Our Interview with Zach from Hockey Dad

Our Interview with Zach Stephenson from Hockey Dad.
Photo by Chris Frape

Boronia Street, Windang, Australia: an unassuming suburban neighborhood, surrounded by beaches just a few minutes in either direction. This would be the birthplace of childhood friends Zach Stephenson and Billy Fleming’s surf-rock project, Hockey Dad, and the inspiration for their upcoming debut album, Boronia, set for release August 12.

From the three EPs they’ve released since 2014 and the advance singles from Boronia, Hockey Dad have been gathering considerable popularity, not just in Australia but with overseas audiences as well. In promotion of the new album, Zach (guitar/vocals) and Billy (drums) will be touring across North America, bringing their sun and distortion soaked stories of “beaches and babes” with them. We got in touch with Zach Stephenson to talk about Hockey Dad’s upcoming album, and everything that went into making it.

Northern Transmissions: You guys have been picking up some serious steam lately, how’s it feel being so close to the release of your debut LP?

Zach Stephenson: It feels good to finally have it coming out after recording it so long ago and waiting for everything to come into place. It’ll be nice to play these new songs live too and see what reaction we get from crowds.

NT: So, Boronia takes its title from the street you two grew up together on. How does nostalgia play into the sound of the album?

Zach: I don’t think nostalgia plays a big part on the record. Possibly a small part comes in when we listen to music whilst recording. We love older music with a nostalgic feeling and I suppose you want to include those feelings you get when listening to those records, into your own records.

NT: So on top of looking back, how will Boronia carry the band forward into the future?

Zach: There’s definitely an evolved sound on Boronia compared to our older songs. But I think our main objective is still the same on this record. We just want to go out and play these songs to people and have fun live shows the same way we did with the EP. The future looks good.

NT: I read Billy grew up on his brother’s 90s punk records, while Zach got into his dad’s big-name golden records. How did you two combine those influences into Hockey Dad?

Zach: I think early on we had different different favourite bands that we still love. But when we started the band we were both listening to the same things getting most of our inspiration from that. I think those early bands bring something different to our band. When writing we both have the same end goal with a song but those different influences maybe force us to take a different path to get there which makes everything more interesting and the HD sound is made.

NT: Did you always want to be in a band to make albums yourself, or were you more interested in just jamming together?

Zach: In the beginning it was mostly just jamming out of boredom. We realised it was super fun and started playing shows. I think it wasn’t till after the first decent session in a studio we became interested in what you can do in a studio. Now I have a little demo recording station at home I love experimenting and recording songs everyday.

NT: You’ll be touring across North America for the release of Boronia—will this be your first time coming to Canada?

Zach: Yes it will be. We’re super excited to come up and see what it’s like. Hopefully the shows are fun and people want us to come back!

NT: I saw you guys were recently #1 on USA radio charts, above bands like Dinosaur Jr. and the Descendents. What’s it like to land among punk giants like that?

Zach: It still doesn’t feel real yet. I guess it feels like things are working well and it’s a good indicator to keep going and work harder.

NT: I think it’s safe to say that you guys are going to become something of local celebrities around Windang. Have your music careers changed anything about returning to your hometown?

Zach: Not too much has changed which is good. A few more blokes will approach you at the pub asking what Amsterdam was like which is odd. But I still drive my mum’s car when I’m home so it’s not like things have drastically changed at all.

NT: Are there any bands out of Australia that you’re really digging right now or would want to gig with?

Zach: There are so many Australian bands that we love and would definitely play shows with if we had the chance. Bands like The Murlocs, Royal Headache, Horror My Friend and Bad//Dreems. Check them out!

NT: How about collaborations? Anyone in particular you’d want to record something with in the near future?

Zach: I’d just love to do a big collaboration album with every one of our friends from an Aussie band and see what happens. 

NT: Thanks for taking the time to talk to Northern Transmissions! Are there any messages you want to leave for fans, or last thoughts on your mind?

Zach: See you all soon, we can’t wait!

Interview by Matthew Wardell