Interview with TONY DORK: 'it's as good a time as ever to write punk music'

TONY DORK truly is one of the best newcomers of the last couple of years. The band has released two EP to date, and it's 100% ...


TONY DORK truly is one of the best newcomers of the last couple of years. The band has released two EP to date, and it's 100% perfection. With Tony, my hope is that slacker music will move toward punchy garage punk, while still extolling the virtues of a fun life. Everything doesn't have to be so fucking serious, or bad entertainment for TV. There's another way. A way for amazing punk music, the "strongest, most virulent, most invincible Superjoke in history". Tony is one of the last heroes of the slacker scene. With Tony, these go to 11, or 12!

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Let us start with a playlist curated by
Tony Dork for Still in Rock


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How are you? What’s up with you these days?

Yeah pretty good! Things are starting to open back up in Aus, so we get to hang out with our mates again and get back to the garage. There still won't be any gigs on for ages, so I've been able to go down the Coast on the last few weekends and surf!

Aight! So... who’s Tony Dork?

There's actually five of us - Jimmy Farnes on vocals, Beeron Drinklair on guitar and drums, Willie WakenBake on drums and guitar, Lachie McDolebludge on bass and Peach Humme on synth. A lot of people think Tony Dork is one guy and get surprised when we all rock up, but it's just a dumb name that we thought was funny coz we like playing Tony Hawk Pro Skater and... we're all dorks.

Excellent. What a great game, isn't it?! You recently released Struggle Street, a fantastic new (second) EP. What’s the main difference between it and your first EP?

Most of the songs on the first EP were written when we were just starting out and didn't think anyone would ever hear them, so I guess there was a bit less thought behind them. After we put that out, we wanted to have a crack at making an LP, so it was a different process than kinda just writing songs without having as much of an end goal in mind. Also, a lot of the earlier songs were mostly written by Jamie, while the newer stuff is more of a mix of all of us bringing ideas or riffs. I definitely think we put more effort into Struggle Street and it took way longer, so... it's nice to finally put it out and have something we're all proud of.

Struggle Street is your first album. Can you tell us a little about the songs in it? What's the story behind them? What's the intention?

There aren’t really any great stories behind the songs but I guess in terms of themes I’d say they’re kind of about the state of the world in a way. Not all in a political sense but just more little things in life that might set us off or that sees the world continually seeming negative in a bunch of different ways. Also, just stuff that’s happening in our lives as we try to navigate being decent functioning humans, haha!

I think the intention behind the album was for us to see what we can come up with if we try to write some more “real” songs. A lot of the earlier stuff was more off the cuff and came relatively quickly without as much thought. So we kinda wanted to challenge ourselves to step it up a bit and not really hide as much behind humor and gimmicky stuff. There are definitely still songs we wrote in like 10 minutes and we never want to move fully away from taking the piss and sprinkling some inside jokes and self-deprecating humor throughout, but the album results from us being a bit more critical of ourselves and trying to make something we’re all proud of.


Got it. I love them both. This makes me think, can you tell me what’s the story behind the song “A.D.D”?

Jamie is always bouncing off the walls and full of energy so it's about him living with undiagnosed A.D.D. 

Haha... Hi Jamie!

I like to describe your music as being slacker: not that you are not working hard, but it seems to be faithful to The Dictators and Ramones. It's punk, it's trash, it's fun. Are you against people calling your music as such, are you for it, or... maybe you don't care?

We’re definitely not against anyone putting us in the same vein as those bands haha! Something that they have definitely mastered that we try to follow is to not take ourselves too seriously and remember that playing in a band is just really fucking fun so I guess it’s kind of slacker in that sense. We’re happy for people to call it whatever they want!


The scene

We have seen many slacker bands from Australia, such as Dune Rats, The Chats, Skegss, and co. What’s your take on that scene?

I think it's born out of Australian culture where we're always joking around and just having a good time! People love music that they can relate to and there's a whole generation of kids that like good music and don't take themselves too seriously, so they eat it up.


It seems to me that the slacker scene is slowly dying off at the benefit of more serious punk music (more engaged). With all the shit that’s happening in the world, it’s possible we might see a come back to more slacker bands because people might need some music to cheer them up. What do you think of all that?

