Minneapolis' Honeydogs Test Their 'Luck'
One listen reveals Honeydogs' "Here's Luck" (due Jan. 30 on Palm) as a richly textured album with solid rock songs, atmospheric instrumentation, fluid melodies, and haunting lyrics. But the chancesOne listen reveals Honeydogs' "Here's Luck" (due Jan. 30 on Palm) as a richly textured album with solid rock songs, atmospheric instrumentation, fluid melodies, and haunting lyrics. But the chances of the band finding widespread success may hinge on another trait: endurance.
"This record definitely has a very dark vibe to it, and a lot of it has to do with this long tunnel we've been going through as a band, just trying to keep our heads above water," says Adam Levy, Honeydogs' lead vocalist, guitarist, keyboardist, and main songwriter. "A lot of the songs reflect that sense of doom and the walls closing in on you.
"But each song definitely has a light at the end of the tunnel," he continues. "It isn't just a record about being alienated and feeling like an outsider. There's some hope in all of these songs."
The journey began in 1994, when Levy formed Honeydogs with younger brother Noah on drums, Trent Norton on bass, and Tommy Borscheid on guitar. The Minneapolis-based group recorded two albums for local indie October Records, then moved up to the majors, releasing "Seen A Ghost" in 1997 on Mercury's Debris imprint.
Soon afterward, Borscheid left the band. And after Honeydogs recorded "Here's Luck" as a trio, Debris shuttered. But the band, which soon added guitarist Brian Halverson and keyboardist Jeff Victor, continued to be propelled by word-of-mouth, especially among die-hard Minneapolis fans, and the sheer joy of playing music together -- not to mention a surprise hit in several local markets.
"I Miss You," which is included on both the Honeydogs' self-titled debut and "Seen A Ghost," began receiving airplay at scattered triple-A stations throughout the U.S., performing strongly for individual outlets as recently as late 2000.
"Locally, it became our big calling card," says Levy. "When Mercury had lost interest in the band, all of a sudden we were getting airplay in Austin [Texas] and Buffalo, N.Y., and other places. It was very surprising to us. Two years after the record was done, all of a sudden it got a second life, and it kept us going."
The support of DJs and fans -- some of them on Palm's staff -- helped seal the label's decision to pick up the band, according to GM Celia Hirschman. "This band has a much longer staying power than whatever this week's ratings are all about," she says, adding that the label, too, is in it for the long haul.
Hirschman explains, "Our intention is to build a strong fan base for the band to rest on for their next record [which is already in the works]. "
"Building a band's awareness on a national level is truly about endurance," she adds. "What's critical here is to not go out of the box with guns blazing across the country and run out of steam in three months, but rather to plan methodically."
Hirschman says Palm has serviced the album to a variety of radio formats in Minneapolis and to triple-A outlets around the country, with the misleadingly cheerful rocker "Sour Grapes" as the focus track. For Twin Cities retailers, the first pressing of "Here's Luck" will include a bonus disc containing "I Miss You" and two other previously released non-album tracks. In addition to intimate-room shows for their fans, Honeydogs will perform Jan. 10 at Minneapolis' esteemed First Avenue venue.
"That's our favorite place to play in the world," says Levy. "I grew up seeing all the great bands come through Minneapolis there -- Bow Wow Wow, Steve Earle, Los Lobos, and Prince, of course.
"Growing up, the records that had the greatest impact on me were ones I could come back to again and again," he continues. "And we wanted to make ["Here's Luck"] a record that would be interesting upon repeated listening, on which you would discover new things, new layers, with songs that have a very carefully constructed movement and some sort of great climax. We like to build songs that way."
Levy says his day job served as an inspiration for much of the album's material. "Having worked as a social worker for 10 years, I feel that has definitely seeped into a lot of the songwriting -- seeing people in poverty, looking for jobs, and keeping their heads above water," he says, echoing the motif of survival against harsh odds. Perhaps this recurring idea made "Stonewall," a tribute to the 1969 riots that sparked the gay rights movement, the natural album opener, both thematically and musically.
"That's definitely a statement of intent," says Levy of the song. "It introduces a lot of the elements that you're going to find throughout the record -- the different sonic textures, the Mellotron, all the electronic instruments, the breathy percussion, the vocals. It's right in your face. Part of that song is about the curiosity of being attracted to bisexuality -- this almost fixation that people have that's exploded into a trend. There's definitely a look at that in the song -- whether it's ironic or something really meaningful."
"Here's Luck" is such a strong album that almost any song could be considered a standout: the cheeky, shuffling "Red Dye #40"; the lewd, romance-gone-wrong "Hearts And Heads"; the epic, empathetic "Freak Show." But perhaps most striking is the ravishing rock waltz "Wilson Blvd."
"That song is about yearning for some kind of human connection -- 'I want to hear my voice in the din,'" says Levy, who may find that the wish voiced in the song is granted by the public's reception to "Here's Luck."
"I think after all this time, we're starting to get some sense of connection -- that people are hearing this record. Even internationally, we've been doing interviews with Japanese magazines, and there's just a sense of something growing," he says. "Having gone through two years of silence from the outside world, with very little response, it's very exciting to have people finally listening.
Levy, who has two children and another one on the way, says, "The record and my child are coming at the same time, although one has had an inordinately long gestation period. It feels like I'm actually having two kids."
Looking forward to this month's release of "Here's Luck" and, with hope, the end of a difficult stretch for Honeydogs, Levy says, "The long winter finally feels like it's over.