Hockey Dad really knows how to have fun. In support of their latest album Blend Inn, the Australian duo of Zach Stephenson and Billy Fleming are a little more than halfway done with their North American tour and are enjoying every second of it. And from the moment that Stephenson and Fleming stepped on stage at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn on June 12th, beautiful chaos ensued as the boys skillfully tore through their set. But with openers Mt. Eddy and Cold Fronts, the fun started way before Stephenson and Fleming came out to party with their loyal fans.
Oakland’s Mt. Eddy started the night off strong with their high energy and great riffs, getting the crowd moving into the night’s first but certainly not last mosh pit. And Philadelphia’s Cold Fronts picked up the energy that Mt. Eddy left and amplified it tenfold. Frontman Craig Almquist, oversized cowboy hat and all, freely spoke to the crowd — he couldn’t help but jokingly plug the band’s latest album Fantasy Du Jour several times throughout the band’s fairly short set. Between funny quips about a Cold Fronts’ breakup and condemnations of Trump in the song “Trying Not to Break,” Almquist made the crowd feel like a part of the band. But when he jumped off the stage to sing and mosh with the audience, it was more like Almquist was one of us. It was clear that the crowd was more than ready for the energy-packed show that Hockey Dad would soon deliver.
And once Hockey Dad took to the stage around 10:30 p.m., there was a tangible excitement in the air as we waited for the duo to start. Donning Almquist’s cowboy hat, Stephenson joked that he has spent so much time in America that he’s losing his accent. With the crowd laughing and eager to start jumping and singing, Hockey Dad kicked off the night with the infectious “My Stride” off of Blend Inn. Hitting us with one of many crowd-favorites, Hockey Dad kept the good times rolling with “Laura” as the moshing only increased in size and intensity.
At this sold-out show, Hockey Dad had a crowd full of fans who were having the times of their lives on what would have normally been an average Tuesday night. But thanks to Hockey Dad, we all got the excuse to jump around and belt out great songs along with Stephenson. Whether the duo played songs from their debut album Boronia or new stuff from Blend Inn, the passion from the fans never wavered. And for just two guys, the band easily returned the same amount of energy that their wild fans gave them.
The only breather for the entire show was in the expressive, slow “Danny.” And it was much needed for what came before and after it. Swaying to a mellower song gave the crowd the chance to relax and quietly enjoy and peacefully sing with Stephenson.
With so many standout moments of the night, the best by far is when Fleming took to vocals for Blend Inn’s “Sweet Release.” They even brought someone else on stage to play drums while Fleming moved up front to talk-sing the fun tune. Hockey Dad’s performance of “Sweet Release” is a standout concert moment for me — more so than at any other point in the show, it was one massive, chaotic party. Members of Mt. Eddy and Cold Fronts came back to join the fun, dancing and singing on stage while all of us below lost our minds in the pit. Fleming and Almquist, among many others, jumped into the audience and crowd-surfed through the blissful madness. The full extent of “Sweet Release” is best displayed during a live show, and (not to be too corny) singing and jumping along was definitely a sweet release for us all.
Later on in the set, another crowd-favorite “Jump the Gun” certainly encompassed the night with the lyrics, “I don’t wanna go home / I’m havin’ too much fun / And I don’t wanna go home / So leave me alone.” No one was ready to go home once the first set came to a close with the punchy “So Tired.” And at the end of the song, Fleming enthusiastically exclaimed, “This was one of the funnest, if not the funnest show of the tour!” But of course that just made the crowd hungrier for more.
After demands for one more song, the boys returned to play the popular “Seaweed” off of the band’s first EP Dreamin’. For the last time of the night, the crowd shouted along with Stephenson and exerted every last ounce of energy left to end an incredible performance the right way. Before leaving the stage for the night, Stephenson promised that they’d be back to New York soon. They’ll certainly have a loyal fan base waiting for them when they return. And after a performance like the one Hockey Dad delivered on June 12th, I wouldn’t expect anything less.
Before this dynamite performance, I got the chance to chat with the boys of Hockey Dad about their new album Blend Inn, some of their musical influences and their strong friendship.
How are you guys doing? How do you think the tour has been going so far?
Zach: It’s been going pretty good.
Billy: Yeah it’s been super fun. We’ve been touring with Cold Fronts and Mt. Eddy, and they’ve been amazing every show. And the crowds have just been real fun. Yeah it’s been sweet, off to a good start down So-Cal way. And then we ended up on the other side of the country.
