AN INTERVIEW WITH HONEY
Pittsburgh-based band, HONEY, plays garage rock with a twist of optimism and a whole lotta good vibes. Creating authentic, emotion-packed music with tight beats and an infectious creative high, HONEY produces a refreshing sound (and feeling) that raises your energy and spirits. I hung out with band members, Joe Praksti (guitar/vocals), Evan Meindl (drums) and Pat O’Toole (bass), to talk about their new album, playing in the ‘burgh, and how the band arrived at such a damn good sound.
How did you guys start your band?
Joe: We were friends in high school and all started playing music around the same time. Pat and I started playing when we were like 13. And then Evan started playing in a band with my neighbor, Aaron. It’s funny because even though Pat and I had our own band, the whole time I was just like, ‘Evan is like the best drummer ever!’
Evan: Then there was this weird gap when Joe and Pat’s other band wasn’t doing anything and my band quit making music. So I just told Joe, “We NEED to play music. Just get Pat. It’ll be the three of us.” And everyone was all in. We went to Joe’s house for our first practice, and we wrote our first song called ‘Quiver,’ and we were just, like, hooked. Joe’s dad came downstairs after we ran through our first rehearsal, and he was like, “Holy shit! What was that?”
Pat: He’s our biggest fan to this day.
Evan: It was a real moment of clarity for us, almost like, ‘what have we been doing??’ We realized that we’ve gotta do this for real. And ever since then, everyday we go to work and then it’s like ‘what can we do for Honey?’ after that, so its definitely like a full time job.
Do you have a meaning behind your name?
Joe: Honey is meant to be a sickly sweet concept. I like names that have a duality, and I also wanted a name that was a one word name. So it’s a sweet name, but we try to play gnarlier, heavier music but also music that we want to be like earworms and catchy.
What bands influence your sound most?
Pat: Well how much time do you have?
Evan: Okay how about let’s each name three. I’ve got mine. Smashing Pumpkins, My Bloody Valentine, The Beatles.
Pat: Deerhunter. I’m a Deerhunter fan, completely. Fleetwood Mac and Sly and the Family Stone.
Joe: I would not be playing music if it weren’t for Nirvana, Pavement and The Beatles. But since Evan said the Beatles, I guess I’ll defer to the Monkees.
Okay, you’re driving from Pittsburgh to California, and you can only put one album in your car stereo. What are you gonna use?
Joe: Oh, there’s one I could name right now. It’s an album that is literally called Album by the band Girls. That album is everything to me.
Pat: Mine would be Spooky Action at a Distance by Lotus Plaza. That’s my shit. In the car, running…. that goes on first.
Evan: This isn’t like my favorite album, but the album that’s recently had the most impact on me is the 1975’s new album [I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware Of It]. It’s 80 minutes long, 17 tracks, and it encompasses every element of pop music that I love on one record.
So I call this the Savior of Sound question. I wanna know what person in your life or artist that you love inspired you to make music?
Joe: Whenever I was a kid, my favorite Monkee was Mickey Dolens, and my favorite Beatle was Paul McCartney, so I wanted to be both of them simultaneously, but I really fucked that up because I’m playing guitar and they’re the rhythm section, haha! So I guess I maybe just wanted to play with them. But when I turned a certain age and started really getting into music, I idolized Kurt Cobain, of course. But I also thought Stephen Malkmus was the coolest human on the planet. I tried to get my hair cut like him. Also in terms of people, my father did a great job and really opened ‘the doors’ to music for me (also his favorite band too)
Evan: The first songwriter I became obsessed with was Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes. He was very influential to my obsession of music. He was the first musician I had a strong, emotional attachment to, and I still love all of his music.
Pat: Music kinda runs in my family. Both my mom and her aunt play piano really well, and my sister gives piano lessons, but growing up, I was like, ‘I’m not playing piano.’ So I started playing saxophone in the band, but I was like, ‘no, this is stupid.’ Then I picked up bass and I got introduced to this entire world of music that you don’t really listen to in school. Then I listened to the bass in Dookie by Green Day. I remember being like 14, and I would print all the bass tabs for all the songs on the album. That album was such a driving factor for me to keep learning music.
Joe: I did that too! I actually printed out Green Day’s whole discography. That’s like 80 pages of tabs on paper! I had them lying in my basement and I’d just pick a song depending on how I felt.
