The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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July 6, 2012

Natural sound: Ha Ha Tonka earns nationwide buzz with Ozarks influence

JOPLIN, Mo. — Ha Ha Tonka State Park, near Camdenton, Mo, is infused with the characteristics of the Ozarks, from forests to caves and everything in between. People familiar with the state park, for which a Springfield indie-rock band is named, don’t have to look too far to see that.

The band released its third album, “Death of a Decade,” last year and is currently on tour to promote it. It will play Saturday at the Kitchen Pass, 1212 South Main St.

That album was recorded in a New Paltz, N.Y. barn and mixed in Kansas City. The band recently signed with Bloodshot Records, based in Chicago, and is getting buzz across the nation, including good reviews from the Washington Post and the Huffington Post, and was featured in an episode of “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.”

The Springfield-based band, made up of Brett Anderson (keyboard, guitar and vocals), Lennon Bone (drums and vocals), Brian Roberts (guitar and vocals), and Luke Long (bass and vocals), draws on many different tastes. Their inspiration comes from all angles, Brett Anderson said.

“We get compared a lot to the ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’ soundtrack mixed with indie rock music and southern rock country vibe,” Anderson said.

All four band members grew up in Missouri. Although band members drew inspiration from different genres, they found themselves blending gospel and bluegrass Ñ elements of their Missouri roots Ñ into the band’s sound, Anderson said. It all started on the Missouri State University campus.

“I met Brian (Roberts) in college at MSU and we all got togther in Springfield and decided to try playing some music,” he said. “It so happened that it worked out, and  we named it Ha Ha Tonka.”

The band decided on the peculiar sounding name from their visits to the state park near Camdenton while growing up and thought the name represented Missouri well. It also gave the band members an opportunity to tell listeners more about Missouri and the area where they grew up.

“People are curious about the name and have no idea what it means,” he said, explaining the natural curiosity the band has received while on the road.

The same luck or serendipity that Anderson said brought band members together is what keeps them going.

“There’s a lot of luck involved with being in a band,” he said. “You have to sit down and realize that you may not make a lot of money for a couple of years. It’s hard on relationships and also ... being able to write a specific style of song and music.”

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