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Local Band Thunderfish a Fresh Catch


The Anchorage music scene is unusually blessed with varied performers. In an environment inundated with acoustic performances and the heaviest of metal stage acts, one local band seems to have found the sacred middle ground of genuinely entertaining rock and roll. This band is Thunderfish, and I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with these young gentlemen to discuss their origin story and the nature of the beast known as the Alaska music scene.

JS: How long have you folks been doing the local Alaska music scene?
Carl Bernstein: Our first show, or live appearance rather, was an open mic night at… Humpy’s in March of 2010, and we’ve been gigging at least once every two or three months since then – usually more like twice a month.
JS: One thing I noticed about your guys’ style is that you’re not afraid to really dig deep into the roots of classical rock and roll. The biggest symptom of this is probably the sort of songs that you guys choose to cover when you’re playing on stage, like Led Zeppelin and the Doors. What inspired you to pursue this direction when so few bands do these days?
Kenneth Clarke II: It’s what we like, to a large degree. Our covering process is basically, “Hey guys, I can kind of play this. Do you want to cover this song? For instance, “Good Times, Bad Times,” or “Bring it on Home,” or “Wonderful Tonight.”
Alex Hodges: We recently started doing “War Pigs.”
KC: It’s pretty much just, “What do y’all like and can we make it work with our lineup.”
AH: And what can we do to make it ours.
Tony Taylor: We just kind of did what we like to listen to. You know, try to have those influences in our music and just have fun playing them.
JS: So, no Kesha any time soon?
CB: I’d really love to play a metal version of “Gangnam Style,” but that’s another story.
JS: How did you meet up in the first place?
KC: So, basically, when I was a freshman in high school, I didn’t have any friends right off, and I was into this thing called freerunning, which was like, if you’ve seen the new James Bond, it’s that thing where they’re running and jumping and climbing over everything. Tony was into that, so we kind of bonded over that.
CB: Tony and I met because we both liked this band .38 Special. We came to discover that on an ROTC trip up to Fairbanks….
KC: We had met Alex “The Viking” on what amounted to a tour that the band went on… and it fit so well.
AH: So, we just kind of went from there. Since then, we’ve finished off what is to be our first album; we’ve got a second in the works.
JS: Three quarters of your band is extraordinarily young. I’d imagine that that creates problems when gigging in a scene that is completely bar oriented.
TT: My theory is that if your sound is more classic rock, then they’ll cut you a little bit more of a break, because it’s the kind of music that the people in charge grew up on…. We have such a diverse sound that I’d like to think that there’s something you’ll like if you stay for this long show.
KC: It’s a little bit tougher though. I handle most of the band booking, and I can’t even begin to say how many times I’ve gotten the message back ‘we can’t get under agers in, not even with their parents.’ That’s why we haven’t played Koots. That’s why we haven’t played the Anchor in a really long time. It’s why we haven’t played the Carousel and we’ve only played Taproot the one time.
JS: If you guys could go back in time five years and give yourselves advice on making it in the local Alaska band scene, what advice would that be?
TT: Start the band, because we didn’t start until like three years ago.
JS: A lot of Alaska bands have had to move out of state to find success in the music business. Have you guys ever contemplated relocating, or do you think that Alaska has a chance in the long run of allowing local musicians to grow to their fullest potential?
CB: This is an issue where we are somewhat divided, I’ll be honest. We all agree that we want to go down and tour, but individually we all have different opinions on where we want to end up. Personally, I would love for Alaska to be the home-base. It’s inspiring to me. The scenery up here is great. And I just like it up here too much to move permanently for the sake of music.
KC: I was kind of one of the really strong pushers for ‘we should move elsewhere’ and that’s because, to a certain degree, part of your ability to gain a bit more of following is deeply based in your ability to tour, and the ALCAN is a little bit of a long drive where there is just no civilization for hundreds of hundreds of miles for it to really be effective out of Alaska. Which is really unfortunate, because… Anchorage is great, even Palmer, Wasilla, Kenai, Homer – they’re great places to go, great places to visit, and even great places to gig if you can set something up. But, at the same time, there’s that issue of getting everywhere else.
AH: I know, for me, that Alaska will always be home base, and I can’t honestly say about the future, but I do know that if it really just isn’t working here, I do intend to try at least for a little while down in the states.
JS: Do you guys have any more news you could give us about upcoming albums or tours?
AH: Well, we’re in the process of raising money to get into the studio again for an album. We’re hoping to do a tour around this time next year.
KC: We’re putting together a Kickstarter for it.
CB: If we could release the album by the end of this year it would please the heck out of all of us.
We look forward to it! 
Here’s a clip of Thunderfish playing their song “The Great Debacle” live at Kincaid Bunker.