The surf pop two-piece (Billy Fleming and Zach Stephenson) create a sound far bigger than their number would lead you to believe and have a knack for writing melodies you can’t get out of your head.
They first started turning heads back in 2013 when they dropped their blissful ‘Dreamin'’ EP and despite three years between releases, the full-length album was more than worth the wait.
Since it came out they’ve been touring relentlessly, playing Europe, US and most recently Canada supporting Dune Rats. “That was probably one of the funnest tours we’ve ever been on,” Zach says.
“We’ve known those guys for ages, so it was good to finally do a tour somewhere with them. Canada was awesome, it was really nice to drive through it.”
What about particular highlights? “Poutine is pretty good and the drive up to Whistler was really good too. Most of the shows were awesome, the whole thing was a highlight.
"It was almost like a nice holiday with our mates. We were trying to do some snowboarding while we were out there, but we didn’t have enough time. We rolled around in the snow for a good couple of hours, that was about it.”
After a month off “being able to hang out and relax”, they’re back on the road again supporting Grinspoon on a long Australian tour that takes them to a huge number of places across the country.
"We’re excited. It’ll be good to play some more rural places. Today we’re playing somewhere two hours out of Melbourne (Traralgon), so it’ll be good to play heaps of places we’ve never been before.
“We’re supporting Grinspoon who are doing a 20th anniversary of their first record, so they’re doing a massive Australian tour playing pretty much everywhere they can. We’re just getting on it.”
With all of this touring, fans might fear there might be another three years between releases. But those fears are misguided, as Zach says their follow-up album is pretty much done. “We’ve just finished recording that, just before we left for the Dune Rats tour. That’s pretty much all done and dusted, ready to go. So hopefully we’ll have our first single out pretty much straight after this tour.”
Which begs the question, what’s it going to be like? “It’s still the two of us in the studio,” Zach says. “You could say the sound is bigger, it’s definitely different, a bit darker. I guess you’ll just have to wait and see.
"This record was a lot different in the writing aspect. A lot of it I was writing at home on my computer, demoing rather than jamming it out and playing it live first. I’d send it to Billy and then we’d talk about it later on when we finally picked up our instruments. You might be able to hear it in the record, I don’t know.”
With the bigger sound, will these new songs still be able to be recreated with just the two of them on stage? “I don’t know what we’re going to do live, I’m terrified. I guess it was worth what we got to do in the studio.”
For those who can’t wait until the tour is over to hear new material, Zach confirmed that some of the new songs will make their way into the set lists for their upcoming tour. “Probably not many, we might do a couple though. We’ll definitely play a few. We had a practice last night and started playing some new ones and the feeling’s still there.”
Having known each other since they were three and four years old respectively, it’s understandable there’s an incredible chemistry between the two that is as apparent on their recordings as it is on stage.
Are their music tastes still the same as they were when writing for the new album? “They’ve probably grown a bit further apart actually. I guess the core values are still there and we both use that when we write. It’s good that we don’t like the same stuff because then we can both argue a little bit more and make a better song in the end.”
Live, the band really come together having built a reputation for playing each show as though it’s their last. The songs sound massive when played on stage and the crowds respond in kind. Any memorable places they’ve played of late? “Not so much certain places, it always depends on the night.
"In Canada it was always funny because there were a lot of Australians living there anyway and you’d always get at least 30 or 40 per cent Australians in the crowd. That helped because it does seem Australians like to get a little bit more rowdy.”
As a band who’ve built a strong grassroots following from extensive touring, they’ve been outspoken when it comes to gentrification closing down particular live-music venues and replacing them with blocks of units or office blocks. “People don’t really see the value of something unless it’s got a dollar sign on it. It baffles me because they should get a lot more respect for being historic and important places.”
Is there a particular venue that was particularly dear to them? “The Rad definitely is, because that’s where we played our first show and our manager runs it. It’s always been a sort of home for us in Wollongong where we can always go and hang out. It’s a safe haven for us, so that one’s pretty special.”
When asked how they’d describe their live show to someone who’d never seen them before, the response was a perfect summation of their understated dry wit. “I don’t know, I’ve never seen us live.
"I assume it’s half decent. Just two dudes making heaps of noise. It’s just one guitar and drums and the drums are just constantly going for about half an hour and then just stop.”
Hockey Dad join Regurgitator, West Thebarton Brothel Club and others at the Adelaide Beer & BBQ Festival 28-30 July. The band also play Splendour In The Grass 22 July, The Zoo (Brisbane) 15 August and BIGSOUND 5-8 September.