The California Honeydrops are no strangers to releasing lots of music.
The rootsy Bay Area troupe put out six albums during the past decade, and two in 2015. But the upcoming Call It Home: Vol. 1 & 2 — which comes out Friday and is premiering exclusively below — represents a new level of ambition, spreading 16 tracks across two discs, displaying more of a live flavor and featuring Bonnie Raitt on the slinky first single and title track.
Polish-born frontman Lech Wierzynski, who worked with Dan Hicks, Maria Muldaur and Marcus Belgrave before starting the Honeydrops, tells Billboard the project caught he and his band members a bit off guard, too.
How did you wind up with two volumes of Call It Home?
I wasn’t really seeing it that way when we were doing it — we just had a lot of songs, y’know? And we have a lot of styles that we like to play in the band and I didn’t feel like trying to squeeze everything and making it all one sound or squeeze this all into any sort of box. I figured if we made a double CD it would make it easier to do whatever we felt like doing. It was more about having some freedom to play and not having to worry about the songs the songs fitting together or not.
They may sound different, but there’s a thematic thread to this album lyrically.
They’re songs about home and how we feel about home, so it turned into a concept album, sort of. It’s maybe the most conceptual album we have, in a way, because it has a little more lyrical continuity and more of a theme about what it’s about.
Was there a moment of epiphany when you realized what you had?
Nah, it just came out slowly. I think what happened was I started realizing what was going on in my brain. A lot of people in the band have been living in the Bay for a while, and a lot of us have been moving around a lot, trying to find an affordable place to live. I started feeling that pressure and started not feeling as at home here as I did before. I’ve always loved it here since I moved here 14 years ago. I grew up moving around a lot with my parents; We emigrated from Poland when I was a little kid, so I started feeling those old feelings of “Where are we going? What’s going on? Where do I belong?” I think a lot of those emotions started to circulate in me again with the crazy gentrification of the Bay and feeling like I can’t really stay here. That got me thinking about all the stories of my parents’ immigration and my own feelings about what I’m going to do next. All of that blended into a theme on the album.
You were pretty prolific here. What stood out as surprises?
The song “Live Learn” surprised me. That was one of the last songs we recorded and we didn’t really know what we were getting into when we started recording it. We had Mike Finnigan from Bonnie Raitt’s band in the studio that day and just made the song up and turned it into this whole production. But when I listen to (the album) now what surprised me is how much different stuff we did, how many eras we covered. It’s hard to see that while you’re doing it, but now I can put it on and be like, “Omigod, we did all this?” So I’m surprised by the breadth of it. But that’s been a goal for us; We try to respect the music as much as we can and take our time, and we have a ton of artistic freedom to do that.
How did you decide which songs went on which disc?
There was a general acoustic vs. electric sides to them. The first disc is more electric and the second side deals more with rootsy stuff. One is more like old school, and the other side is really old school.
This one took a while to make, right?
Yes…and no. We were touring at the time, so we were doing it three days here, three days there. Total studio time was probably a month, but it was spread out over about a year and a half. I do think we benefited from that, though; It gave us a lot of perspective and a chance to revise things if they weren’t working. It gave us a little perspective on the tunes, which was nice to have when we were working with so many. I wouldn’t do it again, I’ll put it that way. It was a little too much to handle. But we didn’t overwork them because we didn’t have the time, which was good.
How did Bonnie Raitt wind up on the title track?
We were warming up on that song in the dressing room when we were opening for her on tour, and she would come in our dressing room and start singing these adlibs. We were like, “Hey, that sounds really good. Maybe we should ask her to come into the studio?” So when we had some time off from that tour, she lives in the Bay and just drove down to the studio and sang it with us. It worked out really fortunately.
You’ve got to be happy about having a batch of new material to lay on audiences now.
A big goal for this band is to not play the same setlist night after night, or play any of the same songs between any three nights. Every night is different — different nights of the week, different parts of the country, whatever. We want to stay in the moment and stay true to our moods and to ourselves. So more (material) gives us a lot of flexibility in terms of the show, which is what keeps us sane on the road and provides a spontaneous show for the crowd night after night. We want to be a band that reflects us as infinite beings, not like a confined band. We want to keep it as fresh and spontaneous as humanly possible, night after night, and enjoy ourselves to the maximum of our ability. That’s just what music is about to us.