Australian surf rock band Hockey Dad from Windang, New South Wales in Australia have released a couple new tracks from their next album and they hit the road across Canada in December, including a stop in the 519 area at Rum Runners in London. The rockin’ duo consists of two members, Billy Fleming and Zach Stephenson, formed in 2013 and currently have two full albums and one EP released to date.
The new music is a bit more advanced and catchier than the earlier material and should help the band gain plenty of new fans in 2020. We spoke with guitarist and vocalist Zach Stephenson ahead of the tour.
It’s been a couple of years since you’ve been to Canada, and you’re coming back. That’s awesome.
I’m super excited. Love’s gone to Canada and loves touring in Canada, so it’s going to be good to be back.
It’s a quick run through covering a couple of provinces, and you know you picked December for a country, which is known for winter season, right?
Yeah, I know. Really worried about it because right now it’s really hot at home, and it’s going to be a rude shock when we get there. It’s going to be a very big indoors trip.
Canada’s you know the official home of hockey. You’ve got the perfect name for the tour. Tell me about how the name came about.
Name’s actually from the Simpsons. There’s an episode where Bart and Millhouse are playing a video game, and the video game is called Hockey Dad. It’s just about two angry dads in a little league game having a fight over the children, so we thought we’d just name our band after that video game.
Have you guys actually caught a live hockey game?
No, we never have. It’s the one thing I want to do, I’ve never done it in Canada. I just want to go to a division two game or something. It would be so awesome.
You have to try and catch one when you’re here. They’re pretty good. How do a couple of guys from a small town in Australia end up, you know, discovering music?
I guess it was always around when we were kids. Both my dad and my parents really loved music and listened to it all the time. Siblings really loved music, so I guess we kind of grew up always having it in our lives anyway, not knowing that maybe we would be playing it every day, but at least it was going to be a big part of our lives. Then I think we just kind of got bored when we were teenagers and as everybody does, just picked up an instrument for something to do. Then I guess it was the same as every other kind of band. It was started like that. We just got bored and started playing around and then figured out how fun it was. Then as soon as you started playing shows, we were like, okay, this is all we want to do. This is awesome.
Is that the point when you decided you wanted to do this for the rest of your life and you wanted to do this as a band?
I guess that came probably when we first started this band, I guess after six months or so. We were having much fun, and people were having a good time at the shows. We felt that playing shows was the best thing and having fun with everybody. Let’s just try and do this as long as we can.
Why only two band members?
I don’t know. We were both in band together before this one, and I guess the other three members just bailed. Then we just kept going. We never really thought of it as a problem because The White Stripes are probably one of my favorite bands of all time, and I was really into two pieces at a time, like White Stripes, and then there was a local band from Wollongong called Mother and Son. They were a two-piece, real dirty surf rock band. Then we saw them playing, and thought this is all we need then because there was only two of us. I guess we were waiting for something to turn off or somebody to turn up and play, but once we saw that we could do this ourselves and then we never, never thought about it after that.
Is it harder live just as two members?
It can be, yeah, sound-wise to try and fill up the room. It’s a little bit harder, but it’s a challenge. When it is sounding good, you can’t really beat it. It’s such a good feeling to have it sounding good with just two of us. Then people come up and say, “I really thought there was an extra person out there,” but it’s a fun challenge that we always tried to still be the loudest band, only just the two of us.
I hear some ’80s and ’90s punk influence in your music, so is that your weapon of choice?
I guess? Yeah, you could probably say it’s half of it because Billy grew up listening to a lot of ’90s punk and probably late ’80s punk. I feel the drumming side of it would be most affected, and that would be Billy’s weapon of choice to draw back on. He gets really inspired by all those old beats and loves that sound. Then I listened to maybe a little bit different ’90s rock when I was growing up. I guess the other half, my house kind of draws off there, and then it molds together to just make what we are.
I heard you guys spent some time on the waves down there as well, so if you had to choose either music or surfing, which would, you choose?
That’s a really hard question. I think about this late at night all the time in bed, and I’m so glad I don’t have to choose in my life, but I’d probably have to choose surfing. I think I love it more. I think it does more for me. It’s probably healthier for me than music is, that’s for sure. If I went surfing every day, I’d probably live longer than if I went on tour every day.