Zach: Yeah it’s been very good.
What would you say has been your favorite place so far? I know you said you liked Toronto but anywhere else?
Zach: Yeah Toronto was good.
Billy: The start of the tour was sick. The first few shows were amazing down in Santa Ana and San Diego and that. That was super fun.
I’ve always wanted to go to San Diego.
Billy: Yeah it was awesome — such a good place.
So I know you’ve had a lot of success so far with Blend Inn, and I was wondering if the entire process of creating that album was different than Boronia, like with the writing process all the way up to the finished product?
Billy: Definitely, because I think we’ve been kind of busy touring…for the first album we kind of were home a bit more so we’d write together most of the time. But because we haven’t really had much time at home it’s been a bit sporadic. Zach would just write at home when he can by himself, and then I’ll have a few ideas. And whenever we get a second to breathe we just come together and start doing it. Yeah that’s kind of how it fell to bits — fell together [Laughs]. It’s probably going to fall to bits.
No, I really like the album!
Zach: That’s great.
Billy: Yeah, thanks heaps!
What would you say is one of your favorite songs off the album?
Billy: There’s a real good singer on there that only comes on the one song — I think that’s pretty good.
“Sweet Release,” right?
Billy: Yeah [Laughs].
I was going to ask about that! How’d you get that?
Billy: Well Zach was trying to sing it… we wanted to do like a talk-sing, but Zach’s just a really good singer and he can’t actually talk-sing.
Zach: No, I couldn’t do it.
Billy: So I was giving him shit through the speaker like, ‘You can’t do it, you suck.’ And he was like, ‘Well why don’t you try it?’ And I was like alright, and then I did.
Zach: And then it worked. [They both laugh].
You think you’ll do more of that in the future? Or is that a one-time thing?
Zach: No, never again.
Billy: [Laughs] Yeah you won’t let me. I’m too good for it.
Zach: You had one shining moment.
Were you nervous to sing at first in front of a crowd?
Billy: Well, yeah that was the first time I’d ever sung — the first time I’d ever sung was when we were recording that song. Before that I’ve never actually tried to sing. I remember the first show was down on the Grinspoon tour.
Zach: Yeah the first show, we were doing this support tour. And the first venue was like 3,000 people [Everyone laughs]. And it was the first time Billy had to sing it. He was like shitting himself.
Billy: Yeah I was like this is going to be psycho.
Zach: I was nervous and he was like, ‘I don’t know, I don’t know if I can do this.’
Billy: Yeah that was crazy. I fully forgot about that, but I pulled through somehow.
Yeah, you did it. You’re here.
Billy: [Laughs] Yeah.
And to me, Blend Inn sounds different than Boronia and even Dreamin’. Was that intentional or did it just naturally develop that way?
Zach: I guess it was intentional and natural in the same way.
Billy: Yeah, we wanted it to be.
Zach: You would always intentionally try to make a record that sounds a little bit different than the last thing we did. And I guess it’s just where we were and what we were listening to at the time it just happens naturally every time.
Billy: Pretty much, hey.
Zach: I think it’d be pretty hard to make two records sound exactly the same.
Billy: Kudos to anyone who can.
Zach: The next one might. Maybe I’ll pull it off.
Billy: I don’t know. Do you want it to sound the same though, that’s the thing?
Zach: No, obviously.
What were you listening to at the time?
Zach: I think I remember. I was listening to heaps of the Rolling Stones, and I was listening to Ariel Pink. And Twin Peaks — their new record had just come out. Yeah I think it was that vibe. The Murlocs a lot.
Billy: Yeah for sure. Mix that with… well the country was only a recent thing. Maybe the next one will be a bit more country.
Zach: We’ve been listening to heaps of country.
Billy: It’s been good — pedal steels, harmonicas, you name it.
Zach: Might be country.
How do you think people would react if you came out with a country album?
Zach: I don’t know, actually. We’ll have to do it.
Billy: We’ll have to try it [Laughs].
Zach: Really don’t know how that would go down.
So you guys have been friends for a long time. Do you have a favorite memory of each other?
Billy: Good question. The one about the ducks at some point.
Zach: That’s your favorite memory?
Billy: Not my favorite, but it’s a memory.
Zach: You’re such a nerd.
Billy: You’re a nerd. I don’t know, what are the favorite memories?
