Before you attend a Hockey Dad gig you already know it’s going to be sticky, sweaty and a seriously good time. Backed by his trademark, rhythm-specific head banging and his long-flowing, sun-kissed blonde locks – drummer Billy Fleming, always makes sure it’s a wild night.
As the backbone – or should I say backbeat of the band, Fleming provides the rhythm and groove. It was through talking to him over the phone that I was able to gain a further insight into what Hockey Dad stands for. It didn’t take long to see where the jangly, surf rock/pop duo planted their roots – roots that eventually grew into their featuring at #54 on triple j’s Hottest 100 last Saturday.
As soon as the interview started I could not hold back my laughter. Their first single from their upcoming album Blend Inn, is titled Homely Feeling. In Fleming’s own words the Homely Feeling is “When you wake up hungover as fuck in a town you’ve never been to before and you sit there – you just close your eyes and you imagine yourself at the beach with a chockie milk in hand… you’ve got your board – it’s just pumping, but no one’s there. You’re just by yourself on the beach. THAT is the homely feeling. That’s all I dream about. When I’m away, I just want to get home.”
The new album offers a different side to the band. A more introspective side. A side a little bit punkier with a little more edge and a tinge of grunge. While the duos first EP Dreamin’ and first album, Boronia, leaned more towards the classic Australian way of life, their latest offering Blend Inn puts forth somewhat of a contrast.
The new album lends itself to lyrics that cover struggling to fit in, having to measure up to the preconceived standards that are set by society and the longing to be back home.
“I think our growth just comes down to how much time we’re not at home now. Because with Boronia, we were still home for at least half of the year…We were just writing as we were – writing whatever came to mind. But now with Blend Inn, because we are away so much we’ve definitely been writing on behalf of the both of us strictly wanting to be home.”
“A lot of the lyrics are about being stoked to be away but not quite gelling. You’re happy to be away but you’re not quite there.”
It isn’t hard to latch onto the album’s central motif, especially after hearing Fleming talk about how much they have grown in their short time as a duo.
“The [album’s] titled Blend Inn. That’s the overall theme really – Trying to blend in when you’re away and then trying to blend in when you’re at home. It’s like being in between a rock and a hard place. If I could take a pack of Weet-Bix with me [on tour] that’d be nice – but customs didn’t like that,” he joked.
Their forthcoming album was recorded in the iconic and apparently haunted, Robert Lang Studios. The studio where Nirvana’s last album was conceived. However, that isn’t all the studio is known for. It was also home to many of the standout albums that were released when the genre of grunge hit its peak.
“The first thing we heard about the studio was that it was haunted – so we were like ‘okay, that’s a great introduction.’ We didn’t even know that – As soon as we went there we met Robert Lang and he showed us the glass microphone that Kurt [Cobain] recorded into and all the memorabilia. So we went home and watched the iconic doco and then we were like, ‘WHAT THE FUCK? THIS PLACE IS CRAZY!’”
The third track on the record, I Wanna Be Everybody shares some sonic similarities with Smells Like Teen Spirit.
“It’s pretty funny that people are calling our record grungy – it just happened. We didn’t go in there thinking that we wanted to sound like Nirvana or that we want to sound grungy because we were in Seattle – none of that was premeditated. It just came out – the ghost haunted it or something – pretty funny.” How good is it that the boys can find the humour in the situation? I would have been scared out of my mind – some definite cosmic power at play there.
The 11th track on the record, Sweet Release, marks the first time Fleming graces a track with his vocals. The song features the typical rhythmic slap talking that often features on classic Australian pub rock tracks. Fleming recounted a tale of when lead singer/guitarist Zach Stephenson first attempted to record the vocals for the track.
“I could talk to him through the little microphone and I’m giving him shit, saying ‘mate you’re doing it all wrong. Do it again! Do it again!’ So he said, ‘Why don’t you have a go then?’ So I said ‘Alright I will!’ Then I went in there and got into it.”
“That was like literally the first time I’ve ever sung and it was into a microphone being recorded,” joked Fleming, “But I don’t know if that will ever happen again – unless I just give him shit again and he cracks under pressure. Which seems to happen more often now – Maybe I’ll just keep giving him shit.”
I joked about the duo switching roles and Fleming replied with, “Yeah the more I bully him the more I’ll fuckin’ start singing.”
1 March, Badlands Bar, Perth
4 March, The Gov, Hindmarsh
10 March, The Corner Hotel, Richmond
18 March, Woolly Mammoth, Fortitude Valley
19 March, Woolly Mammoth, Fortitude Valley
22 March, Corner Hotel, Richmond
25 March, Metro Theatre, Sydney