It’s been a pretty intense 12-months for California-based band, Honeyboys. Perhaps this is unsurprising, given the world has been struck by a devastating global pandemic. But for the band, they’ve not only released four genre-blending tracks, they’ve also written an “album worth” of other songs in amongst all the madness.
For lead guitarist, Reese Gardner, the key to this prolific creative streak has been the natural synergy between each band member. “When you’re a musician, you just have this instant connection with other musicians,” Reese says, recalling the moment during the fall of 2019 when he met vocalist and Napa-resident Ari Eisenberg at California Polytechnic State University. “You can just chat so easily for hours about music and the bands you love, and you have this shared passion for wanting to create really amazing sounds.”
Drummer, Matt Sato, agrees, “you just click with other musicians,” he says. “I’d loved drums since I was a little kid, but I’d never been in a band or anything like that. Then when I first came to Cal Poly, I got chatting to Reese at a social and we ended up talking for two or three hours – just purely about music. Then at the end he was like ‘we should start a band’, and I was like, ‘yeah I’m down for that – but I didn’t know how serious he was!”
Gardner is the one who pulled the band together, according to Eisenberg. “Reese just pulled us all together really in that first quarter at Cal Poly,” he says. “He was the one who found everybody; he even found Grady (Gallagher – Keyboard) on Instagram and was just like ‘I need this guy in our band’”
Apart from their instruments, each member of the band brings their own flavour to the group. It makes for an enjoyably eclectic sound: as their blend of music is fresh and exciting (you can check out their latest tune, Grapevine here). But it’s not easy to define into a single genre or category. But then – that’s kind of the point of this young new band, who are keen to experiment and try new things. This means that their shared love of jazz, pop, hip-hop and classic rock is allowed to spread, uncontrolled, working its way into new and – ultimately – incredibly groovy new sounds. By the time of our interview, this can be seen in how unique each of their four released songs are.
But while Honeyboys’ music might sound exactly like you’d imagine California should sound like (fun, sun-soaked and energetic), there’s an elephant in the room that is part of the reason this year has been all the more surreal for a debut band.
When Nothing in the Rulebook sat down with Honeyboys, we do so over Zoom (which seems to be one of the most common phrases of 2020) – and each of the band members dial-in from a different state; a different city. The impact of Coronavirus is therefore unspoken before the interview even begins; but lead vocalist, Eisenberg, it’s not just Covid-19 that’s on his mind.
“It’s all pretty apocalyptic” he says. “The lockdown has been so bad, especially in California. But right now we also have these massive wildfires coming in, too. So it’s quite insane, honestly; but we’re getting through it. We’re making music.”
But how exactly does one go about making music in a time of Coronavirus, especially with the band spread out across the US?
“It’s a totally different feel making a song virtually compared with being able to write a song with everyone in person at the same time,” Gallagher says.
“Absolutely,” Gardner agrees. “The one thing I really miss is just jamming. The thing I took for granted was just the beauty of improvisation – where you can have a go at everything, feel the energy from other musicians and work together to create something unique.”
“You end up having to work on little bits and then you share that with the group and collaborate and share ideas and feedback – but you can’t do anything ‘live’ – not that it’s necessarily a bad thing,” Gallagher adds. “Since we’ve been writing new songs virtually and recording, we’re definitely a little bit more experimental.”
In some ways, then, lockdown has been liberating for the band. Eisenberg notes that, having been a base singer as a teen, recording Grapevine during lockdown allowed him to experiment with a falsetto: “the song is so fun and energetic and happy and catchy,” he says. “the song allowed me to do a lot more falsetto and I think before lockdown I’d have been nervous singing falsetto live; but working on it as hard as we did during quarantine has given me the confidence to it more and weave it into more of our songs.”
But while the band have been churning out new songs at a rate of knots (an entire album-worth of material in a school year is no mean feat); they’re also alive other seismic events that have been taking place across the USA, especially when it comes to the Black Lives Matter movement in what has often been a polarising election year.
“As of now, our politics are really polarised,” Sato notes. “We’re having an election this year which is arguably the most important election we’ve ever had, so it’s really important for us to use our platform to support these really powerful movements like Black Lives Matter.”
