Interview with ADDISON AXE from THE TOMMYHAWKS
The Tommyhawks are a band from Perth, Western Australia and formed four years ago. They are a staple on the Perth scene and have even opened for Courtney Love when she toured. Karen Lowe spoke to Addison about the new EP This Is Not A Desert Island, Ben Elton and her stint at playing AFL for the first time ever.
You guys have just released a new video, Summertime. Who came up with the inspiration for the 360° clip and did you have fun filming?
It was actually Arlo, who directed all our other clips, it was his idea for us to try doing a 360-degree video and then us as a band came up with the concepts of the four seasons around a room and did the rest ourselves. We had an amazingly fun time filming it.
We had to do it all in one take because it made such a mess. It was complete chaos. Worth it.
You guys are currently on tour for your EP. How are the shows going so far?
We’ve actually only done one show. We did Brisbane which was good. We’ve got Melbourne tonight which we are really, really excited about.
And you’ve got Frankie’s on the weekend as well?
After tonight, we have to get up early and drive all the way to Sydney tomorrow which is gonna be hectic. Then we play Sydney on Saturday and then we come back and finish off the tour in Perth.
How did the recording of the EP go? Are you happy with how it sounds?
So we recorded it with Dave Parkin, who we did the last two EP’s with, and we absolutely love working with him. He’s kinda like one of the gang. It was really smooth. There was one song we had to actually record twice, because we got all in a pickle in our heads about it and then ended up using the first recording anyway.
That was the only slightly rocky bit of the whole process, but apart from that, each time we go into the studio, everything is sort of easier than the time before because we know what we’re doing, we’ve practised a bit better, played more shows and we know each other better. It was a really, really fun experience.
…I’m really liking it. It’s going to sound really good live as well.
That’s the exciting thing now, having recorded the songs – actually getting out and playing them live. Before we record a song, we like to play it live lots as much as we can so that we really lock in our parts. We get it tight and what the right tempo and feel is but once we’ve recorded it, it’s amazing how many things we sort of change.
It’s like we always have to go back into the rehearsal room to re-rehearse and kind of re-put the song together to do it again. It’s kinda cool, because it gives us fresh outlook to the songs as well.
Your song New Friends will be featured in a new Ben Elton film, Three Summers. How did that come about and are you excited about it?
Yeah, it was really because we played at Fairbridge festival which is where the movie was shot. It was just a case of being in the right place at the right time and they were shooting while we were playing live which is how they sort of came across us I suppose and then they decided to use one of the songs on the soundtrack which is great. I think it’s at the end of the movie during the titles and also in the movie somewhere but I’m not sure because I haven’t seen it yet.
I’ve seen the trailer for it and it looks like it’s gonna be a really, really funny movie. Especially for Perth people because it’s all set in Fairbridge.
You guys have played at quite a few festivals over the years now. What have been some of your favourite so far?
Okay so one of my favourite festivals probably was Jungle Love which was in Queensland and it basically is a festival in a jungle. It all takes place over this amazing river and they have giant inflatables of all kinds. Any kind of inflatable thing you can possibly imagine is in that river and you can just jump on an inflatable thing and just drift out on the river.
It’s really not like anything else. So that would definitely be up there for experiences but in terms of actual festivals and the playing itself, I reckon Fairbridge is probably my favourite. Nice and local.
It’s such a great vibe. It just attracts such a diverse crowd in terms of ages. You’ve got very small children and old people and everyone in between and there’s kind of something for everyone and it doesn’t feel like any one group dominates anyone else. It’s just everyone is there to have a good time. It’s lovely.
What is one festival that you haven’t played at yet that you would love the opportunity?
I don’t know if I can answer that question. The instinct is to say some of the really big ones I guess but I think maybe in terms of going to festivals as a music fan, I by far, prefer the smaller, more intimate festivals. Your Wave Rock’s and your Jungle Love’s.
That is a question we have never been asked so I’m gonna have to think about that some more.
You just helped the Bandgropers with their third win against the Newshounds for the Reclink Community Cup. For an English lass, how did you go playing AFL?
I think for anyone who saw the match, I can’t pretend that I was any good. I had never played football and I didn’t know the rules or anything before. When we were headed down south for one of the shows, everyone in the car was trying to explain to me what the rules were – particularly Ness, who actually has a lot of knowledge where football is concerned.
When we actually got to the next venue, there was footy on the TV and I got stuck in and watched the match. I bought a football and then went to the park and there was a 7-year old there who basically taught me how to kick a ball. So thanks to him, I didn’t make too much of a fool of myself.
I did spend quite a lot of the game on the ground, I’m not gonna lie. It was great fun! It’s such an awesome idea and such a cool day and it was great to hang out with people that you hang out with at gigs all the time but never see outside of the gig environment…it’s a lovely day.
