Interview: Introducing Tonight Alive

Meet Tonight Alive: Five Aussies who love pop-punk and are taking over the world.

J.J. Nattrass

Kylie Minogue, Neighbours, shrimp on the barbie and Foster’s – all great Australian institutions.

Now meet Tonight Alive; five Aussies who love their punk rock with a slice of pop.

I’m sitting around the table at Spuds Café with a cast of characters: the blonde-haired pop-punk angle, Jenna, the moustached guitar slinger, Whako, and Cam, who looks every inch the Aussie surfer.

Talking about their debut release, What Are You so Scared Of?, which hit stores on October 1, we got onto the subject of comparing the UK to Australia and they seem to be big fans of our little island.

“We like it here a lot, because we get along with British people really well.” Jenna tells me. “We enjoy the humor and the mindset.”

Even though the album was released in America last year, it has finally hit the UK and Jenna couldn’t be happier.

She says: “It’s kind of in a few stores already, and I’m sure a few kids have ripped it off the internet, but it’s actually finally being released.”

She declared the band’s rise in the UK is the fastest out of any country they’ve toured, but attributed their success to “our team and our dedicated fans”.

It’s only their third time here and Whako adds: “we’re headlining already, so were very stoked on that. It feels like all our hard work’s paid off.”

Then Jenna adds, “It’s been four years of 100 per cent commitment”.

The band has never been a secondary thing to us, so pretty much from when we started it became everything to us.

“We’ve lived and breathed it. We’ve never passed up anything. It’s always come first!”

Tonight Alive are a young band, with Jenna still in high school when they all started out on this journey. Cam fills me in that he and Whacko went to university for all of two weeks, before they decided to drop it for the band. 

“I think I did two subjects, failed them both and that was it, so I didn’t do anything else.

“Three years later people change their tone when all your works paid off.”

Wacko emphasises how hard it was, as he laughs: “For a couple of years it was just so shit to tell people what we were doing, because we weren’t really doing much in their eyes, but in reality we were.”

They recently covered folk minstrels, Mumford & Sons’, Little Lion Man, for the Punk Goes Pop album franchise. I wanted to find out if they’re closet folk fans, so I ask them how they came to cover Marcus Mumford and Co.

Jenna explains to me: “Well Little Lion Man was a freaking huge single! In the states where we were recording our album in 2010, the song was on the radio every single day.

“It was one of the only songs by a band and not a pop artist, so it was a lot of fun and a bit of a challenge to make that our own.

“It’s one of my favorite songs to play live now.” She smiles at me.

A key moment for the band was their performance at this year’s Soundwave Festival in Australia.

Cam begins hesitantly, staring at his hands: “I think one of the highest and lowest parts of being in a band was playing Soundwave in Australia.

“We had pretty much the biggest crowd we’ve ever played to, and the greatest response ever, but just within ourselves it was at the end of a really long touring cycle, we were all just done.”

“We were pretty sick, and just had some things going on that we had to sort out.”

Whako adds: “We look at videos of ourselves, and we were all so bummed. We were about to go on stage and play to 5,000 people and we were so fucking over it.”

They weren’t being ungrateful and arrogant as Cam explains: “We were happy, we were so stoked, but we were just exhausted.”

It’s a sobering, but heartfelt moment, as they all look so serious reflecting on that time, but with that in mind, I ask them what they prefer to play – stadium rock to over 5,000 people, or a small room packed to the rafters with people?

Whako answers straight away, stating: “I definitely think 200 people.

“Everyone is on the stage and you’re sweating, but everyone’s singing all the words. There’s just no other feeling like it.”

So for a band that prefer small venues it seems completely appropriate that Jenna tells me her favorite song to play live is the very personal What Are You So Scared Of?

She says: “I think the fans connect with that song a lot. The lyrics are pretty straightforward and I think quite honest in a way that’s quite eye opening. I know they were for me to write.”

With all that said, we’re all done and the band have to get back to Banquet Records to sound check for their show.

Tonight Alive’s debut album What Are You So Scared Of? is available in stores and on iTunes now, and you’ll be able to catch the band back in the UK early next year.

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