The Honeydogs – In it for the long hauls
“[We don’t want to] wear touring as a badge,” Honeydogs’ guitarist Tommy Borscheid clarifies during a recent discussion on the benefits of touring for a young band. “It’s just something that people do.” And although Tommy’s right that most bar bands do tour to some extent, few of those bands are as grateful for the rigors and long hauls of touring as are the Honeydogs.
The Honeydogs have been using the many hours on the road and sparse weeknight audiences to grow together as a band and to hone their midwestern, country-tinged rock sound. “When you’re out somewhere on a Monday or a Tuesday night and nobody’s out, you just learn to make [the performance] important in a different way,” Borscheid says.
Noah Levy, the Honeydogs’ drummer, elaborates, “It’s great because we’d play, and the [the bar] could be empty, but the next day, around two or three o’clock, somebody would mention the show the night before and we’d start to talk about what was good about it. When you get into a routine and you’re playing every night, everybody is really open to making the next night better. It sounds like sunshine and lollipops, but it’s true.”
The Honeydogs have had ample opportunity over the past year to become a better band. The Minneapolis foursome has spent more than three months making trips from Minnesota to Texas and from New York to California in support of their self-titled debut album, released in early 1995 on October Records. And when the band is not on a full-fledged tour, weekends invariably include road trips to gigs in Ames, Iowa; Fargo, North Dakota; St. Cloud, Minnesota, or some other Midwestern port of call.
The Honeydogs grew out of the Adam Levy Band, which formed in 1993 with singer-guitarist Adam Levy and his brother, drummer Noah Levy (who also plays with Golden Smog), plus keyboardist John Duncan and ex-Gear Daddies bassist Nick Ciola. In addition to being their own musical outfit, the ensemble moonlighted as the backing band for former Gear Daddies leader Martin Zellar. In 1994, however, the Levys decided not to play behind Zellar anymore, opting to pay full attention to the Honeydogs. Duncan and Ciola chose to stay with Zellar. Enter bassist Trent Norton and, a few months later, guitarist Borscheid. “It’s funny, because both [Trent and Tommy] are people that it just instantly worked with,” Adam recalls. “We didn’t have to go through a whole series of folks to figure out who we wanted to play with.”
The Honeydogs is a collection of catchy, hook-filled, country and punk influenced rock tunes. The best song on the album, “Those Things Are Hers” (which includes the fiddle playing of Son Volt’s Dave Boquist), views marital separation through the eyes of a troubled soul who is “cursed to live in the shadow of a memory that just keeps hangin’ on.”
Although longing, regret, and marital separation are all themes that run through the album, it’s not necessarily a dark record. These just happen to be some of the issues and feelings most prevalent in Adam Levy’s life. “I just write about things I know, simple experiences that anybody can relate to,” he says. “It seems to be easiest. I tried to do this whole thing on economics and make a whole record about that. Nobody really went for it, though.”
The Honeydogs will be releasing their second album, Everything, I Bet You, in March on October Records. Co-produced by Tom Herbers (who has worked with the Jayhawks, Gear Daddies, Victoria Williams and Soul Asylum), the new album contains intangibles not captured on The Honeydogs. “[Herbers] was really good, in my experience, at capturing the mood and the atmosphere and the moment,” Adam explains. “It was different,” Norton agrees. “I’ve been in on a few mixing sessions and I’ve never seen anything done like that, where it would matter what you felt like when you were recording. Usually it’s like, ‘The red light’s on. I don’t give a shit what you feel like. Just get the take.’ This was much more sensitive to mood and the elements.”
Having an actual band recording the songs is another important distinction between the two albums. The first record was created in piecemeal fashion, taking months to record; only Adam and Noah played on all the tracks. Everything, I Bet You, by contrast, is a band record.
“Everybody plays a big role in the overall sound of the band, and what the character is,” Adam says. “It’s weird, ’cause sometimes, when you’re starting a band, you envision, ‘This is what I want things to be like.’ Or, “I have a song, and this is what I’d like to play it like.’ And then, all of a sudden, you give it to other people and it takes on another life. And, being a songwriter, there’s a part of you that goes, ‘Oh, now it’s not what I wanted it to be.’ But then it’s something completely different and most of the time way cooler than had you just done everything yourself.”