Justin W. Price, AKA PDXKaraokeGuy, is a freelance writer, blogger, and award-nominated author based out of Juneau, Alaska.
You may not have heard of Honyock, but I guarantee you’ve heard their sound. That’s not to say that their sound is derivative, only that their sound is familiar and comforting. Indie rock, with overtones of pop and country, Honyock released #13, with drips with nostalgia and Americana and reminds me us all of earlier times—especially now in a current and post-Covid world that at times feels post apocalyptic. The tracks on this album will make you smile and forget the chaos of 2020 and beyond.
Despite playing a genre that doesn’t often offer anything new, “Honyock have claimed an out-of-the way territory to cultivate their own unique musical sensibility, laboring for friendship, brotherhood, honesty and the sheer joy of the process, far from any fame or treasure-seeking notions.” (Andrew Russel). They may not be a household name, but, you can lay your claim to having heard them first now.
Based out of Sacramento, California, the quartet, consists of brothers Spencer and Mason Hoffman, bassist Tyler Wolter and Christian “Sunshine” Meinke, But what of that name, Honyock? It’s a strange one, to be sure, and one which this author often misspelled while preparing the questions for the forthcoming interview. It’s a word to chomp on, reminiscent of the smoggy sky that hangs over their home. In keeping with the family tradition that is Honyock, the name came to Mason and Spencer from their grandfather. It’s an old-fashioned American colloquialism that has been forgotten by most and carries with it uncertain meanings.. The brothers always equated it, though, with mischief and getting into a little trouble. Not a lot, mind you, but just enough to know that you’re not dead yet. The name seems fitting for music that is both serious yet carries with it a childlike whimsy.
I’d like to thank Honyock for taking the time to answer some questions
Can you give my readers a little background on Honyock?
We are a band from Sacramento that started 10 years ago and only recently started to get somewhat decent! We just put out our new E.P. “#13” on Park the Van records, which has been our favorite record label since before we were a band. We are really lucky and our new E.P. is mostly about feeling unlucky.
What’s the current line-up for Honyock?
Spencer Hoffman, Mason Hoffman, Christian Midthun and Tyler Wolter.
How have you been able to promote the new record without the benefit of touring or playing shows?
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost every facet of daily life, not to mention record promotion. We have had great luck working with our Park the Van and through them, Girlie Action, has been instrumental in promoting “#13” in a time where we can’t get out there and tell you about it face to face. There is a magic unique to live shows and touring and the relationships formed therein but luckily with the internet and a largely captive audience, you can reach a lot of people.
How do you feel about #13? How is it different from other recordings you’ve made… and in what ways is it similar to your past work?
13 was recorded around a month before the pandemic hit. I went down for the session and came back up and there was definitely a lot of tension in the air. I feel like it was shaped by the heaviness of the times we are living in.
I think it’s a great representation of progress the band has made over the years. Over time our focuses have shifted I think. With time and familiarity and maturity our discussions have stayed on track towards enriching the song at hand, especially in the studio. The added element that Midthun brings, this being his first recording session as a member of Honyock, also melds perfectly with where the rest of us are in our musical maturity, like a hand in a glove. His presence has really bolstered and energized the group and encouraged momentum.
Honyock "the quarry"
Why the name “#13”?
I liked the idea of exercising the deeply ingrained cultural superstition of the number 13. In the song “Unlucky #13” the speaker identifies themselves and their life with the number, as if it’s a simple equation, or that fate can be reduced down to some kind of scarlet letter. But in my experience a way to move on is to accept your lot in life and wear it on your sleeve, taking a kind of pride in your personal circumstances. The hard edges soften the more you acknowledge them, like fingering a bruise.
Pre-Covid, how often did Honyock perform?
As often as we could! Never could take it for granted and I’m glad we didn’t.
Have you been participating in any virtual concerts?
We haven’t done any virtual performances as a band as I am still in Sacramento and haven’t really figured out the logistics of coordinating that. Spence and I have done some solo performances and we have recorded a few things for various publications.
When do you anticipate being comfortable performing again?
I won’t be comfortable performing at venues until there is an effective treatment, vaccine, or some other solution. I am willing to wait it out and do it right. I love playing live, there is nothing like it, but there are more important things to worry about right now. We all need to meet this moment and make some sacrifices for those around us.