I hear there’s new music outs in 2020. Did you guys approach the new music differently than what you’ve done before?
In some ways, I guess we did. We recorded it in the same studio with the same producer with John Goodmanson again. We wanted to start with a comfort in the studio, which means we could approach the record a little differently cause we were so comfortable and could spend more time on it. We spent more time crossing the songs in the studio and working out ideas while we’re there. The sounds found themselves because we’d been there before, and had more time to experiment. We knew what works. The record has a little bit more craftsmanship in it with the songwriting and all the little nuances.
The new video for I Miss Out came out a couple of weeks ago, and I have to say it has a bit of an ’80s music video vibe to it. Can you talk about your inspiration for that video?
Yeah. We were at a festival in Australia and this band Methyl Ethyl was playing. They had a background projection, live projections going on at the back of their set, and they looked really, really cool. It turns out the guy that was doing those was a local from where we are anyway. We got in touch with him, and we wanted to work with him and see what he could do for us. He worked with other bands from Woolongong, and Pinheads, who are friends of ours.
We got in touch with him. He uses a lot of analog video gear. You can never get back the same glitch twice. He’s just pulling out cables and messing with signals. We shot this stuff on a clean black or green screen and got the vibe of the video what we wanted and then sent it to him and just said, f make it look crazy. He cut it up to see what we could do. He sent it back and it was a really weird spooky vid, I like it.
We’ve talked about the video so, but let’s talk about the song. How did the song come about?
I think I just wrote that song at home. I was sick of just playing chords for a second and was listening to a lot of dives and a lot of solo-y, lead line music. Then I wanted to write an actual lead line that wasn’t just a chord, like a chord-based riff I wanted to play and write a song with no real chord structure going on underneath. It just ended up working out like that.
The lyrics probably came from me just being on tour a lot and missing important home things that I’ve got to be at. The song came pretty smooth, and in the studio it became really fluid and we stuck with it. I was stoked with the guitar sounds and how it ended up, and it sounded pretty good live. I’m pretty excited to start playing it on this tour.
We get to hear a sample or the sampler of some of the new music of yours, and it sounds like a little more went into the production this time. How did you, approach this recording process differently?
The last record, we only had a limited time in the studio, so we recorded drums and a little bit of the bass in the main studio. Then we went away into John’s smaller home studio and recorded all the guitars and all the vocals there. This record, we had a lot more time in the studio, so we had time to do pretty much everything in this one room. I guess it took a little more time to figure out what we really wanted to do.
I think this record comes out a little less of a rush job. It’s got the thought in there, and the production was similar but we had more time to tinker around, find cool sounds that we’d never really done before and some new songs that didn’t sound how we could really take them another way and do a really different country vibe song. We just went down over the different alleyways because we had so much more time.
Let’s talk about some of those new songs. The first, Germaphobe.
We had two weeks before we were about to go into the studio, we just got a house out in the Bush in Australia. We had probably 25 demos and we were just trying to work an hour, get live rough recording so we knew what we were going to do when we got in the studio. Four or five songs just came out of those that week, organically and Germaphobe is one, so it’s a classic jam, along song that popped up out of nowhere that I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out. That’s a good one to play.
Milk in the Sun.
That’s another one that came out of nowhere in a jam session. That one’s really You Am I inspired. I think we were going for a big You Am I sound on that. Just something a little strange in the verse and then pops into a little bubble gum pop chorus.
In this State.
We’ve been playing that one for a while now actually. That one came around I’d say June or July, 2017? We’ve been playing out one in the set for a long time. That’s just the fastest song we’ve ever written and an absolute ear blaster. That was another one where we’d just did a live show, and we had Tim Rogers from You Am I come up and play Purple Sneakers, one of their songs, and we were rehearsing with him the week before. I just had that riff idea, and I had nothing else. I was playing it with Tim and he just said, “Oh that sounds like a good song.” I just ran with that. I said okay, well I definitely have to make this a song now that Tim Rogers thinks this is a song.
I wanted to ask, is there a title for the new album?
Yeah, there is. I don’t know if I can tell you that now actually though. I’d have to talk to the big bosses.