An Interview with The Tinderboxers

From their island home of Lutruwita/Tasmania, The Tinderboxers are an indie rock outfit who have cultivated a playful, honest and catchy sound which has captured their extensive local following. A voice for young Tasmanians, the band explores what it’s like coming from a small and sometimes isolated place in their music, while constantly experimenting with their sound to “keep it fun”. Having been awarded the Nick Balcombe Foundation 2021 Live Your Dream grant, the four-piece have released their latest track , ‘WHO ARE YOU’, in an impressive string of buoyant danceable singles. I sat down with The Tinderboxers frontman Alex Buktenica to discuss the band’s roots, the creative process and their current tour.

As a Hobart based band, how have you found it starting out in the Tasmanian music scene?

I think we kinda lucked out coming up in the Tasmanian music scene, cause it’s pretty flat for the most part, and there’s not a lot going on for up and coming artists and not a lot of support or industry guidance, which is something we want to see change and do our part in as well. But I think we kind of owe everything to Tyler Richardson, who’s the frontman of Luca Brasi, which is a band from Tassie. When we first started rehearsing in high school, he happened to be a TA at our school at the time and he overheard us rehearsing, and kind of helped us out since then. Yeah, he really liked what we were doing, and he helped us get our songs recorded and get our foot in the door of the music industry.

Are there any bands or artists that you take inspiration from when you’re making your music?

I think our main inspiration and pretty much our only main influence, that we can kind of point out and say that’s our influence, is Ball Park Music. Yeah, we just love what they do with how they write indie pop songs, but they keep it really fun and interesting and experiment with a bunch of different things. That’s something we always try to do, but I think that’s the only kind of main influence we can look at in the Australian music scene.

Each member of the band has different tastes and we’re kind of a melting pot where everyone is different and has different backgrounds musically. It’s kind of always better cause then you can all bring your own stuff in and make something really interesting.

I think we do look up to Lime Cordiale quite a bit as well. They’re kind of at the forefront of the Australian music scene right now. We supported them a few years ago and just hearing their story and spending time with them was very inspirational for us. I think we were 17 when we supported them and just to hear that story and how far they’ve come was so important to us.

Your new single ‘WHO ARE YOU’ was recorded at Golden Retriever Studios in Sydney with producer Simon Berckelman, who has worked with Lime Cordiale, Boy and Bear, Art vs Science, plus so many others. What was that experience like for you?

Yeah, that was a bit of a dream come true. I think I definitely felt like a kid in a toy shop being there cause it was the real deal and to be somewhere where such big names have recorded and spent time, it was really special. It was a great experience cause Simon and Chloe’s dad, who was his engineer, were just really great to work with. We were really lucky to get that contact with Simon and it was just some good networking. We got lucky for sure. 

We went over last year to Sydney at the start of their Delta outbreak. I think the day we got there was like case number one and we were the only ones wearing face masks, and then after three days everyone was in a face mask, so we got lucky to get over there and then we got lucky to get back as well.

I wrote it when I was 17, and it’s kind of about a few friends of mine at the time and when our friendships kind of derailed. It explores themes of substance abuse and all that sort of thing, which is what we kind of see a lot of in year 11 and 12 in friend groups. People getting smashed and whatever. But I guess the song is kind of about how we tend to romanticise those experiences in those times and in the media as well, like being 17 and being messy or whatever is something that’s quite common. And yeah, I guess the song is about looking back at that time and realising it kind of sucked. I guess the ‘who are you?’ refrain throughout the song is kind of silly cause it’s just a catchy song, but I think we tend to do that a lot: have happy and catchy songs that kind of have a darker meaning to them.

It started off as just a baseline that I wrote and I was having fun with, which is kind of like the main riff of the song which it opens and ends with. It went from there and we all came together and played it. And like I said like everyone has different ideas. I tend to write quite quickly cause I get bored, so I’ll kind of whip together a song that’s like an emotional outburst and have the structure down, then we play it, and we build it together from there collaboratively.

After these crazy couple years with live music almost on hold, how does it feel to be back out and able to play shows a bit further than just Hobart?

I’m really looking forward to it, but I’m also not getting too excited cause I know it could just get derailed at any point in time. That’s just the reality of the music industry at the moment. And it’s not something I think artists can get quite bogged down by, but I think we have to remember that it’s not the make or break. So, I’m trying not to get too excited, but I’m definitely keen to play in Melbourne again. 

We’re super stoked with our supports in Melbourne though, Tamara and the Dreams and Hot Glue. I’ve personally been fans of them for a while so it’s really cool to have them on board with the show.

And I’m really excited for people to see our video clip as well. It’s something we filmed in Hobart. We did two all-nighters filming and I won’t go into too much detail cause I want it to be a surprise but, it’s quite funny, it was a great experience. We worked with Josh Miller and Tom Wood from Launceston and we had heaps of fun and I’m so excited for people to see it.

So, what is next for The Tinderboxers? Do you have any plans to put out an album or tour more? 

In 2021 we kind of mapped out a road map for ourselves and the Nick Balcombe Foundation grant that we applied for, and then we ended up winning that grant. A lot of our plans involved recording and touring and I think last year was just a bit depressing for everyone, and we didn’t really take any action on that. After last year we’ve got ourselves back into gear and learned a lot about ourselves as a band, about where we’re going and what’s the best way to go about things. We do have a few singles in the works, and we’ll be releasing those in the next year and seeing where that goes. I think we’d love to do an album and put all the singles on the album but it’s wishful thinking at this point. I think with this release and the next release and the next tour, we’re learning how to kind of run the band the best way that suits us without pushing things too hard, cause being in a band that lives in Tasmania, it’s quite hard to get in the scene – the Triple J scene – and you just have to be on the mainland all the time and it’s not really manageable.

What is on your playlists or on repeat at the moment?

I’m listening to lots of Mac Miller, which is just the complete opposite of what we play. And I’ve been listening to Peach Pit, which is my favourite band, an indie rock band from Canada. They’ve more influenced me with their marketing and stuff. I think they’re really cool and I also love their music, but I don’t really write songs like them or try to write songs like them.

You can catch The Tinderboxers at The Gasometer Hotel in Naarm/Melbourne on April 14th, with support from Tamara and the Dreams and Hot Glue. Tickets for their upcoming show are available here and you can check out their new single ‘WHO ARE YOU’ now on Spotify.

Article written by Sienna Taylor-Gibson

Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

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