Brooklyn’s Honey Wild are a band to be on the lookout for, combining sunny melody with sophisticated songwriting. When Thought Pollution caught up with frontman Joe Stevens and guitarist Alex Rainer last week, they were opening for In the Valley Below and Conveyor at Rough Trade in Brooklyn.
The origins of the group stretch back to 2011. Stevens met drummer Andy Payne and bassist Steven Laing, while working as a line cook in Williamsburg. The band was rounded out by Stevens’ childhood buddy, guitarist Rainer, who joined on last year.
On stage, Stevens and Rainer seem to have a strong musical connection. The two weave through tightly interlocked guitar lines and stake out a lot of sonic territory. Even with Stevens joking onstage about the group “arguing about tempo all the time,” the songs’ many dynamic shifts were executed impressively, keeping the performance tight.
The set at Rough Trade began with the ambient, instrumental “Autumn Means New Love,” which then segued pretty effortlessly into the more up-tempo “Turnaround.”
Stevens attempted to sell some non-traditional merchandise after a merch delivery snafu earlier in the day almost left fans empty-handed. Stevens smiled as he described the one item they had for sale: “It’s not an actual Honey Wild shirt, just my shirt… I wore it at work today.” He briefly described an earlier dalliance in the fancy green room of headliners In the Valley Below, where he “tried on their cologne” and “took a shit in their bathroom.” Then the band launched into singles “Garden,” and “Magnifique Innocent,” which Stevens told the crowd the latter of which was about his girlfriend Christina, who was in the front row.
In late 2013 the band released both tracks as an excellent double A-side on Shorewave Records. “Garden” features catchy, playful melodies that jump around energetically, bringing to mind early-era Vampire Weekend. “Magnifique Innocent” works along similar lines, with a looser, surf rock feel.
“I’d say our main friend right now is DIY,” said Stevens in a post-show interview. He also noted that Honey Wild recently finished recording a new extended play. “We had a huge surge in writing in the past six months,” he said about the band’s new, yet-to-be-released material. The six-song EP is expected out in early July, also on Shorewave Records. “With the music taking on a bit of a slacker thing, we’ve been really feeling [the new songs].”
The second half of Honey Wild’s set was mainly devoted to the unreleased tracks, many of which carried a laid-back twang reminiscent of Mac DeMarco. If the show is any barometer, the new record should feature a shifting artistic direction for the band, with more bursts of chorus jangle and occasional cascades of delay and reverb.
Stevens and Rainer confirmed the DeMarco influence, before noting that “we all listen to different things,” singling out the Dirty Projectors, Pixies, and also the Beach Boys (from whose 1967 LP Wild Honey they derive their name).
The new tracks have some unpredictable twists and crescendos, giving a real unique fingerprint to the songwriting. The band’s last song of their set, “7 Train,” featured reverb-splashed, syncopated guitar chime echoing through it, showing a shift back toward the more Afro-Pop-oriented material of earlier on in the night.
It’s rare to find a band with such developed songwriting be equally adept at engaging with those songs live, but Honey Wild pulled it off, and the new tracks have excitement already brewing for the upcoming record. Stay tuned this summer.