Where do you see Honyock over the next decade?
Honyock’s first show was ten years ago this year. I have been afforded the occasion to reflect on and appreciate all the triumphs, failures, humor, and humility being a part of this group has given me. We have grown up, as a band, and as people. The wild energy of our late teens gives way to a more tempered, longer burning passion for the craft. I think the next decade will see us further hone our craft, and hopefully reach some people who need to hear what we are saying in that moment.
Does being based out of Sacramento affect your sound or lyrical themes?
Sacramento musicianship is underrated. It’s a little-known fact that the town is filled with rippers, and ex-rippers. But like us a lot of musicians feel the need to move to cities where there is more of a scene, and more infrastructure needed to get a band going. But there are a lot of great musicians there and around in the foothills. There particularly seems to be a “straight to the point” lyrical style shared by folks like The Motherhips, Th’ Losin’ Streaks, Kepi Ghoulie, Cake or Kevin Seconds. Then there’s the ridiculously groundbreaking acts like Hella and Death Grips. One of my favorite songwriters ever, Tré Burt, is a Sacramento buddy. It’s stylistically diverse because there is no big scene to fit into so everyone ends up doing their own thing.
Honyock "The Patron"
What is the songwriting process like for Honyock? Is there a primary songwriter or is it a collaborative effort?
Usually Spencer or I will come to the band with the lyrics and structure of a song completed, then we arrange it together. I try to leave plenty of space for the other guys to be creative and express themselves in the framework of the songs I write. Being a band as long as we have, you almost write FOR the other players and in anticipation of what you think they will probably do. It is all the more fun when they do something that defies and exceeds your expectations. We are fairly democratic about songwriting and have tried to maintain a sort of non hierarchal structure where we are all there to lift up the most important member of the band, the song.
Are there any causes that Honyock has thrown their weight behind?
Black Lives Matter and the struggle for equality. Through means of seeking and absorbing knowledge, donating to charities, supporting black artists, and trying to learn, grow, and exemplify the need to end an oppression that exists where we live.
Comp in support of NAACP Legal Defense Fund:
Buy a mask here in support of Seeding Sovereignty:
Join the Movement For Black Lives:
We believe in keeping people safe at our shows.
What are some of the best brother pranks you pulled on each other?
The biggest prank I have pulled on him is making him play in a band with me for the rest of his life!
Does pineapple belong on pizza?
There’s a time and a place for everything.
If you could write a letter to your ten year old self, what would it say?
You’ve just started playing guitar, you won’t believe the places it takes you! Watch over your brother and your friends, and know that you will grow into yourself in time.
Don’t sell your magic cards!
Insight Studio Sessions: "Into My Arms" - Honyock
Would you choose flight or invisibility? Why?
In Covid world, it’s all about flight. Socially distance in the stratosphere. -Spencer
What are your hobbies, outside of music?
Drinking seltzer water. Me and Tyler have been D&Ding over the internet. Mason has been taking screenshots of that Yakuza game. Christian has been shredding classical guitar.
Do you have any advice to young musicians out there about how to handle yourself in the industry?
Don’t do pay to play. Be wary of small “labels” and useless managers. Wait for the previous band to get their gear off stage before you start loading your gear on. Offload your gear in a timely manner, do not break down your drum kit, amp rig etc on stage. Get out of the way and then take care of that. Be nice to the staff at the venue, barring them being disrespectful. Thank the sound guy, even if the monitor mix really wasn’t that great. Don’t talk too much between songs, keep the momentum going and you keep the crowd’s attention. Listen when more experienced people give you advice, but also trust your gut. Eat well and shower regularly on tour, no excuses. You can party all you want, but you better be on time and ready to play or you won’t last long. You will make mistakes and faux pas. Have fun and be teachable.
Where can folks purchase your music and keep up to date on upcoming shows and events?
If possible buy it on bandcamp. It’s out there everywhere else too.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
“To accept one’s past—one’s history—is not the same thing as drowning in it; it is learning how to use it. An invented past can never be used; it cracks and crumbles under the pressures of life like clay in a season of drought.” -James Baldwin
© 2020 Justin W Price