Scary Good: Hockey Dad’s Billy Fleming Weighs In
Billy Fleming is in Hockey Dad. He’s one half of it, in fact. The drums half. And you know Hockey Dad, right? They’re the young salty duo from Windang who made good; the guitar-rock, surf-pop legends who love their local hero Mick Lowe and playing their Triple J hits to a huge adoring fan base at Splendour In The Grass, equally. Fresh off a big North American tour, Billy turned up to the SW House, sat by the fire, and drained cans with the team like it was a family BBQ. And as one of the handful of accomplished musicians to lay tracks on the album, we sat down with Billy to talk whether being in a band is really all that hard.
SW: How easy is it to start a band? Because when you do it, it feels like the biggest cheat into the best life ever?
BF: (Laughs) Yeah! When we started I was in year seven, I was 13, Zach was 15, and we had a couple of mates, and we literally started playing out of boredom when there was no surf. We were like, “Oh well, there’s some instruments, let’s start playing stuff.”
Did you know how to play music?
Well, Zach was doing guitar lessons, and one of my other mates kinda knew a few songs. I mean we could all play a bit of guitar ’cause that was just the go to. Then Zach’s dad had a drum kit in the shed and when we saw it there we thought, “Fuck, let’s start a band,” and Zach was like, “Shotty guitar!” And my mate was like, “Shotty bass!” And I was like, “Aaaaaaw, fuck!” I got stuck on drums, and I pretty much had to just pull it out of my arse ’cause I didn’t know anything about playing them.
How long did you jam before you started writing your own songs?
We were doing Living End covers for about six months and then a mate from Bundaberg moved back into town and then we were like, “Sick, you can join the band,” and within about a year we had a bunch of our own songs. We had our first gig at the pub, which is five houses from my place, which is only five houses from Zach’s place. So our big goal was: “Let’s get a pub gig and play down the road.” Once we clocked that, once we played our pub gig playing our own songs, we were like, “This is sick, let’s keep doing it!”
After you’ve been in a band for a while, the way you write songs kind of changes from this primal noise making lottery to a more considered approach where you sit down and craft your songs and your music. When you got up to the house, did it remind you a bit of your early days with your band? Because there were crew who had never played an instrument getting up and having a crack and somehow some pretty sick songs were coming out…
Mate, that is still hands down the way to do it. As much as you want to sit down with your idea and try and craft it in a particular way, there’s nothing better than just rocking up and feeling the room and tapping the energy and seeing what happens. And because Pauly B (sound engineer) literally had it on record the entire time, there were no gaps in what was being put down. You could chuck down whatever you wanted with no restrictions, you’re not stressing about it, and if it turns out sick it turns out sick, and I reckon that’s definitely the best way to do it. And that was the thing with the house… you didn’t even know who your band members were. I’d be sitting there playing along with some dude I’d only met yesterday and the next moment we’re in a band together and recording. It was fucken sick.
Were you surprised by the songs that came out?
Everyone who was at the house is pretty tapped. As long as you have the foundation there, just a simple idea and a bit of creative confidence, you can make something out of anything. Everyone down there had that energy, so you knew some pretty epic songs were gonna come out of it.
It wasn’t all hacks though. Along with yourself we had the Wash boys there, Jimmy from Dumb Punts, Ruby Fields, Helena Vestergaard, Josh Rawiri – a lot of accomplished and well travelled musos, and it seemed like they were fizzing on the fresh energy, the fearlessness of the surrounds.
For sure because a lot of the time when you’re playing gigs, week in week out, and you’re doing a lot of the same songs, it can become like muscle memory. You still give it everything, and it’s still sick, but you can be like, “Ah yeah, another gig,” and it’s like going to work or something (laughs). But down there it was like, “Fuck, we’ve got a house and a recording studio for ten days and a bunch of people who just want to rip in regardless of where they’re at with how they play, like they just want to do it to see what they can create, it gets you pumped. And if it comes out sick it’s the sickest feeling.
A lot of young bands seem to be really tapping that classic Aussie pub sound right now.
It’s simple and beautiful.
You played on “Get a Moose Up Ya”, right?
Me, the Moose, and Vinnie. It’s an absolute hit (laughs). That song was literally written in 20 minutes. We wanted to go in and jam at four in the arvo, but someone was in there doing stuff, so we just sat around the fire fucking around with riffs getting absolutely smashed. So we wrote it, and I recorded it on my phone, and by the time we got in there it was so sloppy, but that’s the beauty of it, I think.
OCTOBER TOUR DATES:
Thursday 12 – Westside Museum, Costa Mesa, CA USA
Wednesday 18 – The Steyne, Manly, NSW (film only) – Free Entry
Sunday 22 – The Bangalow Hotel, Bangalow, NSW – $15.00 – Tickets on Door