HONEYHONEY was in Texas when I picked up their three-way phone call. Ben Jaffe was talking in the comfort of a quiet space while Suzanne Santo was walking in the dirt alongside a road on her way a Starbucks. Not without a few dropped calls in attempt to get it to work, and a few break ups from there after, the conversation went on - eventually.
HONEYHONEY, a band that can be loosely described as folk, americana, alternative, and whole other mix of “genres” will be making a stop at Valparaiso’s Memorial Opera House in March - a vastly different landscape than the mild-weathered Texas. Before the band arrives in Northwest Indiana I had the chance to talk to them about their life in a band, why they aren’t fond of genres, how they’ve progressed since their first record, and what to expect from their show on March 12th.
HONEYHONEY formed decade ago after a chance encounter. Ben Jaffe, previously a solo act, and musician Suzanne Santo met informally - introduced at a party and soon after started playing together. Their first album was released in 2008 with First Rodeo, followed by Billy Jack in 2011 and 3 which was released last April. Their venture as HONEYHONEY a jaunty one, professionally and personally. Each album has been released by a different label, pushing them up and down in between records. Even with the back and forth behind the scenes, they’ve consistently bounced back. Besides their resilience, the journey, like most are, hasn’t been simple.
Being in a band isn’t easy. It’s playing shows weeks on end, disagreements followed by hard compromise, and throughout it all they’re sharing a small space while living on the road for months at a time - it’s lifestyle that makes even the strongest ones weary. That road they’ve taken has made Jaffe and Santo honest about their life in the band, noting that touring and the rapport while making a record takes some patience. It’s something they’ve learned to deal with, and have accepted that it’s a part of working with another person in a creative relationship.
“It’s kind of like … endless resolvable conflict. We continue to work our s--- out. There’s things that are compatible between us, but it’s a difficult situation to be in a collaboration.” Jaffe explains. “We work things out on the rig. Bands are kind of relationship bootcamp. The relationships you have, the timing, all of these things play huge components into the experience. Especially on tour, because there’s just so much compromise personally and communally. It’s kind of sink or swim.”
Santo continues, noting that though their relationship can be abrasive at times, they’ve always came out stronger on the other side. “Ben loses things a lot and then I get mad and then we have to talk about it - and then we get over it. The difficulties that we’ve gone through hasn’t been enough to break up the band and we work really hard on our friendship. We’ve learned to have this extreme communication between ourselves that when talking to others it becomes easier to handle anything. If we were just a bunch of a---h--- then none of this would work out.”
Their progression through the three albums has taken them from a pop based folk, to a slower burn of americana, to a raw, confident, and sometimes musically explosive third album. HONEYHONEY’s records all have a distinct character that separates them from the other, but what brings them together is that there’s no one favorable genre that fits the right description. The fluidity is intentional, and has allowed them to create a space that doesn’t confine their musical expression to one box. They want to keep it that way.
“Neither of us have never been steeped into tradition - whether that be in country, bluegrass, jazz, whatever it may be. We’ve never modeled ourselves after a genre or style of music. It all still feels kind of grab-bag-y for us.” Jaffe explained. “If there is any kind of tradition it’s that we always have adapted more than anything. We always talk about how we came in the musical age of the Napster era. All of a sudden it was like “boom!” - you could have whatever you wanted for free. I think that sort of helped formed our musical identity. We expect to release music that we’re proud of and that’s it. Whatever that sounds like will work its way out of us.”
Their progress isn’t only obvious through their evolving sound, their stance as storytellers has lead them to become more tenacious. Where they landed with 3 has brought Santo and Jaffe to shed back layers hesitation of what they wanted express to create a cutting, veracious record.
“It took a while to have that sort of confidence to write music that doesn’t hide behind something more comfortable and gives us the ability to say what we really feel.” Santo adds. “We’re older and have more life experience to have those sort of feelings that we relay. It’s pain, and joy, and life that allows us to portray those visceral experiences we’ve lived. We’re also better at our instruments and we’re cooler people. We worry, but we don’t worry as we used to.”
On March 12th HONEYHONEY and their band will make take their steps onto the historic Memorial Opera House stage. First timers to the area, the band plans to bring their charming presence to an awaiting audience. But what should the audience expect from a HONEYHONEY show?
“Fun times. Silly jokes. Good, cool hats. There’ll probably be two on stage.” Suzanne jokes.
Still, it’s the Opera House stage that makes them eager to play.
“What’s nice about a venue like the Opera House is the attention it brings. The energy from the crowd can be a little more relaxed, but when the [acoustics] sound incredible, oh my god, it’s a dream. We’re really excited to see the Opera House in person and get the ability to play [Northwest Indiana] because we’ve never had the chance to. It’ll be a great show. We’re looking forward to it.”
Tickets for HONEYHONEY’s March 12th show are still available! To purchase tickets, please visit: http://www.imaginemusicvalpo.com