second to none, and is one of the many traits that make this band so special and so full of promise.
After the session, which included a couple of new demo tracks for our delight only, we ended up hanging out a bit and listened to the raw cuts. I logged onto emusic to check their ranking and tried to find Lucas some love. Any adoring female fans should send qualifications to hearyablog at yahoo dot com and we will forward to Lucas.
Overall it was a great day of music with an easy-going group of guys that are definitely going places. I have played Ha Ha Tonka to many friends and each has had nothing but exemplary things to say about them. This is a band that is going places and I felt privileged to have them play for me in such an intimate setting.