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Touring Europe with Ha Ha Tonka: An interview with Lennon Bone





Touring Europe with Ha Ha Tonka: An interview with Lennon Bone

 
The last time we caught up with Lennon Bone, he was getting ready to embark on Ha Ha Tonka’s first European tour (see our interview with him). Now the group has just come off its second European tour (literally—they just returned to the US today), which has proven to be successful. Ha Ha Tonka has also been busy at work on a follow-up album to its critically-acclaimed 2011 LP Death of A Decade. Read on to find out more about their travels and what they have in the works.
 
The Deli: Where in Europe have you toured?
 
Lennon Bone: We started out in Prague, went through Germany, the UK, The Netherlands, Ireland, Norway, and Sweden to go. 6 weeks total. 
 
The Deli: Coolest place you visited?
 
Bone: Prague and Dresden are the most beautiful places I've ever seen. So old and amazing. The architecture is so spectacular, it's like being in a book or something. Not to mention all the history that you hear about, but becomes so much more apparent when you actually see things like soot on buildings from where they were bombed, or gold placards on the footsteps of doors that show when a Jew was ejected from their apartment building. It's pretty intense stuff. 
 
Hamburg is the most fun city we've been in, I think. We saw the sun rise two days in a row and the people weren't even close to done partying. To list a few of the events we saw take place: a drunk Brit stripped down to his underwear and jumped off his party barge and had to be rescued before he drowned; someone actually died just before the show right next door to the venue we played; we saw a ton of prostitutes next to Burger King; we chased down a guy that stole some girl’s phone, and just had an absolute blast. It was a wild couple of days. 
 
The Deli: What's the most fun venue you've played so far?
 
Bone: Hmmm.... that's a tough one. The most fun venue would probably have been in London, for me. Great crowd, pretty packed and it was a Tuesday night. Over 100 different bourbons to try. Plus we got fed by some friends that work at a restaurant called River Cafe the night before. To give you an idea of how posh this place is, Elton John is doing a private event there next month and dudes like Bono and Chris Martin frequent the restaurant. 
 
The Deli: How have these European tours changed your perspectives as a band?
 
Bone: I think it's made us reevaluate our plan as a business. We see the potential in all of these new markets, and have an opportunity to break out somewhere besides the States, which can also help our draw within the States. 7 months ago we were arguing whether or not we would even be able to do a European tour, and now we've spent 3 months there in that time. 
 
As far as our relationships, it helps keep us all positive to do new things. We've toured the States so much in the past 8 years that we recognize gas stations from coast to coast.... it's revitalizing to see new territory and even get lost now and again. 
 
The Deli: What's changed and what have you learned since your first European tour?
 
Bone: We learned a LOT about how to save money from really screwing up on the last one. Everything from getting cheaper ferry rides to buying water at a grocery store (at a gas station it's 2 euro 60 per small bottle... You can get 8 liters for the same price at a store) and recycling the bottles (Bottles are worth .25 each). 
 
We've seen some markets like London and Ireland grow exponentially, which is great. We had two pre-sold out shows in Ireland. I think they were sold out almost 3 weeks in advance, one of them around 6 weeks out. So, we're seeing that things could go really well if we treat it all correctly. 
 
The Deli: How have crowds responded to the music? Do you plan to go back?
 
Bone: Crowd reception has been great! Even at the smaller shows, people seem to get rowdy and be really appreciative of us coming over here to play for them. We're already making plans to come back next year.
 
The Deli: There are a lot of bands that have pipe dreams about going on an overseas tour. What is your best advice to any KC band looking to do this?
 
Bone: My best advice would be to tour the States relentlessly before going anywhere else. We've been touring nationally for nearly 9 years now, and if we didn't have the knowledge we've learned from being on the road at home, we could have easily lost so much money being in Europe. I mean, we lost some money on the first trip anyway. It's just really expensive to make it happen. Promoters over there actually do their job as well. One of our booking agents is so committed to knowing how things are going that he's jumping in the van with us for a week. That being said, if we didn't have the tour history at home that has also brought us press that they can see, we wouldn't be having this amount of interest here… at least I don't think. If you want to tour and have it be successful, you just have to know how to tour, period. It's much cheaper to get your feet wet in the States before possibly losing your ass overseas. On the other hand, if you just want to take a vacation and play some shows, go ahead and book your tickets. Just like anywhere else, I'm sure you could find some places to play. It's really just about what your goals are. 
 
The Deli: Tell us a bit about the album you're currently working on. What can we expect?
 
Bone: The album is officially done, and we've never been so excited about something that we've made. It's still totally us, but it's like the Tonka we've always wanted to be, if that makes any sense. It was produced by Dan Molad out of Brooklyn and The Ryantist from here in Kansas City. In my opinion, two of the best producers that nobody's really heard of. Yet. I'm not saying our record is their ticket, I'm just saying that these guys were my personal first pick from day one because they're outstanding at their jobs. We've grown enough as a band that we were ready to really include the producer in the role of constructing and rethinking the songs, and Dan and The Ryantist really helped bring them to life in a way we never expected. 
 
We recorded the bulk of the album in Omaha where they did all the Bright Eyes and Monsters of Folk records. The whole team is basically the same age, and we're used to working with producers that are older than us. For me it really felt like we were the junior high kids trying to show up the high schoolers. We just had all these mics and snare drums and shit everywhere in the room. Double-necked guitars, synths, organs, whatever... and we just had the best time making an album. We went back to recording live, so all the basics are the four of us (or sometimes the producers would just hit record and join us in the room to play other things) playing together. It just feels good to me. I can't wait for people to hear it. 
 
We're planning on a fall release. We’ll take off after this next US tour for a few months and get all the logistics of the new album worked out so we can start a full nationwide tour at the end of September.
 
The boys will be returning to the mainland and playing in Kansas City on Friday, June 14. They’ll be supporting Reverend Horton Heat at CrossroadsKC at Grinder’s. After that, they’ll head on a short US tour with Someone Still Loves You, Boris Yeltsin. Visit the band’s website to see the rest of the US tour dates.

(Photo by Todd Zimmer)

--Michelle Bacon

Michelle is editor of The Deli Magazine - Kansas City, and also holds down half the rhythm section in Drew Black & Dirty Electric and Dolls on Fire. Her?

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