Pat: And then your parents would yell at you because you’d accidentally print out all the ads on the sides of the tabs, and it would drain the toner in the printer, haha.
Do you have a favorite concert that you’ve played?
Joe: We’ve had a lot of really good shows lately. But we recently got to open for Beach Slang and Bleached, and that was definitely one of our favorite shows that we’ve done.
Evan: My favorite venue is the Grog Shop in Cleveland, OH. It’s the perfect room to play in because it’s small and it’s intimate. But when there’s people, and we’ve been fortunate enough to play to awesome crowds there, it feels massive. And talk about duality… that room feels both so small and so big at the same time. There’s no barricade. It’s just a red curtain around the entire place. It’s the best place to see a show, best place to perform.
Pat: Once we went to DC and played a house show…. I can only describe it as true lunacy. It was 150 people in a garage and just GO. It didn’t matter why you were there, what you wanted to do, who you wanted to see.
Evan: Yeah, we never had a reaction like that. It was amazing.
Pat: I had just bought a new fuzz petal for my bass and someone just fell on it and fucked it up but that just speaks to the awesomeness of the show.
Gimme the dish on your new album. When’s it coming out? What are the vibes? How’d you record it?
Evan: We started writing for the record in January 2015 and we didn’t want to self release it. We thought that the songs were good enough to have people push it for us, and that was intimidating because we didn’t know how that was gonna happen. And then we were fortunate enough to start getting into the local music scene. One of the co-owners of Spirit (Lawrenceville, PA), his name’s Donnie, was recently handed over a record label called WILD KINDNESS, and he approached us and said he wanted to get us in on the label. He was the first person that wasn’t our friend or didn’t previously know us that believed in our music. So we were ecstatic to jump in on this project because it’s just a bunch of people who are really passionate about music and the idea of putting out really good records. And Donnie really understands our band and didn’t really want to record us in a studio. He wanted to go for more of an isolated environment, no distractions kinda thing. He has this buddy, Handsome Dan, at least that’s what we know him as. And Handsome Dan has a cabin in Strasbourg, VA in the middle of nowhere. In October we went down with four of our closest friends and recorded the album there. Recording it was really fun, but we were also in such a confined space with lots of people.
Was this like a one room cabin?
Evan: You could essentially call it one room, haha. The control room was the living room, and the tracking room was also an extension of the living room. And then upstairs there was one bedroom with two really small beds. There were 9 of us total staying in the cabin and two people got a bed every night. And the rest of us got the floor, like a hard wood floor.
Joe: I loved the floor the first night.
Pat: Yeah, dude, the floor was great.
Evan: But it was a really fun process and we’re wrapping it up right now so we’re thinking it’ll be out in March 2017. The album’s called Mock Pop.
Anything you’re most excited to hear on the album or a track you’re most proud of?
Evan: My favorite song is the last song we wrote for it called “At Twilight.” We’ve never written a song that sounds anything like that. It’s like this groovy, mid tempo thing, and we’re usually very hard hitting and centered around sound dynamic shifts. But this song kind of coasts the whole time, but in a really good way. There’s some tempo changes in it too, and I love stuff like that.
What’s it like being part of the Pittsburgh scene?
Joe: We definitely have ambitions to expand, but Pittsburgh is great.
Pat: The road is awesome.
Evan: We’re very fortunate because everyone in the Pittsburgh scene is so nice. All the bands that are older than us have been so kind to us, and it means a lot because we’ve really looked up to them this entire time. But some of our favorite shows have been on the road. I think we thrive most when we’re traveling. It feels like you’re really ‘doing this.’
Pat: The road is a new challenge of sorts. Pittsburgh is home, and we love playing here. But there’s definitely something about being in a band, all together and going places.
Joe: I have to say that I’m very proud to be from Pittsburgh. If I could choose a city, it would be Pittsburgh, for real. Everything else is too played out. Pittsburgh’s got its own little secret treasures with just the coolest, nicest people.
Pat: You can find a great show here just about every day of the week.
Evan: I think the best thing about playing shows is receiving messages from other bands that we’ve toured with or met on the road asking if we’d want to play at one of their shows. Having bands from halfway across the country wanting to come through, reaching out to us….It’s really humbling.
photo by ALEXANDRA PASQUARELLI
interview by ALEXANDRA PASQUARELLI + MOLLY BREIT