Emporians braved a deadly weather threat for an energetic performance by Ha Ha Tonka at Beer:30 Saturday night.
Tornado sirens sounded as the band was about to perform, delaying the set by a few minutes. An hour later, about halfway through the set, lead singer and guitarist Brian Roberts praised the audience for staying for the show.
“You guys are the cream of the crop,” Roberts said.
Opening up for Ha Ha Tonka was a band that had just formed two weeks beforehand. The quintet, which includes guitarists Taylor Anderson and Ean Kessler, vocalist Freddy Rodriguez, drummer Jorge Alcarez and bassist Chandler Dean, has yet to be named, but the members have experience with the local music scene.
Alcarez and Rodriguez were previously members of Kansas City-based band A Weekend In December. Rodriguez and Anderson were members of Anfield, based in Missouri. The members describe their newfound sound as “heavy pop.”
“It’s a very heavy sound with a melodic feel,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said their influences include A Day To Remember, Secrets and Underoath. Rodriguez said they were happy to play at Beer:30 and “like the postmen, we always deliver.”
“It’s just awesome getting to play our first show at Beer:30,” Alcarez said.
Ha Ha Tonka have released three albums – “Buckle in the Bible Belt” in 2007, “Novel Sounds of the Noveau South” in 2009 and “Death of a Decade” in 2011 – since their formation eight years ago. “Novel Sounds of the Noveau South” and “Death of a Decade” were recently released on limited edition vinyl. Drummer Lennon Bonn said that the most recent album was produced in a very different way than the albums that came before.
“‘Death of a Decade’ was recorded in upstate New York in an open space of the attic of a barn,” Bonn said. “The original recording had a reverb that was natural as opposed to an added effect in the studio. We sent the tracks to Ryan Tist and Kevin McMahon – a producer and engineer both based in Kansas City – who added a synthetic bed to the tracks. The final result had this very open vibe.”
Guitarist and mandolin player Brett Anderson and bassist Lucas Long said recording in the barn was “a good experience.”
“It was a very interesting environment to record in,” Anderson said.
The members of Ha Ha Tonka are from Springfield, Mo., and have varying musical influences among them.
“I grew up listening to the blues and jazz, as well as some Dwight Yoakim,” Bonn said. “Brett was really into The Pixies. Lucas was into a lot of ’80s music. Brian was into Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver.”
Bonn also said the band is influenced by a lot of their peers, naming Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Murder by Death and Yanghorn Slim as influences on the band. The band also acknowledged the influence of Americana in their sound.
“The Americana thing wasn’t a planned reaction; it just kind of happened,” Bonn said. “When we brought in the harmony, it was just a natural progression.”