Coming straight out of Springfield, MO, Ha Ha Tonka specialize in disarming and effortless anthems that owe as much to high and lonesome Ozarks mountain music as chugging college rock.
Ha Ha Tonka? What the hell could that name possibly mean? It's a nod to the boys' Ozark pride. It's the name of a state park in southwestern Missouri, full of natural bridges, sandstone cliffs, caves and a castle. That's right, a castle. Some crackpot rich guy built himself a Scottish style castle around 1900. It burned down, but the ruins are still an attraction. Ha Ha Tonka want you all to know there is more to their home stomping grounds than Branson, walnut bowl outlet stores and Jesse James' hideout.
Out in front is Brian Roberts, a triple threat (writer, guitarist, singer) with the Jeffersonian mane of hair. Brett Anderson handles the lead guitar, mandolin and even the keyboards, and he likes tequila (well, they all do, but he's the most insistent on cadging shots out of Bloodshot Rob). Lady-killing Luke Long plays bass, swings from the rafters, takes his shirt off a lot and keeps the low end on the four parts. The band’s versatile recent additions of Hoots & Hellmouth drummer Mike Reilly and The Spring Standards multi-instrumentalist/singer James Cleare catalyzed the group to stretch simple themes into sonic dimensions with dynamic results. As with all great bands, and this is a band, the sum is greater than the parts. These dudes sing harmonies like they are brothers.
Their potent dynamic range continues to amaze us; we're not sure how a band this tight can get tighter, but they do...and it is never at the expense of energy or connection to the audience. Ha Ha Tonka will bring a room to a near boiling point, then bring it down to a hush, then blow it all up to the point where, at the end of the night, you are wore out and you're not sure why--it all happened so organically and without flash, without someone telling you "hey, this is where you go crazy." It's almost like a reflex.
The group’s relentless touring has taken them to the stages of Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, Sundance Film Festival, SXSW, CMJ and nationally as a headlining act, as well as supporting many great bands such as Old 97s, Murder By Death, Langhorne Slim, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Meat Puppets and more.
In 2011, Ha Ha Tonka was a guest on The Travel Channel’s flagship show, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. Check them out, grillin' and chillin' the finer foods of the Show Me State with AB his own bad self.
- Samantha Crain covers HHT's "Cold Forgiver" and the Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band covers "St Nick on the Fourth in a Fervor" on While No One Was Looking: Toasting 20 Years of Bloodshot Records