Sydney five-piece punk outfit Tonight Alive have played the game well so far in their young careers. Theirs is a cookie-cutter style of pop punk, with rugged hair and scruffy clothes quite strategically placed and that overly structured quasi-anarchy that bands like All Time Low and Anberlin are so renowned for – but it’s working. Ahead of their appearances on this year’s ludicrously massive Vans Warped Tour, Tonight Alive have released their second album, The Other Side, into the adoring arms of Australian fans as well as those they’ve amassed in the US, UK and Japan.
After their demo fell into the hands of US pop punk producer extraordinaire Mark Trombino, giving rise to their debut album What Are You So Scared Of?, Tonight Alive garnered the attention of a devoted fan base. Vocalist Jenna McDougall and guitarist Whakaio Taahi are bouncing out of their skin from the excitement of album number two seeing the light of day. “It’s absolute, massive excitement,” Taahi says. “We just feel like this is such a massive step up from the first album. The fans have been so great; it’s awesome to hear what they have to say when they first hear it. I guess at the end of the process we realised it was quite different to our first [record] but it doesn’t seem to have had a bad effect at all.”
In this new world order of music, it doesn’t take long for an audience to sniff out the truffles of their favourite band. “We’ve been playing a few new songs already on this tour and it’s outrageous to hear people singing along to these really new songs that for some gigs hadn’t even been released,” McDougall says. “They were only streaming on the internet and they’d have to be hardcore fans to go and find them and then learn the lyrics, and it’s surreal. You wait so long to put an album out and this feels like instant payback.”
Tonight Alive could seem like too much of a good thing – their story reads like an effortless rise to stardom, but Taahi and McDougall explain that it was really the opposite. “All five of us literally dropped everything to focus on this band, so there’s never been a point where we weren’t giving it 100 per cent,” says Taahi. “Jenna dropped out of school, some of the other guys stopped working, and it’s not that we got any different opportunities to any other band in the world – I feel like we’ve just always worked hard. We always had a goal, we’ve always tried to get there and we’ve always tried to better ourselves rather than sitting back and waiting for something to happen, like I feel like a lot of bands do. Every tour we said yes to; we had the songs, we had the CDs and it just grew.”
It wasn’t ego-stroking that got them to where they are now either. They play note-perfect shows with uninhibited enthusiasm and in a game of chicken first, or egg, it seems their professionalism came long before the praise. “I think our mindset came first; we started the band in 2008 and we all left school and jobs in 2009,” McDougall says. “We were like, ‘Let’s just go for it.’ It took us a really long time to get there, in a way. We had a manager at the time who was kinda like, ‘It’s all happening,’ and he put a lot of ideas in our head but that worked out to be a good thing in the end because that was the motivation. Five days a week we practised eight hours a day, and while we tried to do it for a while without management or a label, it ended up working for us.”
BY KRISSI WEISS
Check out BRAG’s review of The Other Side.
Tonight Alive play Vans Warped Tour at Barangaroo on Sunday December 1 with The Offspring, Parkway Drive, Simple Plan, New Found Glory, The Used, We Came As Romans and more. The Other Side out now through Sony Music Australia.