MEAWW's Basement Tapes: Honyock's EP '#13' is a dreamy mix of vintage 1970s tones and ethereal synth melodies
Nostalgia seems to be the prevailing zeitgeist emotion of this decade, with most of your favorite sounds from yesteryear getting the modern "revamped and revisited" treatment by many contemporary artistes. While some of those results have been rather hit and miss, it can be argued that the stand-out artistes who succeed in pulling this trick off are the ones who have fully grasped the endearing charm and nuances of those classic eras.
And with their latest EP '#13', the California-based quartet Honyock might have just captured lightning in a bottle with their brand of dreamy 1970s and 1980s era tunes. Originally from Sacramento, California, home to some truly great bands, Honyock have in recent years made Los Angeles their home. They have already played plenty of well-received shows (and a six-week national tour) in the past, opening for bands like La Luz, The Dodos, Gabriella Cohen, and Surfer Blood. Their 2018 full-length album 'El Castillo' was produced by David Vandervelde of Father John Misty fame, and it's also responsible for a lot of the buzz this band is receiving.
The unmistakable late 70's and early '80s sound of Honyock is crafted by the symbiotic partnership of brothers Mason and Spencer Hoffman, along with bandmates Tyler Wolter and Christian Midthun. Their name Honyock is a tribute to an old Americanism used by the brothers' grandfather, an antiquated expression that has both a historic and somewhat disparaging context to it.
With their new EP ‘#13’, which released on July 10 via Park the Van Records, the band “traces a world-weary picture of the fractured moments and missed opportunities of day-to-day life, woven through songs tinged with an updated nostalgia.” The compact 4-track EP was self-produced and crafted during a two-day session recording with Riley Geare (Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Caroline Rose).
The EP's opener, ‘Sanity of Man’ is a time-bending step through a wormhole, as flange-heavy synths and 70s-era drum-fills guide us on a slow, drifting ride through conflicting and complementary topics. Relatable themes like love, hate, happiness, sadness, civilization, and pandemonium are all explored with refreshing candor. Inspired by a quote from ‘The Twilight Zone’, the track leaves you with a sense of melancholia and a different insight into the human condition.
"Does the spirit that calls for revenge / Foster kindness in my friends? / The complicated sanity of man," muses Mason Hoffman in the song. The Tame Impala meets The Cars feel of the song is enhanced by Wolter’s driving bass, Midthun's masterful drum fills, and the sparkly guitar hooks that are punctuated by the aforementioned whirling synths.
Not everyone is dealt a fair hand in life, and this poker proverb is turned into a poignant lament in the next song. The consequence of being born in the wrong moment, family, or country, and feeling ill-equipped to navigate the modern fast-paced world is the basis of Honyock's next song ‘Unlucky #13.’ These anxieties are given a whole new life in this breezy Bossanova-esque track, with its glistening guitars and groovy rhythms showcasing a may-as-feel-good vibe as opposed to a woe-is-me mindset.
'The Quarry' has Mason lamenting about the things we do to make a living while unfortunately letting life slip through our grasp. The wry sadness of the previous track is given a lot more bombast and bravado this time around, and it is very reminiscent of the slower grooves of AC/DC and Lynyrd Skynyrd. The song is almost anecdotal, as Spencer Hoffman draws from his experience of working in a factory during a particularly dull winter, feeling his own time and life slowly wasting away. The lyrics are introspective and reflective too, as Mason Hoffman sings, "We find out time is on the line / When it’s all been drawn from us / The little cuss."
The elegant and woozy dream-shuffle, ‘World Of Mine’ wraps up this EP with Honyock giving us a slow, somber, and stirring ode to LA’s witching hour. The band are joined by Riley Geare with his elegant turn on the Fender Rhodes. There are some lovely start-and-stop patterns and tasteful cymbal splashes throughout, with lyrics that include "Sometimes this heart of mine / Gets shut down / It just needs love / Good love is hard to find."
Along with their debut album, ‘El Castillo’, Honyock are steadily carving a niche for themselves as purveyors of a well-defined and comprehensive understanding of music from a classic era. Although this is a very concise EP, fans can expect a lovely and immersive experience with ‘#13’ and should definitely keep their ears to the ground for more of this California-based quartet’s upcoming releases.
MEAWW's Basement Tapes is a column that shines a spotlight on undiscovered/underrated musical gems