time to change the way we view music and the arts

Striking up a conversation with Stina Tweeddale of Honeyblood

Image courtesy of Grandstand Media
Photo credit: Laura Coulson

Image courtesy of Grandstand Media
Photo credit: Laura Coulson

 

The old adage goes, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Well, does a band catch the ears of more fans with honey and blood? The unfolding narrative of Scotland based, crunch pop duo, Honeyblood, (Stina Tweeddale-Guitar, Vocals and Cat Myers-Drums, Vocals,) might very well come across as curiously paradoxical as their sweetly grim band name.

Drizzlng ribbons of newer (Alvvays, Bleached) and more classic bands (The Cranberries, The Breeders) over a tastefully lo-fi, jangly, surf-rock amalgam, calling up a moderate slice of the 1990s, Honeyblood’s sound astutely balances the line between being fresh and shockingly trendy, with familiarly approachable. The two vibrant women of a band that is less than three years old, have already tackled, and taken in stride, many different degrees of public performance (from local UK pubs to SXSW and the NME Awards, among many others,) and the rushing waves of international praise that came in tandem. The deluge of development started almost immediately, following a self-released cassette single titled, “Thrift Shop,” (Now sold out but available digitally via Bandcamp) with things showing no sign of slowing down since the band’s eponymous debut album dropped, which was only last July to boot.

It is true that Honeyblood have been touring and playing quite the lot of shows; making ample rounds at various venues on the shores of the UK. Every time one would check in with the band’s social updates, another batch of gig tickets, with another interesting opener or co-headliner, would be up for grabs, along with friendly encouragement often sounding just like a friend with a casual invitation to come hang. Tweeddale and Myers have even been known to get some genuine face to face time with their fans.

The heat and energy generated by Honeyblood’s self-titled debut still thoroughly burning, the U.S. is going to be seeing the women on stage for some time into the spring –with a New York City show early on, at the tail end of this month. There being plenty of time before taking off from the tarmac, Tweeddale jumped on a call with me, wherein we discussed the nuances of Honeyblood’s many live performances, their thoughts on the metamorphoses of the band’s music and, among other intriguing insights, where Myers and Tweeddale’s feelings lie on the hot topic of women in the music industry. Below is an excerpt of our conversation:



Kira:
Despite still being of relatively neophyte band status, you have already shared concert and tour bills with quite an assortment of musical cohorts, that have recently included the likes of Superfood, Catfish and the Bottlemen and Bloody Knees. Now you’ll be teaming up with Belle and Sebastian and fellow UK duo, 2:54, here in the U.S.. What has it been like to share stages with so many different artists? How has each set of shows varied for you and the fans that come to the concerts? I imagine you get a different variety of fan for each of these supporting acts you’re playing with.

 

Stina: Yeah, definitely. We’ve been on tour since December…we’ve been on like, seven tours in the whole [past] year or something so, like, it’s a lot of time to kind of build up and the whole point of going on tour is to get your music out to different people. And, being a brand new band as well, we just released the album in July and it’s always good to tour with different bands. But I think all of them that we did tour with, they’re all great bands and they’re all great songwriters and they all had a joint kind of…ethos, I guess? Like, about music, which is nice when you go on tour and you meet bands that are quite level headed and down to earth.

That’s definitely [the case] with Catfish [and the Bottlemen.] They’re like, the most proper young gents. I think people would be surprised if they spent an afternoon with them where they just sit and drink tea and talk about their hometowns and it’s just really nice. And they have some dedicated fans. My God, that tour was like, mental. You had people screaming and crying and waiting outside in the freezing cold because it’s December, outside next to the bus for like four hours for the boys to come out. I just can’t believe that stuff. That’s like crazy rockstar stuff so that tour was pretty epic. We hadn’t done a tour like that, with a [BBC] Radio 1 band before [us] so that was a bit different for us. We’re used to rocking up and playing pub shows but maybe to like, people who are into their music or whatever, who buy records and collect music. They’d never wait outside for a band because like, “Nah, I’m too cool for that. I’ll just listen to the record at home.” It was a different kind of vibe but it was kind of unreal to watch that. But also it was really kind of refreshing because that was the kind of stuff I did when I was 14. I waited for the band and I would only have like, my jeans and a vest on. I wouldn’t bring a jacket because that’s “not cool.” I’d stand outside and wait for the band to come out, just to get a photo and like, a hug or something. That’s totally… I’m so happy kids today are doing that. That gives me hope in society!

 

Kira: You and me both! I think that’s a really interesting answer because a lot of times – and granted, it’s been this way for a long time – you hear about bands pairing up with other bands where typically, people are saying, “Oh, they share a sound” and the focus is about matching up based on music or maybe on songwriting process but, I love that you said it’s about the ethos of where and how you and all these other bands exist in the music space. I think that’s a common denominator that often gets put on the back burner so that’s really cool.

