Ha Ha Tonka

Lennon Bone, Brett Anderson, Brian Roberts, Luke Long

Harmony-led folk rock four-piece originating from Missouri, now signed to Chicago’s Bloodshot Records. Discography to date includes Sit n Bitch (2003 EP), Beatchen, (2003), Buckle In The Bible Belt (2006), Novel Sounds Of The Nouveau South (2009), Death Of A Decade (2011) and Lessons (2013). 

In 2001 two friends from West Plains, Missouri – Brian Roberts and Luke Long, both attending the same college – formed a group called Amsterband, soon going on to recruit drummer Robert Mueller. Mueller would be replaced by Lennon Bone in 2004, and the year before that saw the group add Brett Anderson (not the chap from Suede) to their roster. “Three of us (Lennon, Luke, and myself) grew up in a small Missouri town (West Plains) together,” Brian says. “We met Brett in college at Southwest Missouri State University. Brett brings the melody. Lennon brings the talent. Luke brings the looks. And I bring up the back.

Musical influences were present from a very young age, as Brian explains, listing “REM, Paul Simon, 80s country & bluegrass” as the defining acts which led him to create a sound he describes as “O Brother Where Art Thou? meets indie rock.”

After a set of initial releases under the name Amsterband, 2007 saw a name change: the group now called themselves Ha Ha Tonka, after Ha Ha Tonka State Park in their native Missouri. The name change seemed to add a new momentum - they played at Lollapalooza 2008, and have also made live appearances alongside Old 97s, Murder By Death, Langhorne Slim, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Someone Still Loves You, Boris Yeltsin, Ludo, Meat Puppets and more.

“Our one goal has always been to continually improve,” Brian says, “both as individual musicians and as a band, so hopefully we've accomplished that. I'd like to think we've also sharpened our songwriting and become better performers over the years. Proudest moment probably came with the release of our third album, Death of a Decade. It charted on the Billboard Top 200 and that's something I don't think any of us thought possible for a little band from the Ozarks. In the early days, we got a lot of experience playing to empty rooms and they'd probably all rank about the same in level of weakness.”

And who do they see as their contemporaries right now? “This is a tough question, because I don't want to act like we're bigger than we are or put us on a level we're not. Some of the bands I'm about to name are higher on the ladder of rock, but we're friends with them, tour with a lot of them and look up to all of them - Big Smith, SSLYBY, Murder by Death, Old 97s, Cloud Cult, J. Roddy Walston and the Business, Langhorne Slim ... just to name a few.”


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