Hockey Dad – Young, Free, Alright!
The Rad and Creative Youth of Australian Surfing
Presented by Arnette
There’s a buzz. Not like a mosquito, or a detuned radio. No, a buzz like a hype or an excitement or a general good feeling. The buzz is around two young dudes, 18 and 20, making surf-pop rock’n’roll just south of Wollongong. Their names are Zac Stephenson and Billy Fleming and they recently recorded a debut EP with the very reputable Big Scary and have spent the last month touring up and down the East Coast. They’re also keen surfers, which is cool, so after seeing their excellent live set at Sounds of The Suburbs in Cronulla (put on by gallery legends, Space 44) we thought them perfect for our latest Young, Free, Alright! presented by Arnette. So we called Billy in Windang and he answered. We asked him questions and he answered those too, what a legend!
CW: Hey Billy, what are you up to?
HD: Nothing much, I just smashed down some Weet-Bix and am chilling out.
Where do people normally start when they interview you?
Umm, good question… I’m not sure.
All good, tell us about how you guys got started?
We were playing a cricket match out the front of my house when I was five. It was just me and my old man. Zac was walking around lost, and he asked, “Can I come play?” And then, yeah, it started.
That’s perfect. You guys have such an Australian feel and sound, so it’s nice to hear your origins hold true to that.
Yeah that’s it, hey. We haven’t left Windang since, bloody hell.
Tell us about Windang?
Oh man, Windang is a town that people just drive past, no-one ever notices, but it’s such a gem. It’s gorgeous. We’ve got some surf, we don’t have many girls, but we’ve got a few things. It’s pretty good.
Would you describe your music as surf-rock?
Yeah. When we started writing songs we would listen to stuff that was labelled surf-rock. So we were just like, we’ll be surf rock, whatever, and I guess we surf too so it makes sense.
Can you tell us the trajectory of starting the band to where you’re at today?
Oh man, well, since I was 13 and Zac was 15, we’ve been in and out of bands together. Zac hit the point where he said, “I’m just going to start writing songs by myself.” He wrote a song and I’m like, “Yeah, you need drums man, that sucks.” It was a shit song, it was Seaweed by the way, the new single. I’m like, “It’s a shit song, you need drums, you need help…” We were doing a recording of it at my house on Garageband and I put drums to it and it sounded alright. Once we started recording that we just kept writing really fun poppy surf songs. Eventually we thought we might as well call it something. Hockey Dad was the most ridiculous name we had.
And how old were you at this stage?
I would have been 16 when Hockey Dad started.
So you were 16 and Zac 18, and now you’re 18 and he’s 20. Did you have to play shows underage?
Oh yeah, plenty of that. I’m so glad that’s over, hey. It’s the worst feeling when you’re trying to go play a gig and they say, “As soon as you finish, you’re on your arse.” And you’re like, “Okay, thanks,” sitting in the middle of Sydney outside a venue, it’s the worst. We did our fair share of that.
And when did you start getting a bit of buzz?
I think our first bit of that was when we went down to Melbourne to record with Tom Iansek (Big Scary). That was a spin-out for ourselves, and after that people were like, “Oh, Tom’s recording stuff… that’s cool.” We were the guinea pigs, it was pretty sweet. The dudes at Triple J Unearthed were frothin’ on that. Other than that, I feel like it’s been a slow build so far.
Has there been opportunity to go surfing while on tour?
Once. When we went up to Brisbane to play on our tour we snuck down to Snapper. It was the most kooky thing, we rocked up hell keen for a surf, we didn’t have boards so we had to line up and hire boards, and it was the most degrading thing, you feel like the biggest kook. We grabbed the boards and got our little short shorts on sprinting down to Snapper, it was a kind of chilly day and everyone was like, you’re on hire boards… you should be freezing… what are you doing? It was weird but it was alright. Epic waves.
Do you guys deliberately set out to express that regional suburbia vibe, with your songs and album artwork and videos?
The EP is actually that whole capturing of where we live, which is good. I didn’t think of it at first but when we were designing the EP I thought, yeah this is cool – the 80s photos of where we live and stuff. And then we thought it would be sick to make a video with that tone. Our mate’s got a VHS camera so we jumped on that and it turned out really well. We had another video planned prior, but we thought, screw that let’s just make our own.
Where did you get the photo for the cover from?
It was in my mum’s stash of shoebox photos. The actual front cover, where I’m standing right now is where the photo was taken, looking towards Zac’s house.
You live across the road from each other?
It’s a hop skip and a jump, I’m on the corner, and he’s on the other corner. The EP cover doesn’t look that good now, it’s a two story house and Matt Cooper lives there and it’s ugly.
Do you guys have favourite surfers?
We discussed this the other day at Sounds of The Suburbs. For half an hour we were like, “Ozzie (Wright) is the best surfer in the world.” I think we settled on that the other night. I think Ozzie and, shit, forgot his name, Dane Reynolds. Those two, in regards how they pull off whatever they’re riding, that’s sick.
What do you guys ride?
We’ve got some pretty skitso shapes, I think it’s the Dane Reynolds’ Sperm Whale or something like that, a shortboard but the tail is fat as and square, completely sawn off – that’s what Zac’s been riding for a while, that really sketchy little shape. I’m riding a rip-off of the Sweet Potato by Firewire, we got our mate’s dad to shape it.
And how do you guys rate yourselves as surfers?
We’re pretty shit to be honest. Compared to all the frothers out there we’re not very good. But we still have a dig… it’s all about having fun with your bruzzies mate. I wish we could talk ourselves up but nup, no chance.
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A little over a year ago Coastalwatch and Arnette launched Young, Free, Alright! a series showcasing the inspired young community rising in Australian surfing – introducing talented new faces doing rad stuff every fortnight. Now, we want you to join us and be Young, Free, Alright! Just hashtag the fruit of your work on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter with #youngfreealright and we’ll be all over you like a bad op-shop jacket at a Year 12 Formal. Our favourite photo or video each fortnight wins a pack of goodness from Arnette.
On top of that you could find yourself getting props as the next Young, Free, Alright! feature profile.
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