 

Stina: Yeah, I think the first proper tour we did was with Courtney Barnett. You know her? Courtney and her band, Dave [Mudie] and Bones [Sloane], they have what I would call, “the right mindset” when it comes to music. I love the way they just jam, and play, and they just write some songs and they play them, and they have like, a couple of whiskeys and they just chill. That’s amazing. I think having that kind of mindset about music and just being creative like that…it’s nice to be on tour with bands in it for that reason. You can just tell, when you meet another band, that they have the same connection. I think we’ve been very lucky. Superfood as well, oh my God. I love Superfood. They were not only like, the perfect kind of style for us but I think that was a proper double whammy tour. For people like us, people like Superfood…we had so much crowd surfing, so much shouting, it was so good.

 

Kira: How did you get acquainted and then involved with 2:54 –your show partners for some of your North American dates, including one you have scheduled at Rough Trade NYC?

 

Stina: Well, my manager manages them as well. He’s always been going on about 2:54,  like, in the best way. See, when I heard about them and what they’re doing…I was just hanging; like, my friends worked at this bar in Glasgow and I used to go there just to hang out and use the internet and steal the heating and just sit and make playlists for the bar. …That was my job.

But 2:54 were playing downstairs and my manager had actually come up because he was meeting me at the time – this was the first time we were ever meeting – so I went down and watched 2:54 and that was the first time I had seen them. And he gave me… he was like, “Do you want some merch?” And I was like, “Yeah! I want a t-shirt, I want a tote bag, I want a CD,” all this stuff that he’d got because [2:54] were so good! I really enjoyed the show. Actually, I shouldn’t say this because they might read this and know I got it for free but, they’re welcome to any of our merch if they want! But yeah, I saw them a couple of times after that and I just really liked the fact that they’re so kind of, I guess…  they make me feel less professional cause they’re so good. Does that make sense?

…I don’t think we’ve ever actually had like, a proper conversation [with 2:54] yet so, but we know so much…well, know so much about them. I know like, loads of stuff about them and their backgrounds and what they’ve been up to. We even shared a lot of crew members for like the last year and stuff. I feel like I’ve been a bit stalker-ish? Like, how do go from being a wee bit kind of creepy stalker, to being someone’s friend? I feel like that’s the hurdle, when they start to work out that you’re a creepy stalker and you have to hide it a bit more until you’ve reached the like, the friend barrier and once you’re over that it’s cool. So I have to wait. I don’t know how I’m gonna deal with it yet!


Kira: 
When you come back to the States, what’s something you would hope to maybe get to do or see while you’re touring on this side of the pond? Is there anything particular to New York City that you maybe want to try and sneak off to do or see?

Stina: Yeah, like, so much! I’ve been to New York a couple of times and I always try and do some touristy things but it turns out I’m always hungover and it’s the worst! Like, I love New York. Like, I really, really love it but it is the worst city to be hungover in because I’m trying to walk about and go on the subway and you’re on the subway and it’s a Sunday but you think it’s a Wednesday and you’re looking at the week timetable but no, sh-t, it’s actually  a Sunday timetable… It’s too much for me.

But when we were in New York in February with [We Were Promised] Jetpacks last year, I actually got introduced to a guy who I followed for a long time, from a venue, I don’t know if you know it, this venue called Cakeshop?

 

Kira: Yeah. I love that place!


Stina:
Yeah, so, before I started Honeyblood, when playing gigs was only a distant dream to me, I used to watch all the videos they put up in Cakeshop. I used to watch bands like Pains of Being Pure at Heart, like, The Babies, and these bands that I loved… they are current bands that I was totally into and kind of helped me pluck up the courage, I guess, to start my band. But yeah, I used to watch Cakeshop and think, “Wow, that is just such a cool venue!” I love that they do these little videos so that then everyone who doesn’t live in New York and maybe like, less cooler places, can watch them and I really had so much respect for that venue.

The guy who owns it, came to the show in February, when we played Webster Hall, and he was like, “Oh my God, you were so good, you have to come to my venue! My wife is working there right now. Come, we’ll have a good time!” and I was like, “What’s your venue called?” He says, “It’s called Cakeshop,” and I was like, “Oh my God, I love Cakeshop! Oh my God, I’ve been watching you guys for like five years, I love it so much. You’re like one of the reasons I wanted to come to New York and play shows here and stuff!” And he was like, “No way! No way!”

I never got the chance to actually visit but I think that will be my top of the list, is to go and see Cakeshop and go and see a show. I don’t even care who’s playing. I’ll just go!

