Interview: The Tommyhawks

Words by Caitlin Trindall.

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When you take a band made up of vegans and vegetarians who are headlining a festival that celebrates meat, you can’t help but wonder what makes their band tick. FINNs caught up with female power group The Tommyhawks, during their recent national tour to discuss their new release, homes away from home on tour and just exactly how they ended up on a line up for a festival that celebrates all things meat.

One thing that is certain when watching the video clip for the Perth based four piece’s latest single Bedroom, is a sense of familiarity. “We filmed that in Nannup which is a few hours south of Perth and the reason we chose that location particularly is because we’ve got a friend band we play a lot with called Leo and they all live there and that’s their house. We’ve been to stay with them before when we’ve toured with them and we were just blown away by how stunning it was down there. So when the director got in touch and described where they wanted to shoot we thought of it instantly,” says Addison Axe, lead vocalist of the band. The location for this video clip captures the journey prevalent in the song, offering a safe location to tell the tale of growing up and the challenge associated with such a road.

Feeling at home is something The Tommyhawks focus on when they’re on the road. It is clear from looking at the stops along the way of their current national tour that as a band they will pick venues with a charming character about them and somewhere they can play intimately to an audience.

“I think when you tour a lot, the difference in the vibe of the venue makes such a massive difference. If you’re away from home for weeks or months at a time, when you arrive at a venue that is like a home it really is quite magical. They sit you down and you’re chatting to everyone and they give you some dinner and you really feel like you’re being welcomed into this place”, said Addy of the band’s favourite venues to play at. Addy elaborated on this telling us “where as when you play these larger venues, there’s nothing wrong with it, but they’re not necessarily the ones that you remember, so I think for us, we’re always looking for those kind of intimate venues and ones that are run with love. It just makes being away from home being more fun and it creates a wicked vibe. I want to play a venue where I want to hang around all night”.

One of the stops along the way is a Sydney-sider favourite, Frankie’s Pizza by The Slice, or as the locals affectionately refer to the venue, just Frankie’s. When asked about this venue, Addy immediately exclaimed, “I am never going to play anywhere else in Sydney! Oh my god, the pizza is to die for. The first time I went there I was vegetarian, and now I’m vegan so when I go there I get the pizza without cheese and it still rocks”.

Curious to know whether word of mouth regarding the famous pizza at Frankie’s was something that had attracted The Tommyhawks to play at this venue, we probed more about this.

“We had this venue recommended to us early on when we were leaving the west coast for the first time. When you arrive there all the staff are happy, they sit you down and give you some pizza and beer, you can tell it’s a rad place to be. To have somewhere you can sit down and relax and get settled in for the night it’s pretty rad. They’re also pretty rad at partying afterwards; every time we go there we end up there until close, which when you’re on a tour and you’re playing every night you often don’t have the stamina to do that but at Frankie’s it’s always an all night party”.

Interested in the recurring food theme apparent with The Tommyhawks, Addy let us in on how they got into playing on a line up for a festival that celebrates meat.

“That’s actually a weird one, I have no idea how we got involved in it. They know that we’re all vegetarians and vegans, so it’s a very strange one for us. We’ll probably starve for the day. It was a bit of a weird one to do it or not, it does feel kind of weird, but then I think sometimes those are the best opportunities, there are so many people who have different beliefs to others and it’s often easy to hang out with people who have the same beliefs as you but actually hanging out with people who are different and getting a conversation going can be more productive. It shows there’s another way to live and whether people are receptive to that or not that’s their choice.”

Wanting to get into their favourite things about going between the big stage of a festival and intimate gigs, we asked Addy to elaborate.

“The thing that I really love about festivals is the feeling that you enter a completely new world. You get that feeling when you go to a festival and enjoy bands and not play, and it’s the same thing when you’re playing at them. You really feel like real life is left behind and you enter this realm where you’re completely in a different headspace and even though at an intimate gig you’d be playing to a crowd where everyone knows your music, at a festival it’s cool that you are playing to new people. Even if they don’t know your music, because of the environment, people are so receptive to music. It’s not like being at a pub where no one’s listening and they’re all doing their own thing, it’s like everyone in that entire village is there purely for the love of music. To be part of that and playing to that audience is really something quite special”.

Exploring the concept of crowds further, Addy let us know that their favourite thing about their crowds is that they foremost come to watch and listen to them. “It’s a huge honour to have people who will come out and pay to see you time and time again. That’s an honour in the first place. The thing that really makes it worth it for me is when I look down and there’s people singing every single word along. When the people are going through as much of an experience as you are on stage, that’s for me what it’s all about”.

Hailing from the United Kingdom, Addy no doubt has seen her share of large successful festivals on an international level. Anyone interested in live music in Australia would no doubt have an insight into the struggle of the large touring festival right now on our shores. Addy offered her insight into how she feels the festival scene is headed in Australia at the moment.

“I think the popularity of more boutique indie festivals is rising. I think what sort of happened is prices for big festivals have become so expensive, and it’s not that it’s not worth it for the entertainment but it’s just that music fans aren’t necessarily wealthy people and if that ticket price becomes too high, people will stop being able to go. Where as you’ve got all these boutique festivals where they’re maybe a bit less expensive to run, maybe the bands are slightly less expensive and there’s slightly less people there and as a result it’s slightly more inclusive. You’re one of a small group, you’re not one of hundreds of thousands. I think people are favouring that; I don’t think the festival scene is going to die at all, in fact if anything it’s given more opportunity for independent festivals to spring up”.

One such festival Addy named that is making a big impact in the local scene in Western Australia is Wave Rock, a festival with only one thousand capacity which sells out before the line up is entirely released. “You feel like by the end of the festival you have spoken to everyone who is there and it really is like nothing else. It really is an insane experience and I think that’s really, really cool. Especially for a band like us, where if the only festivals were your Big Day Outs and your Splendours, there’s no space on the bills”.

The Tommyhawks are working towards their first album, which is something that fans can look forward to in the near future.

“Our plan is to get into the studio before the end of the year to start work on our first ever full length album, which is very exciting because it feels like these three EPs we’ve done so far have been a work in progress towards what the album is going to be”.

Until then, you can check out their single Bedroom here or catch details for a show on the rest of their tour here.

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