Ha Ha Tonka

Bonfire Presents:

Ha Ha Tonka

Trapper Schoepp

Sat, June 10, 2017

8:30 pm

$12.00 - $14.00

This event is 21 and over

Ha Ha Tonka
Ha Ha Tonka
A week into recording their fifth album Heart-Shaped Mountain, Ha Ha Tonka was forced to start over. A massive hardware crash at the studio deleted everything. Following a wave of shock, the band regrouped and refocused, trying different approaches to song structures that they otherwise wouldn’t have, and made a resilient album of positivity and triumphant effervescence. After all, music has the power to overcome.

At its core, Heart-Shaped Mountain is an album about love and growth. At a time when divisiveness fills the headlines, Ha Ha Tonka is fighting the good fight and building narrative tributes to friends and loved ones, memories past, and prospects of the future. They five-part harmonize on intimate familiarities – the nascent stages of relationships, deep and lasting bonds, maturation, fear and loss. This is a call to pause and glance back, inhale inspiration, and forge ahead with renewed purpose.

On Heart-Shaped Mountain the quintet expands their creative palette. Once aptly summed as “indie-Americana, where Alabama meets Arcade Fire,” Ha Ha Tonka unveils balanced, sublime, pop radio-accessible heights and an emotionally broader, post-punk songwriting range, a la early Delta Spirit or a less enigmatic Jónsi. This isn’t a betrayal of their discography, though. Rather, Ha Ha Tonka treks to new vistas, crosses uncharted ridges, and unfurls their flag with the confidence and excitement that comes from exploration.

Few craft ear-worming melodies like singer/guitarist Brian Roberts and guitarist/singer Brett Anderson. “The Party” is anchored with a bright, whistled hook and a lingering sequence of notes, reflecting the song’s lament (“Why do we always seem to be the last ones here at the party”). 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.

In “Everything,” the intro and choruses are conspicuously optimistic, with a chest-expanding joy tailor-made for the opening credits of any Pixar movie ever made. The verses – replete with galloping snare and foggy keyboards – mingle landscapes from Tom Petty’s earnest heartlands and Jeff Lynne’s complex stratospheres. The song delves into vivid-but-dust gathering memories of fond days past (“fireworks show on the fourth of July… meeting your daughter for the very first time”) only to reinforce the guiding mantra of the future (“I hope it was everything you thought it would be”).

Along the journey there are moments of nostalgia and indie rock balladry, like on “Race to the Bottom,” which brings to mind a Midwestern incarnation of TV on the Radio. “All with You” brings together HHT’s signature acoustic instrumentation with atmospheric synth out of the Phosphorescent handbook. Deeper within there’s Southern rock and jangly revelry (“Arkansas”), and signature, bigger-than-life Tonk (“Height of My Fears”). Experiences and textures blend together and stack up like the pages of a book. If you take the analogy further, this is their autobiographical magnum opus.

Ha Ha Tonka formed in 2004, when four friends from the Ozarks of Missouri started playing music together. They recorded four critically acclaimed albums, played Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits, and appeared on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. Through it all, the individuals made friends, found love, some members got married, some had kids. Especially now, there’s a maturity in being able to assess life’s scenery and look toward the future. And there’s something altogether more powerful in making others want to feel the same exact way. After all, Heart-Shaped Mountain has the power to overcome.
Trapper Schoepp
Trapper Schoepp
Trapper Schoepp is a young man who’s befriended a strange and diverse cast of characters during his 25 years. That small army of rogues and rebels, drifters and dreamers, soldiers and schemers populate his songs, their tragedies and comedies, their lives and deaths recalled in his finely etched musical vignettes. 

The Minnesota-born, Wisconsin-based tunesmith and teller of tales (both tall and true), returns with his second effort Rangers & Valentines (Xtra Mile Recordings). The record follows his critically acclaimed 2012 debut Run Engine, Run, with his band the Shades. That LP earned notices in Rolling Stone, American Songwriter and Paste, with the folks at Huffington Post calling him a “master storyteller” and PBS hailing his "story songs that explore and explode the conventions of rock and roll."

On Rangers & Valentines, Schoepp defies the limitations of the standard-issue Americana platter, hopping genres – you’ll hear lots of brass, backing singers and B-3 -- as the songs build to delirious musical highs. His narratives, meanwhile, find subjects in the narrow margins of society, the strange twists (literal and metaphorical) in the weather, and the vagaries of a troubadour’s transient life – with lyrics that flash a lacerating wit and humanist streak that’s at the core of his craft. 

Produced by pop polymath and Raconteurs member Brendan Benson at his Readymade Studios in Nashville, the record finds Schoepp handling vocals, guitar and harmonica. He’s aided by an array of estimable musicians including his brother and musical-foil-since-birth Tanner Schoepp (providing bass guitar and vocal harmonies), Steve Selvidge (The Hold Steady), John Davis (Superdrag), the McCrary Sisters -- even comedian and WTF podcaster Marc Maron chips in on background vocals and lead guitar. 

Schoepp shines up the well-worn clichés of singer-songwriterdom and renders them anew. Evoking a series of vivid protagonists and settings (fittingly, each track will have its own accompanying video, solidifying the cinematic quality of this set) his work variously recalls prime Prine (John, that is), the nuances of Newman (Randy, of course), the boozy bonhomie of The Replacements, and the unflinching language of someone well-versed in the Zevonian dialect. 

Schoepp mixes fact and family lore to conjure the hardscrabble history “Ballad of Olof Johnson” and chides modern-day wannabes on “Lost Cowboy.” The road story “Ogalalla” answers the question: what happens to your mind when you’re snowbound in Nebraska with nothing but a bottle of Nyquil and The Hobbit at the local picture show for company? Meanwhile, the arch love song satire “Talking Girlfriend Blues” deftly explains how to preserve your dignity while hitchhiking to a date – and what to do when your ride turns out to have eyes for the same girl.

Elsewhere, ”Don't Go" offers a poetic post-9/11 story of love and war; while “Settlin’ or Sleepin’ Around" questions modern-day swipe right, hook up culture. Schoepp continues his affinity for songs set in hospitals with "Mono Pt. II" – which explores the kissing disease and the institutional runaround of health care in America (unfortunately a familiar subject for the young man). And he pays tribute to old friends and outsized characters with “For Jonny” (dedicated to his longtime drummer Jonny Philip) and the heart-rending requiem “Dream.” 

Having released his debut on SideOneDummy, Rangers & Valentines is being put out by London-based Xtra Mile Recordings. Hipped to Schoepp’s work by fellow singer-songwriter Frank Turner, among others, Xtra Mile honcho Charlie Caplowe quickly signed him to the label. 

Schoepp – who’s already crisscrossed the country sharing stages with fellow travelers like The Wallflowers, The Jayhawks and Old 97's – will be back on the road throughout 2016 in support of Ranger & Valentines, starting with a 3-week run throughout the UK and Europe supporting Jesse Malin and a month around the USA with labelmates Skinny Lister. 

Like the album, it’ll be another opportunity to catch a young journeyman at work.
Venue Information:
MilkBoy
1100 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19107