Zach: I remember Billy got swooped by a Plover once [Billy laughs]. Playing Cricket.
Zach: A Plover is like a pretty big bird in Australia.
Billy: They attack you and shit.
Zach: And they swoop you and like gauge your head out.
Billy: And it was a hell-bindy-ridden field.
Zach: Yeah we were playing Cricket — this sounds so Australian, doesn’t it? [Billy laughs] ‘Yeah so we’re playing Cricket and Billy gets swooped by a Plover’ [Billy laughs again]. It was mad funny.
Billy: It was sick. Remember that time I got stung by a wasp on my forehead?
Zach: Oh yeah, he got stung by a wasp on his forehead.
On his forehead?
Billy: And then I walked into a wall.
Because of the wasp? Or was it a separate occasion?
Billy: Well no, because I had a big headache, and we were going to the movies. And you know how when you walk into a movie theater you got that little turn?
Billy: I just turned right and walked straight into the wall, I didn’t even see it. It was horrendous.
What about you? [to Zach]
Billy: Oh actually you! We were riding home from the surf, it was freezing cold. And he scraped his toenail… he was riding his bike… and he scraped it. He had thongs [flip-flops] on and it got caught.
Zach: Took a big chunk out of my big toe.
How old were you at the time?
Zach: I don’t know, I was like 14 or 15.
Billy: Pretty young.
Zach: I definitely cried. It hurt so much.
Billy: It’s like when your feet get that cold and anything that touches it stings.
Zach: Yeah and I just took a chunk out of it.
Did it get infected? Were you okay?
Zach: I think I was all right. I just kept surfing everyday, so it just turned into a huge callus [Billy laughs]. It never healed properly because I kept surfing. Stupid idea.
Other than surfing, do you have any hidden talents, passions or hobbies?
Billy: Zach’s really good at sewing.
Zach: Sewing? [Laughs]
What do you sew?
Billy: Hearts back together.
Zach: Yeah, I sew relationships back together [Billy laughs]. I just find people’s long lost brothers — I just got a knack for it.
Billy: He’s gonna start a T.V. show.
Zach: What like Maury or something? [Billy laughs]
Billy: “Time of Your Life” kind of shit.
Zach: I don’t have any hidden talents.
Billy: Yeah no.
Zach: That’s pretty much it, we don’t have any talents. That was the long way around it.
So you guys produced Blend Inn in Seattle. And in “I Wanna Be Everybody” I kind of hear the riff from “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Was that intentional or was it just because you were influenced by where you were at the time?
Zach: I don’t know actually. I just wrote the song, and I was just like ‘ah shit yeah it does.’ It was already written before we even knew we were going to Seattle.
Billy: Yeah ‘cause we hit up John [producer] and we were like, ‘Okay, where do you want to go?’ Because it would just make it easier for him, and he was like, ‘Well I live in Seattle.’ And we were like, “Alright, cool.’ And we rocked out there, and he’s like, ‘Yeah, we’re just going to the studio down the road.’ Not even thinking of it, but it turned out to be that studio and it was like wow. It was just a shock. It kind of just fell into place.
Do you have any other influences on your music?
Billy: I kind of grew up listening to a lot of punk and hardcore. Not so much grunge, I don’t know. Obviously there’s sprinkles of it here and there. Helmet’s sick, they’re from Seattle.
Zach: Yeah I was never really into grunge when I was younger. And then slowly I realized I had to like it.
Billy: It’s hard to avoid if you’re in a band.
Zach: We didn’t specifically go to Seattle or anything trying to make grunge or whatever. It just happened. Look, I’m wearing flannel now. Seattle changed me.
How long were you there making the album?
Zach: We were there for like three weeks.
Billy: Yeah three weeks, a month.
Do you get any breaks when you’re making it?
Zach: It’s much more relaxed than touring.
Billy: Yeah I played drums for like the first three days, and then it’s all Zach. So I sat there for a bit.
Zach: Yeah and then Billy just hung out for a week.
Billy: I just ordered Zach around. I was his supervisor for the week.
Did you sightsee at all?
Billy: Not really, but it’s actually one of the cities that we’ve spent the most time in, so that was pretty cool. We kind of know Seattle a bit better than everywhere else now. Well we know here pretty well, too.
Zach: Yeah we have a soft spot for Seattle now.
Is there any place that you haven’t toured yet that you’d like to go?
Zach: I’d really like to go to South America.
Zach: South America is the next thing.