“I think it’s important for people who have platforms to promote positive messages,” Eisenberg agrees. “It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t acknowledge the BLM movement and so we set up a fundraiser and donated all the money from our merchandise sales to BLM.”
“Of course, things are so polarised right now that I do think it’s important that music isn’t just about politics,” Gardner says. “There are some punk bands that I love that are really political and I love that – but our vibe with Honeyboys is quite a lot more chilled and blissful, and it would be a little odd if we loaded these fun groovy songs with loads of heavy political messaging. So I think one thing music can do is actually help to bridge the gap between all the polarised views and actually remind people that you can lose yourself in music and forget about all the anger and stuff from time to time.”
A great example of how Honeyboys’ music is bringing people together is their latest music video for Grapevine. Recorded under lockdown, the band couldn’t shoot a video as you normally would, so ended up going out to their community of fans, asking folks to send in clips of them singing and dancing to the beat. It brought in videos from around the world – at a time when everyone was locked in their houses unable to see each other personally, was this a way of connecting people and bringing them together?
“Absolutely,” Eisenberg says. “It was genuinely collaborative and so great to connect with people from around the world. We’re not the first band to create a video like this but it’s always such a positive thing when people do make videos like this – it was such a positive experience. And you need that; you need that positivity.”
And on that note; we move onto the quickfire round!
Describe your music in a single word or phrase?
Favourite musician or band? (one each)
Jacob Collier; Pink Floyd; Dominic Fyke; and Realestate
A song you love and/or a song you hate?
Grady Gallagher: Love the song “Running Out of Love”
Matt Sato: Love Dangerous by Big Data
Ari Eisenberg: Take a Walk by Passion Pit. Is a great tune; but personally I don’t like “Walk” by Carnegie.
Reese Gardner: Love ‘The Dream’ by the OC’s. A song I hate is All the Small Things by Blink 182. It was hella vibe in 6th grade, but now it’s just kind of noise
Any under rated artists that you know that we should all be listening to?
AG Cook; Chiiild; Moses Sumny; Ian Dior – he literally just blew up a month ago and you should all check him out.
If music didn’t exist, what would you do?
Any hidden talents?
Grady Gallagher: I can do a rubix cube
Matt Sato: I can wiggle my ears
All: It’s always you Matt!
Ari Eisenberg: I’m very good at massaging people. You guys don’t know this about me but I was very well known about this in high school…maybe that sounds like I’m trying too hard.
Reese Gardner: Rap battling. In high school, I’d just rap battle people. I’d go round hyping people then drop two bars and then be out
What’s the weirdest thing to ever happen to you on stage or when recording?
We were doing a show once and there was a massive mosh pit. We were playing Yo Yo, and folks were just going wild, jumping all over the place. Then one girl jumped into Ari and sort of span around and fell into our drum kit. That was pretty crazy.
What is something you’re particularly proud of?
Matt Sato: The thing I’m most proud about is the community we have; you know it’s the people who come to our shows, the people who make our art work, like Olivia – she’s so talented. Then we have someone who helps with our social media and there are so many people who have reached out and helped us to get to where we are today. I can’t really say thanks enough – our community and our fans, it just is so awesome. I still can’t get over the fact that people are out there listening to our stuff!
Ari Eisenbgerg: yeah absolutely the fans are so amazing – love our fans and love our community as Matt says. I think I’m also proud of Grapevine – we put in so much work on that, going through I dunno how many edits and re-recordings to get it to how it is – and for people to really like it and listen to it is just ace.
Grady Gallagher: For me personally what I’m most proud of since joining this band, is before this I’d never really written any songs. I was always too scared to write stuff. But when I first started jamming with these guys, I broke out of my shell and started writing songs. I’m proud of myself for that.
Reese Gardner: I was going to say the song writing, but also, we just cranked out enough songs for a whole-ass album, in not even a full school year. The work ethic from these boys is just through the roof – we’re always writing; we’re always working on something new. For me, it’s all about the music, and it’s so great to be involved in a project where we’re so focused on making stuff that sounds good. That’s what music is all about, right?