I guess this kind of music doesn't really get noticed as much or played on as big of a scale, so people have to search a bit harder to find it. I think there will always be a place for it because people want to listen to music and go see bands for different reasons, which means a band doesn't always have to be the best musicians to be entertaining, and as long as people just want to have a good time, then hopefully it'll survive. 

With all the shit going on in the world, I think it's as good a time as ever to write punk music. A lot of stuff that people are angry about and there's potential for music to create real change. I think music gives people a voice and there's plenty of stuff for people to be saying at the moment.


Yeah, I very much agree with you. So, what’s the music scene like in Melbourne, and more generally, in Australia. Is it going in the right direction? What would you like to change?

I might be a bit biased, but I reckon it's one of the best in the world! Melbourne has such a strong music community with so many good bands and venues that you can see amazing bands every night of the week. The whole Australian scene is insane with so many new bands popping up all the time and that it's hard to keep up. I used to think most of the good stuff was coming out of Melbourne, but lately, there's been so many sick bands coming from everywhere like up North in New South Wales and Queensland and even from Perth.

The only thing I would change is that this stupid virus would go away so we can get back to it! There are so many really good small venues that are struggling at the moment without any income, so hopefully, they can pull through an open up again when all this shit's over then I reckon it'll be as healthy as ever!


Could you tell me about your relationship with Legless Records?

Legless is run by Arron Mawson who plays guitar in a band called Stiff Richards. We played a few shows with them and just became friends through that then he was keen to put out the record. We're on the same page and we like all the same shit so it's just made sense and then we'll get to play more shows with the Stiffies so it's a win-win!

Ah, I didn't know that. Stiff Richards is such a good band (see this article). Which amazing Australian bands am I missing in this list?

Stiff Richards, Floodlights, Mini Skirt, Liquid Face, Civic, RMFC, Gee Tee, Private Function, Dicklord, Brad Pot, C.O.F.F.I.N, Flying Machine, Gonzo, Future Suck, Horace Bones, Candy, The Snakes, Pist Idiots, Pistol Peaches, Tyrannamen, Spike Fuck, Scott & Charlene's Wedding, Program, MEAT, These New South Whales, Peter Bibby, Crocodylus, Traffik Island, Israeli Chicks, Los Scallywags, Draggs, Malcura, Gutter Girls. Probably forgot heaps but let me know when ya get through all of those and I'll send some more!


Yay, thanks for all that. Lots to listen to!

I’ve recently conducted a short empirical study on “garage rock”, generally speaking (link). I found out that more and more albums are labeled as such, but the number of Google queries tends to decrease. What's your impression from the inside? Do you find it more and more challenging to get support from playing shows and releasing music?

I guess garage rock is an easy genre to fall into as all the best bands start in the garage, and if people are googling "garage rock" to find music they're gonna miss all the good shit! We haven't been playing as many shows recently as we were focusing more on making the record, so it's hard to compare, but I don't think it's any more challenging.


Let's finish this up

What are the next steps for you as a band?

We haven’t really put much thought into what’s next. We would love to just play a few shows to launch the album once the apocalypse is over, then I think we’re all pretty happy to just see what happens from there. Hopefully, the world doesn’t end before we get to play it live!

Is “rock’n’roll dead”?

Nah you just gotta know where to look

Best tour memory?

When Uncle Pumps from Mini Skirt won $500 on the pokies then bought us all McDonalds

One movie I should watch?

School of Rock forever.

What is your favorite album of the last few months?

Not a whole lot of new albums coz everyone's been locked in their house, but I'm stinging for the Mini Skirt and Floodlights albums coming out in July.

How do you imagine your discography in 20 years from now?

I can't imagine it'll age very well haha, but hopefully, we'll be proud of it!

The last word?

DORL.

I find four definitions: (1) Department of Regulation and Licensing (Wisconsin), (2) Demands Of Real Life, (3) Driving on Revoked License, (4) Direcção da Organização Regional de Lisboa do Partido Comunista Português. The mystery remains!



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