Billy: South America, Japan.
Zach: Anywhere in Asia really.
Billy: Antarctica as well.
Billy: Santa’s house. We’d go to Santa land.
Zach: Well he’s above Alaska probably.
Billy: We could start in Alaska and then end up at his house. We’ll stay at his house.
You know a friend in Alaska? [At this point, I did not know they had said Santa]
Billy: Yeah Santa [Laughs].
Wait, did you say Santa?
Billy: Yeah [Laughs].
I couldn’t hear what you said.
Zach: No Sandy. Sandy.
Could you talk a little about the Australian music scene?
Billy: At the moment there’s definitely more guitar bands going, which is sick ‘cause if you rewind like five to 10 years ago — there’s always guitar bands, but I think today is a bit more prevalent in that kind of scene. Which is sick because there’s so many bands coming out in Australia, which is awesome. I guess the main thing is we’re all good friends, too. Everyone that we play with at home — even tonight there’s Alex Lahey and Gordi. They’re from Australia.
Zach: Yeah that was Alex Lahey who just came in and was like, “Oh hey what’s up?’ We run into Australians heaps here. Everyone sort of knows each other.
That’s nice. So there’s no competition between you guys?
Billy: Yeah that’s it, exactly.
Zach: It’s just friendly competition.
So I know we talked a little bit about music before, but what was your favorite childhood album? What did you listen to when you were younger?
Zach: When I was really young I used to like this Paul Kelly album. I can’t remember what it’s called. It was this one Paul Kelly album, and it had this really weird cover. And I would just always play that.
Billy: Yeah that’s sick.
Zach: And then when I was 15 or 16 that was when I really started liking stuff, but it was everything at once.
Billy: As a mutual one, I think Humbug by Arctic Monkeys — that was massive.
Zach: Yeah I can recite like every single part of that album and play most of it every time.
Would you ever cover that in concert?
Billy: We have.
Zach: We’d love to, but we haven’t done anything off that album.
Billy: No, not us, but in our old band.
Zach: Yeah in our old band. Maybe we could do one, I don’t know.
Billy: I wouldn’t mind doing that one with the skits drums [Makes drum noises].
Zach: Oh yeah that’s hard. Very hard to play.
Billy: Especially with two people. We’ll work on it.
Any other bands?
Billy: [To Zach] You really like The Beautiful Girls, hey.
Zach: [Laughs] No.
Billy: Jack Johnson?
Zach: Yeah, I like Jack Johnson.
If you weren’t doing music what would you be doing?
Billy: Zach’s favorite quote is getting an apprenticeship and being a laborer or something.
Zach: Yeah, I’d be doing manual labor because I’m not really good at anything else. I’m not that good at manual labor really [Billy laughs]. Yeah I’d definitely be doing that unfortunately.
What about you? [To Billy]
Billy: Just studying art like every other person in the world. Trying to scrape up an art job somewhere.
Zach: Yeah I’d probably be just a roadie.
Billy: Still working at Dan’s [band manager] bar.
Zach: Can’t get me off the road, man [They both laugh].
Billy: Yeah that’s probably it. I can’t really think of anything else we’d be doing. Still surfing. We’d be home more, that’d be nice.
When you’re on tour do you try to surf as much as possible?
Billy: We have tried. We’ve only been lucky a few times because it’s kind of hard to get a board or like equipment anywhere. In New Zealand we surfed, and we surfed once in Florida.
Really, in Florida?
Zach: Yeah it wasn’t very good.
Billy: Well it wasn’t really that good in New Zealand. It was still sick. Just to get in the ocean, really. That’s usually our hangover cure at home. Just go for a swim, but because we can’t even do that — it’s such a difference being on the road. We always love just going home. It’s probably the first thing I do every time I come home from overseas. Just walk straight out to the beach.
No matter how tired you are?
Billy: Yeah, exactly.
So what’s the future for you guys? Making a new album soon?
Zach: I guess that’s the next thing, yeah.
Billy: Pretty much. We’re just going to stop touring for a second. We’ve been touring all year since like February. We’ll go home for like three weeks now, so maybe we’ll squeeze out something then. We’ll definitely have to take a month off at some point. And get to work, I think.
Gotta make that country album.
Billy: That’s it.
Billy: It’s not going to fall in our lap, is it?
Zach: No it takes hard work, country music [Billy laughs].
Thanks so much for talking with me! Good luck with the rest of the tour.