Whether they're telling reporters they met at "ukulele fantasy camp" or blogging about 6 AM drink orders in Copenhagen, it's pretty clear The Honey Brothers like to have a good time. Though perhaps best known for drummer Adrian Grenier's other gig as Vincent Chase on HBO's Entourage, the band has steadily built a solid reputation of its own. Forming in the wake of 9/11, The Honey Brothers have based their eight-year career on bringing joy to their music and to their fans. Made up of band members Grenier (Honey DuContra), Andrew Vladeck (Dory Honey), Ari Gold (Hoyt Honey), D.S. Posner (Carl Honey) and Ethan Gold (Kid Honey), The Honey Brothers plan to release an LP this month and are taking their show on the road. Bay Area fans can catch the guys at Wanderlust, July 24-26 at Squaw Valley USA, Lake Tahoe. Check out the cross-country conference call between Adrian (Los Angeles), Andrew (New York), and 7x7 (San Francisco).
So how did you guys get involved in Wanderlust?
Adrian: Well, we’re big yoga fans.
Are you really?
Adrian: No. We thought it was a funny concept, but quite timely. I mean, it’s about time you mix indulgent rock and roll with spiritual cleansing.
Yeah, I do that daily.
Adrian: Yeah, you gotta find a balance. We certainly do.
Do you guys do yoga?
Adrian: I actually do yoga. Not enough, but I do enjoy some yoga.
Andrew: I’ll get my Downward Dog on once in a while. And I’m really good at corpse pose. I do that one every night. I try to get 8 hours of corpse pose every night.
Your bio says you originally formed after 9/11. [Fellow Wanderlust headliner] Michael Franti said that’s exactly when he started doing yoga. What were you hoping to achieve through music at that time?
Adrian: I think that time for all of us was a time of reflection and sort of recognizing the things we might be disconnected from and the opportunities for us to start to connecting with one another as a way of healing. And also a lifestyle change and becoming more participatory in our lives, and I think that it was beautiful time for us all to share and connect on a deeper level.
Andrew: It was a moment where priorities and values came into a stark light and we realized it was important to value friendships and the beautiful city we lived in and we took that and we came together regularly, making food and music and sharing that music. We had no plans to become The Honey Brothers. We were just friends, and The Honey Brothers came later – the name, the band, everything. It was just what we were. It sprang organically out of us – joy, friendship, music, and reconnecting to important things as opposed to the rat race that you get swept away in, I think anywhere, but particularly in New York.
Are there any current artists you find really inspiring?
Adrian: I find a lot of bands starting to embrace that pared down, low-fi way of playing music. I think the Internet has helped spawn that. You look at Lykke Li – I really admire her and she has all these single camera, one-take videos…just playing in raw settings and I think that’s really sort of a trend nowadays. We’ve all become so disgruntled and disillusioned with high production value that leaves you wanting more. But I think that trend is coming about often with artists like Lykke Li, Devandra Bernhardt…
Andrew: I totally agree. I think everyone is aware of this digital mirage that’s constantly there and they want nothing more than to connect and know something is real, and seeing is believing. And I think people are more often going to YouTube rather than MySpace to hear music because they want to see something raw and real rather than something that’s beautiful. I think there’s a place for each, but just to know it’s there helps them connect to something real.
Adrian: And SoKo even. We’re friends with SoKo, and she’s the ultimate...she’s a real person.
Andrew: There are just so many artists out there – more than ever before, and I feel what’s nice about our band is that, yeah, we know music history and have been influenced by people going way back, but more and more people just today that we’re influenced by, and that’s the way it should be, and it’s awesome and exciting. I like artists like Andrew Bird…our peers. We’re not always referencing Bob Dylan or Van Morrison, or things that like that. We’re talking about our generation (laughs). To quote from another generation.
What’s the songwriting process like? Is it a collaborative effort?
Andrew: In the past two or three years, we’ve developed a new paradigm for writing, and it’s exciting for everyone to be more involved and more invested. We’ll get together and we’ll make time where we just jam. And out of getting out and having fun and exploring, we find a moment we like and in those moments, everyone perks up, and we say, “Wait a second, this is cool!” and usually from there, we’ll record it in some way. And whoever is most gung-ho says, “I want to take this and work on it” either by themselves, or as a team. There are several examples of that on the new LP where it will become a more formed idea that’s been fleshed out and everyone’s been more a part of the process and it has a real band stamp on it as opposed to individual. We all have such different influences, and we’re able to melt them more easily.
Your music is very much about having fun. Is it ever tempting to write a more emo song when you’re feeling down, or do you stay away from that?
Adrian: Emo? I thought emo was something you catch.
Andrew: What’s neat, I think, is, if you listen to the new LP, we treat things lightheartedly, but they’re not necessarily lighthearted. The trick is to find a way to talk about something meaningful, but not completely bum you out, but still be substantial. Songs like “Demonstration,” or “Moonlight” or “Won’t Last Long” have verses about conflict, but are about hope springing eternal, and that rallies through the songs and makes them more uplifting. They might be fun, but they’re coming from a place of real contention, of searching. But I’m glad you feel that way…It’s important for the music to sound good, and whatever way that happens is great. When it comes to working out personal issues, we all have other, various creative outlets to go to, and with the band, there have been more personal statements in the past, but the latest incarnation, none of us will talk about how dad won’t give us the car keys.
Adrian: We’re all so in touch with the world around us…we’re really about reaching out and connecting to the world outside, and not indulging ourselves.
Adrian, I know you introduced drums and distortion to the band. How did you know that sound would work?
Adrian: When I went to see The Honey Brothers when they were just an acoustic trio – DS, Andrew, and Ari, I fell in love with the vibe and the songs, and at the same time, I recognized something lurking underneath, wanting to come out – an indie rock fundamental structure to the music. And they hadn’t quite realized it yet. I approached them after – and I was just starting to do home recording and building a studio...I thought I might want to be engineer, and I was (laughs) looking for clients – so I approached them and I said, “You’re great, I love your songs, I love what you’re doing. And I see a vision for you guys…you guys need to rock. I love the acoustic elements, but you need to rock.” And they perked up and they got all doe-eyed, and they said, “That’s exactly what we wanted to do!” And I said, “I will help you make that happen.” So they came to my studio, and we plugged in.
What was that first time like?
Andrew: It was like Bob Dylan in Newport in 1965. The entire crowd booed!
Adrian: I think it was a great experience for all of us, when you spend that many months experimenting and exploring, and coming up with a new sound. At that point I was in my own band. And they said, “We had a good time, what do we do now? We have shows coming up, and we have all these elements to fill, and we only have the three of us,” so they asked me if I’d join in, and I said yeah. I knew the songs, so I sorta filled in and…how many years later is it?
Do you guys have any plans to tour smaller venues in the future with the release of the new LP?
Andrew: We’re planning on a West Coast tour after the Seattle Bumbershoot Festival. And that’s September.
Are you coming to San Francisco?
Andrew: That’s the plan. It should be early or the second week of September.