How does touring go with the girls? What music do you all love to listen to while in the van for ages?
The music that we listen to in the van is probably the main source of conflict within the band. We have very different tastes in music and the general rule is whoever is driving gets the final say and whoever sits next to the driver is the DJ.
So when Ness is driving we listen to her iPod and I’m allowed to choose anything from that. When Thea’s driving, we listen to her iPhone and I’m allowed to choose anything from that because I’m always the passenger you see.
Jess spends the entire journey trying to get us to listen to Rival Sons and we say no. Poor Jess, she’s never in the driver’s seat and she’s never in the passenger’s seat. She’s always squeezed in the back. She never gets a say.
We’ve heard a lot of Rival Sons in our time because that’s her favourite band. They’re not a bad band at all but I think we just all got completely overwhelmed with them in the first few months of knowing Jess.
You have played many shows – what has been your worst show and your best show?
For me, our best show tends to be Freo shows. The Odd Fellow has been such a wicked venue for us, they’ve always been nothing but supportive. They’ve always given us dates that we want and they are just so lovely. All the bar staff wear our T-shirts and they’ve made that place really kind of feel like home. Last time we played, they made a Tommyhawks cocktail for the night.
Every time we play there, we just have an absolute ball and because, you know, being from Freo as well, we’ve been having a lot of the same people come down for the last couple of years and bringing more and more of their mates. It’s so nice to play to people who really know the songs from the records because they’ve been listening to them so I would say that those shows are my favourite.
The cool thing is we’re actually playing there on New Year’s Eve this year so that’s gonna be pretty exciting.
In terms of worst shows, let me have a think. We had quite a hard show on Friday night because we had to play for three hours from 11:30 until 2:30 with no sound-check. That was pretty tough but I wouldn’t say it was a bad experience. It just really did feel like hard work.
Have you guys encountered many strange/crazy fans while touring?
I don’t want to say anything in case they read this interview. I’ll just answer that with a yes.
As a band, what has been your biggest challenge so far and how have you overcome it?
I think probably for all Perth bands the biggest challenge is getting over to the east coast often enough because touring is so expensive and it’s such a long way. You can’t really do it without either getting on a plane or taking two weeks off work just simply to get there.
So, the way that we’ve overcome that is through playing festivals here which is a really good way to get paid and play to an audience before you really have your own fans.
Since we formed, which actually is coming up to four years ago; we’ve been coming over for festivals here three or four times a year. When we started coming over, no one knew us. It was just really the luck of the festival bookers putting a chance on us so we had the opportunity to just play to an audience that happened to be there.
That was the thing that had made it possible for us to now come and tour here off our own backs.
Today is R U Ok Day in Australia where it’s encouraged to speak about depression, to ask others how they are going etc. Is that something that you have experienced? And if so, how have you beaten it?
I didn’t actually know that and that’s really cool that there’s a day for that.
I think the last couple of years have actually been really tough for me on a mental health level and I think the way, for me, a massive thing has been not hiding it because there is a stigma attached and always has been.
In fact, your friends are never going to judge you and there’s nothing worse than trying to pretend that you’re okay when you’re not.
For me, the big transition was just telling everyone that I have anxiety or panic attacks or that I don’t feel good. Then it’s like almost the worst bit is over which is the embarrassment of it or feeling alone and all that kind of stuff.
The other thing for me is writing songs. I suppose it’s like the way of trying to understand what’s going on in your head. It’s very frustrating – feeling so out of control of your own state of mind and I think having a creative outlet is at least, if it doesn’t answer those questions, it at least gives you a place to let the frustration out.
That’s one reason why I’m so into my music as well. It all helps.
It really does and if you find those songs or those albums that make you feel better, that can also have a tremendous impact on a bad day.
You would have seen a lot of crazy things happening on tour. What are some of the crazier things that you have seen?
I would say Jess, our drummer. She’s always the craziest thing that happens on any tour and you’ll never be able to predict what happens but it’s always funny and it’s always crazy. She’s a legend. She makes touring so much fun.
She’s like a touring hero and we’re very lucky to have her in our band.
The Tommyhawks supported Courtney Love when she toured a couple of years ago. How did that go? Did you get to meet her?
That was actually an awesome show for us to have at the time because it was really early days for us and to get out in front of not just a really big audience but a really big audience who are essentially into the kind of music that we’re playing was really awesome.
We did sort of vaguely meet her backstage, but I don’t have a good story about it I’m afraid.
If you could collaborate with any musician in the world, who would you love to work with?
That’s a difficult one because if it was someone that I loved too much, I actually wouldn’t want to meet them in case they were a disappointment.
Who would I want to collaborate with most in the entire world? My band mates. Ness, Thea and Jess. That’s who I would most like to collaborate with so I’m a very lucky person.
Check out Karen Lowe’s gallery of this show HERE