Interview with Hockey Dad

Zach Stephenson (left) and Billy Fleming (right) of Hockey Dad

We jumped on Zoom with our new friends from down under, the Australian-based rock band Hockey Dad! We discussed toilet spiders, Bucee’s, and appreciating the lifestyle being a full-time musician offers you. Interview done with Billy Fleming (drums/vocals) and Zach Stephenson (guitar/vocals).

When you’re on tour, what’s your go-to gas station order?

Zach: It’s hard to remember! I haven’t been to a gas station in like a year and a half.

Billy: Depending on what time it is, like if we’re midday before the show, and I just want a little booster before the show starts, A Redbull, and a Caramello Koala or a Caramello. That’s my go to little pick me up. I’m not sure in terms of actual American food, I just go for the most Australian thing.

Zach: I always go hot Cheetos, like the Flaming Hot Cheetos, and like a Perrier, like a sparkling water. For a long drive, that’s me.

Billy: The difference between a snack and a long drive would definitely be the Cheetos.

Zach: I don’t really trust the hot food at a gas station, I’ll stay away from it. Packaged only.

Billy: Or when you get those monstrous big old trucker cups, they’re fun.

Zach: Ah yes, the double gulps. But then you have to pee every half hour when you’re on the road, and nobody likes that.

Billy: They’re pretty glorified, but the Buccee’s food I’ll go for. They’re pretty good.

Zach: We don’t have anything like [Buccee’s] here. It’s like a tour of Valhalla, which is the best.

Your drummer, Billy, used to perform in a hockey mask, which was obviously going with the hockey theme, but gave the show a cool, mysterious vibe too. Do you feel like you have a stage persona? 

Both: I don’t know.

Billy: I think we’ve always been pretty straightforward. I wish I could do the Slipknot thing and just wear a mask all the time. When I was a bit more shy, I used to have long hair and hide myself behind my hair. But now I’m a bit older and less shy. And my neck’s getting sore from flipping my hair. But yeah, I don’t know. In terms of personas, we’ve never really tried that. It’d be fun though.

Zach: I think we just kind of become a little more cheeky, a little more outward. I’m quite shy before we play, but once we’re onstage, then we start to perk up and have a bit more fun. Kind of play it a little more. Just more exaggerated versions of ourselves.

You guys are a two-piece, which is a few members shorter than a lot of rock bands. What challenges or advantages does this bring?

Billy: We’ve done ourselves a mischief here and we’ve got a touring bass player now.

Zach: Makes it a lot easier to play live, that’s for sure. We haven’t been to the states with Steve, our touring bass player, yet. The challenges sound-wise are that everything just falls apart if someone makes a big mistake. The upside is we can just get one hotel room, and you can always lay down in the tour van. Everything’s a bit cheaper.

Billy: Honestly, I think the reason we’ve survived this long is because we only have a touring party of four people.

Zach: If there was five of us, we would have gone broke by now for sure.

What are some of your non-musical influences, like books or movies you feel really inspire you?

Billy: I’m not much of a book reader, I’ve read a lot of books that are very special. But I don’t often pick up a book and have a read, and movies, I don’t know. Pretty un-inspirational.

Zach: I’ll get inspired by scores on films, but I can’t really name any right now. Just ones that kind of perk my ears. Mostly just other music inspires me, I find it a bit hard to be inspired by anything else. It’s either just music or watching a live band, that’s the most inspirational thing for me. I’ve got millions of those. I remember seeing Ho99o9 in this basement in London, it was kind of just scary. It wasn’t even fun, I was just terrified the whole time. That was memorable and good.

Billy: Parkway Drive is my favorite band ever, I saw them at a very young age, like thirteen. The energy of the room, the heavy kind of music, it’s kind of funny, I grew up on heavier kind of music and we play very soft rock. Any genre that isn’t what you usually play, it’s like holy shit. Such a different theme of everything. It broadens songwriting and everything, like lighting and stage presence and how you run the show. It’s very fun, just the live aspect anyway. When you’re starting out playing live, it’s just skin and bone, you have no lighting or anything. You just gotta play your song and hope for the best. But when you can afford theatrics, it’s really fun.

What are some of the biggest differences between Australia and the states?

Billy: It’s a pretty similar amount of land, but you have filled up, and we haven’t filled it up. In the states you can drive for ages and you come across so many cities and towns. But in Australia if you’re not on the coast, there’s nothing.

Zach: The cool thing about America is that all of the different states just feel like different countries in their own way, they’re so different to each other. Australia is just kind of, everyone is pretty much the same all the way around. But you can go to California and then New York and the world is just completely different. The food is obviously quite different. Australia’s a lot more regulated, with adult things. Like you can go to a gas station in America and buy a case of beer at four in the morning and it’s fine, but you could never do that in Australia. You have to buy it from a certain shop that sells beer before eight P.M. It’s ridiculous.

Billy: The taxing on alcohol and cigarettes is crazy.

Zach: A case of beer in America would cost like twenty bucks but here it’s sixty or seventy. It’s crazy.

Billy: I don’t even want to talk about cigarettes.

We saw a TikTok about toilet spiders in Australia. Is that something you’ve experienced?

Both: Yeah.

