Ha Ha Tonka * Antennas Up
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Antennas Up is a band that lives where high-tech audio meets organic, honest songwriting. Formed in 2008, with a sound that uses vocoder, synths, computers, and guitar effects and is often compared to iconic pop bands like Phoenix and OK Go, the Kansas City foursome deliver songs with high-energy hooks and soul-bearing twists on the human experience of clumsy moments and broken relationships. Nowhere is that more evident than on their newest LP The Awkward Phase due out May 15th, 2012.
Written primarily in a cabin in the woods of Maine, where the band spent a month in total isolation during the summer of 2010, the album reflects their deep pool of musical influences and talents. The Awkward Phase is filled with the band's signature guitar riffs, dance beats and the perfect dose of post-new-wave spontaneity. The layers beneath are the album's flesh and bones- slow-simmering gems and lyrics that are thoughtful, probing x-rays about transition and heartache.
Blues-infused "Untitled (How Will I Know)" for example, is unanimously a band favorite and a showstopper in live performance as it builds to anthem-like crescendos and vocal peaks and valleys. "It was the first song I felt I could sing with fresh, new emotion," says Kyle, "We all wrote it together in the same room and it's now become a snapshot of our whole Maine experience."
"We like the word 'clumsy' a lot," he laughs. "Awkward phases, clumsy moments-the album title is definitely a double metaphor for us: the awkwardness of new relationships and the process of moving into new territory as a band," he adds.
Territory that included a new role for Kyle-taking over lead vocals following the abrupt departure of the band's original lead singer on the eve of their first album release. Shortly after the dust settled, band members Bo McCall and 'The Ryantist' convinced Kyle he was ready to step up and take over the band's vocal responsibilities. "It was a process--switching from bass and backing vocals to being the lead singer," he says. "I had always been the 'voice' of the band, but never the singer which was kind of weird. It was not a job I asked for, but I couldn't let everything we'd worked so hard for just end. So I practiced, and we took the new show on the road." The new road show included an official showcase at SXSW, performances at over 30 colleges and universities and sharing the stage with the likes of Girl Talk, Electric Six, Flogging Molly, Matt & Kim, Ha Ha Tonka, Via Audio, The Constellations and Company Of Thieves.
Writing music for a new singer also required a new strategy, which led the band to their month in Maine. "I think we grew as individual songwriters; players and more importantly we grew as a group-learning how to collaborate and cooperate on the process," says Kyle. "Even better, now that we've gone through The Awkward Phase, the next album can come faster and stronger."
2012 promises to be a major year for the band. Following the album release, Antennas Up will once again hit the road with solid touring, festival appearances, and a major radio campaign. Their music is featured in the upcoming films "Corporate FM" and "Falling Overnight" along with commercials for the Buckle clothing line.
"The Awkward Phase" is produced by Antennas Up
Engineered by The Ryantist (coproducer and engineer Ha Ha Tonka 'Death Of A Decade', Antennas Up 'Antennas Up')
Mixed by Mike Cresswell (mixing engineer - Lyrics Borne, Blackalicious, General Elektriks, Honeycut)
Mastered by Bob Power (engineer and producer - Common, Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, Citizen Cope)
Antennas Up is:
Lead Vocals/Bass: Kyle Akers
Guitar/Vocals: Bo McCall
Guitar/Keys/Vocals: Jon Ulasien
Written by Holly Garman
Roaring out of the Ozarks with a bottle in one hand and a bible in the other, Ha Ha Tonka mix sanctified four-part
harmonies and blistering rock, carving out songs that evoke the dichotomies that define their home. Their dark view
of the realities of socio-economic hardship, backwoods prejudices and drug abuse is leavened by wry humor and a
deep appreciation for regional storytelling traditions. Coming straight out of Springfield, MO., Ha Ha Tonka
specialize in disarming and effortless anthems that owe as much to high and lonesome Ozarks mountain music as
chugging college rock.
Ha Ha Tonka? What the hell could that name possibly mean? It's a nod to the boys' Ozark pride. It's the name of a
state park in southwestern Missouri, full of natural bridges, sandstone cliffs, caves and a castle. That's right, a
castle. Some crackpot rich guy built himself a Scottish style castle around 1900. It burned down, but the ruins are
still an attraction. Thus, Ha Ha Tonka want you all to know there is more to their home stomping grounds than
Branson, walnut bowl outlet stores and Jesse James' hideout.
The band released its Bloodshot debut, Buckle in the Bible Belt, to much acclaim in 2007, gaining praise from
glossies like PASTE and Spin, and taste-making radio stations like KEXP. At years end, Popmatters Magazine
named Buckle in the Bible Belt one of the best albums of 2007 (In fact, Buckle was ranked #15 for the year, pulling
ahead of those lauded indie rockers, Spoon. Ha Ha Tonka was also a featured performer at the 2008 Lollapalooza
and Sundance Film festivals, and toured the US with Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, The Meat Puppets
and Old 97's.
In June of 2009, Ha Ha Tonka release the much-anticipated follow-up record, Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South.
The new album quickly garnered amazing press and radio attention. The band released three singles, “Walking on
the Devil’s Backbone” and “Hold Your Feet to The Fire” and “Close Every Valve to Your Bleeding Heart”. The new
album is available on iTunes, Amazon and your favorite local indie CD retailer. The band tours the US constantly
and will be heading out on a headline tour for most of spring 2010 as well as attending the SXSW Music Festival,
several dates with Cross Canadian Ragweed and stops at multiple colleges along the way. Tour dates will be
posted on all of the bands websites.
"Novel Sounds is violent, literate, unapologetic Southern rock. With its angelic organ and snarling guitars, "The
Outpouring" conjures the Allmans, "Hold My Feet to the Fire" drops gospel harmonies over a boogie-woogie
backbeat, and the fingerpicked "Close Every Valve to Your Bleeding Heart" builds from tender to raging without a
-David Peisner, SPIN (June 2009)
"(Novel Sounds) Occupies the sweet spot between country and indie, writing ornery songs with big hooks. Listen if
you want your alt country to be heavy on the alt."
-J. Edward Keyes, RollingStone.com (May 2009)
"...in crafting a more challenging album—a more mature album—Ha Ha Tonka have, against the odds, crafted a
much better album, too. Novel sounds, indeed."
-PopMatters (June 2009)
"With feet to the fire and one blind eye, they divine rough, chunky truths on their sophomore album, Novel Songs of
the Nouveau South, letting churchy harmonies and bad boy rock attitude commingle around the holy water they've
"Ha Ha Tonka perfects power-chill in its second installment, Novel Songs of the Nouveau South...It's indie rock
from the heartland; the spirit of the back-country with a peppy snare and some serious guitar."
"These Missouri natives have a natural way with a pop hook and instinctive feeling for myriad forms of Southern
music...Ha Ha Tonka is truly one of the best young bands in America."
"What sets the band apart is the fact that you just don't care how familiar it may all ultimately sound, as just about
every track on the group's new Novel Songs of the Nouveau South hits it out of the park"
-Time Out Chicagotraditions. -from the bands website