Photo by Jack GouldThese days, hope just ain't hip. Not with wars and rumors of wars, and not in an age of pop-culture irony where most bands either brandish their disaffection or cater to the silliest kind of bubble-gum escapism.
Yet when Honeyslide guitarist and co-front man Gary Williams is asked to describe the band, he doesn't hesitate a bit.
"Our truth," he says, "is there's still hope."
Hope for . . . ?
"All mankind," Williams says, straight-faced. "Hope in all respects."
The members of Honeyslide know this optimism sets their band apart from the sorry state of what's selling.
"So much of what you hear on the radio these days is so predictable," Williams says. "It's, 'I'm so sad, life sucks, blah, blah, blah.'"
"It's music to kill yourself by," interjects bassist Tim Lumsford.
"So many people can't reconcile—with their families, with themselves," Williams continues. "We'd like to spread a more positive message."
Uh-oh. Sounds like a bunch of thosepeople have just touched down. You know the ones: cheerful, positive, incredibly well-adjusted and impossibly attractive overachievers who can't wait to transmit their cheerful, positive, incredibly well-adjusted vibes to the rest of us confused, accused, misused, strung-out—and worse—ones.
"I don't think I've ever written a happy-go-lucky song," says Liana Dutton, the band's co-singer/co-lyricist/flautist/accordionist/not-so-token chick. "Most of mine are inspired by death, addiction, something consuming you, people being dragged to their death."
Ahhh, that's more like it.
"It's about taking sad, out-of-control situations and finding hope even in the middle of all these tragic things," Williams says.
"Not that sad and morose is bad," Dutton continues. "But bad music that is sad and morose is bad."
Honeyslide's philosophy of "keep on keeping on even when your teeth are kicked out and you're choking on your own blood" detaches the four-piece ensemble from the musical pack. So does its music, a dynamic, mood-inducing tapestry that relies heavily on a potpourri of textures, rhythms, influences and nuances. There is the Middle Eastern-tinged drumming of Jon Crawford's doumbek, the misty Celtic stomp of Dutton's sensual flute-playing (which sounds as good as it looks), and the classic-rock sensibilities of Williams' guitar.
The show even looks good. Williams is a charismatic, animated performer who has apparently never met a spotlight or mic stand he didn't like. Ditto for Dutton. Many of their gigs are themed productions that use costumes and lighting to enhance the impact of the music.
"It's all about taking a journey," Dutton says. "It's not just about lyrics and music. It's a visual performance. You have to go further as performers if you want to take your audience somewhere else."
"We're a multiple-personality band," Williams said. "Sometimes, we'll come out dressed as elves, or in Middle Eastern clothes, or Goth—whatever we feel like or what fits the venue or the mood."
Over the past six years, Honeyslide have been gigging constantly—they've toured Britain twice, schmoozed with industry people, made great contacts (Gerry Tolman, a former manager of Crosby, Stills and Nash, once represented them) and come close to signing a deal.
"We've been offered deals, but none of them have been good enough to seriously consider signing the next five years of our lives away," Williams says.
The band is recording its second album, produced by Mike Gonzales of the Cypress Hill entourage. The album reflects the band's quickly emerging electrified sound, which was amped up with the addition of Lumsford a year ago.
"I'd say we're a more straightforward rock band with Tim," Williams says. "Going electric helps us bust out more. But we still have that primal, acid, folk-rock Middle Eastern, groove thing going on."
The band won't reveal exactly what it has planned for its gig Saturday at the Detroit Bar. "You'll have to show up to find out," Lumsford says.
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But you can count on Honeyslide's eclectic, exotic mlange to suggest many things to many people, like the story Williams relates about one memorable gig.
"This chick comes up to us after our first set, and she's kind of a rough-looking hip chick, punk rock look, piercings and all that, and she says, 'Which quadrant do you aspire to?' And I say, 'How about you?' She says, 'I do the west,' or something like that. Turns out our music sounded pagan to her—pagan in a good way.
"After the second set, another chick comes up and says it was obvious we had the love of Jesus in the band. So, same show, same place, two different vibes. Both are good, touching and positive elements, but I'm not sure if I'd identify our music as either. Or maybe it's both."
Honeyslide and Frank Jordan play with Miracle Chosuke at the Detroit Bar, 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-0600. Sat., 10 p.m. $5. 21+.