Zach: My girlfriend is terrified of them, so I usually have to chase them out or kill them. They’re called Huntsman spiders, they don’t hurt, they don’t bite you or anything.

Billy: The smaller spiders are the ones that’ll hurt you. Where we live, the climate is just pretty moderate so there’s nothing too crazy. But if you go further north where it’s more tropical, it gets kind of crazy up there. You get more spiders and snakes and stuff. I haven’t seen a snake in years, I suppose there’s too many people and they’re scared of us. Around here is pretty safe, you’ve got the odd house spider.

Zach: They kill all the bugs. They’re like cats, they kill all the flies. They’re good.

Billy: They can fit through the tiniest little crack or crevice. They’re pretty spooky looking.

The closing track “Looking Forward to the Change” touches on being open to life changes that are to come. Since you recorded this album in 2019, before everything in the world has changed, has the meaning behind the track changed for you over the past year?

Zach: I would say I’m less optimistic about the change that happened. When I said change I didn’t mean this kind of change. I guess the meaning still stands, it’s always gonna change, things are always gonna change. You just have to accept it with a bit of open-mindedness, and embrace the change, there’s always positives in it. Some positives, it’s been mostly negatives, but there’s nothing you can do about that.

Billy: There’s a couple songs on the record we wrote pre-Covid that have just been spun like we knew it was coming. Zombie themed and shit. It’s pretty bizarre, looking back. Interesting.

Zach: Lots of impending doom.

Hockey Dad has been around for the better part of the decade, what would you say has changed the most between who the band was when Dreamin’ was released and who the band is now?

Zach: Good question, I’m not sure. I think back then we were a bit naïve, I guess. Maybe now I definitely appreciate what we have a lot more. The first couple of years we were just kind of driving around getting drunk every night and playing gigs, and not realizing how good we have it and how fun it really is. As we get older and do more tours, you learn to appreciate more things and the life we get to live. Me, I’m a lot more appreciative of what we’ve been able to do and what we still get to do every day. I’m just stoked to be in a band full-time and not have to go to work every day.

Billy: The main difference is, when we were younger we were kind of looking outwards, like writing songs about that. Dreamin’ was that kind of thing, looking outwards, but compared to the Brain Candy release it’s more inwards, reflective kind of thing. That’s a big comparison in songwriting, and probably us as well. I hope we can keep writing records forever, our whole life.

A lot of your songs, like “Seaweed” and “Jump the Gun” have themes of running away to a sort of summertime paradise. What helps you “get away” from daily life?

Zach: Going surfing is good. That kind of clears your mind of everything. I don’t have much to run away from, really. We don’t have stressful lives anymore, which is nice. I picked up golf a year ago now, and I love playing that. Just staying active and going outside and being with my dog, going for a walk and just getting out. That’s what I do to get away and take time for myself. Playing video games is nice, I like that. I like playing MBA a lot, Red Dead Redemption, I picked up GTA V again a couple of days ago. I’ve been playing Fortnite, that’s always fun. I don’t play many games, I just play a few constantly.

If you had a bucket list, what would be #1 thing on that list?

Zach: I want to go to Japan, I’ve never been to Japan. Go there, hang out, play a show maybe, just go and check it out. That’s one of my top things, just to spend some time there.

Billy: I’ll come with you.

Zach: I’m really jealous, he went.

Billy: Yeah, that was a few weeks before the whole lockdown thing. I was lucky.

Zach: I was in Hawaii, I flew back from Hawaii as it was all starting to shut down. I snuck in a quick holiday before we couldn’t fly anywhere again.

Billy: But bucket list, I’m not too sure.

Zach: Keep doing what we’re doing, I guess. That’s a bucket list itself, being in a band. This past year was kind of stressful, but we had a pretty good year. It’s kind of nice to be at home and kind of wind back a bit, since the past five or six years have been so full on. It’s a nice little reflection time, I think it’s pretty sweet.

Weronika: Yeah, a lot of bands have said they have a month at most to be home when they’re touring and such. A lot of people have said they have more time than they’ve had in years and they don’t even know what to do with it.

Zach: It’s kind of like a reset button, almost. You completely don’t realize how much you’ve invested in that world until it’s gone. We had stuff planned for a year ahead, which is always kind of hectic, and we had plans like that for four or five years. Waking up every day and not knowing what you’re going to do that day is kind of fun.

What are your upcoming plans for the rest of 2021?

Billy: Pretty much just gonna keep writing more songs, just keep writing and get another album out.

Zach: I think we’ll get something out this year. The next record we’re gonna do, this writing process has been a lot more leisurely than past releases. We’ve been at home just kind of writing stuff when we feel like it, slowly pulling stuff together. This record’s a little more relaxed in the making, got a little more time with it. Definitely something by the end of the year. I’d be pretty disappointed in myself if I didn’t release anything in a year. They’ll be something out by the end of the year, and we’ll be able to do a couple shows in Australia. We’ve been pretty lucky. We’ll be able to play live again, and it’s a good kick in the bum to be able to put us back into gear, and it gets you kind of excited to play again. It gets kind of drab when you’re just sitting at home waiting to write something, and there’s nothing going on around you. It’s nice to go back out, play some shows, and kind of get that feeling again, get that rush again. It kind of kicks in all your writing juices. Just playing a couple shows and getting a record out on our own time.

THE END

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