 


 

Kira: Since you are a band of primarily guitar and drums, is there anything in particular you think about when it comes to new song ideas? Do you consciously  work on sticking and working to the fullest with what you have or, do you let yourself think in whatever musical terms come to mind, even if more parts have to be added later?


Stina:
When it comes to songwriting, the kind of thing that always sticks with me where I know that the song is either a good song or a bad song, is melody. So, I’ll just end up just singing away for a melody and then, to me, the music that will come is like the riffs and whatever come after. I’m the typical person that sings her songs in the shower [and despite] how cliché that is, that’s what happens. It’s always melody first for me and then everything else kind of props it up.

But mostly when it comes to jamming out, it’s drums and guitar cause that’s… in a practice room when you do flesh out the songs, that’s all you kind of have and you end up just jamming the idea. Like, I’ll have a riff or something and I’ll jam it out and then the drums will fill… and there are points where I’m like, “It’d be really good if we could add this layer of something on top, or do this”, and yeah, in a way, I guess I always do feel al bit restricted by the fact that I know live, that would be really difficult, being that there’s only two instruments and we don’t do any kind of pre-recorded things in a live set at all.

So, that’s why there’s the beauty of recording in the studio, is [that] you can add all these subtle, little things. And definitely, the album has like, piano and keyboard in it, and added bass and guitar parts, because I wanted to stretch that other kind of opportunity to add all those little, instrumental bits that flesh out the song. But for me, recording and playing live is such a separate thing. The album will never sound quite like the [live performance] and vice versa. It just doesn’t happen.

 

Kira: Do you like the idea of upgrading to a more controlled recording process from ad-hoc recording methods and the unexpected sound(s) that come with that or, is charm of “roll with the punches” recording – like the kind that came about for your debut cassette, “Thrift Shop,” – part of what makes Honeyblood what it is?

 

Stina: The funny thing about “Thrift Shop” is that, we recorded that like, I guess like all the other bands that…well, I can’t speak for every single band, but, the bands that I know anyway… we just recorded on that tape for recording’s sake. So it was just like, “Okay, we need to get something down” because we wanted to hear what the songs sound like. So it wasn’t like, “Oh yeah, let’s record something totally lo-fi,” it was, “Okay, this is what we have. We have this sh–ty four track tape recorder and we have like, a mic and we have this house that we can record in” and we just recorded it. And then when we finished recording it, we were like, “Okay, that doesn’t sound great but it has some sort of like, charm to it.” So, we put it on tape and we released it.

I’m still, to this day, mesmerized by people finding its charm because it was totally a fluke for us. But I guess when it comes to recording in the studio now, and even in the past album, for me, recording is a natural process and I’m not one to record everything to the exact way that it should be played. I like recording to the moment so, kind of like live, but, as I said, they’re both totally different spaces –that it’s a natural kind of rhythm in the recording studio. For the album, now, maybe more than half of the album  wasn’t recorded to a click track because it takes, I think, for me… at that point we wanted to give the natural rhythm of the songs and you know, if it speeds up and slows down, that’s the way the song is. Whereas, a lot of other bands might’ve freaked out at that. You know, “Oh my God, we need to clean- Everything needs to be exactly in time!”

But nah, we didn’t really. And we played the drums and the guitar together, live, so the actual drums and guitar track[s] are recorded live in the studio. So, I guess that’s kind of keeping the essence of what we did for the tape. It’s still that kind of raw, lo-fi ideal. You know, “This is the song, we play the song.” Rather than, “Okay, I’m going to play these notes and if they’re not correct, I’m going to do this with the computer, and cut it up, and move it.” There’s so much that you can do… not digitally… what’s the word I’m looking for… kind of like, superficially, with computers and things. I don’t think that I would ever go too far down that route because I just kind of like the way that people play and the atmosphere and the kind of character that the song gets from that.

So I’ll always pick, if there’s a vocal track, or a guitar track, or whatever, if one of them maybe isn’t perfect but it has a lot of character, that’s the one you go for because that’s the one that makes the song [get] the personality that it has. Yeah, I think definitely that’s just my personal way of doing things. Sometimes I’ll listen to something back and I’ll be like, “Aw damn, I wish I’d played that better. That’s so sloppy” or, “That’s not very good”  and I guess a lot of other musicians who are maybe more strict that me would not tolerate that but at the same time, I think for the style, and being that kind of lo-fi-esque way about us… it’s good to have it. It’s not a hindrance.

 

Kira: I love to ask this question because, next to taste in music itself, it’s probably one of the most personal questions you can ask a musician –especially for guitarists: If you could go into a magical store, where everything was free and you could just take it off the wall and go play a show, what would your dream setup be, as far as things like guitar of choice, pedals, pickups, etc.?


Stina:
Oh my God, I don’t even know. Well, um, at the moment I play this guitar that was built, hand built and I also play this… I have two guitars that I play with. One is called Ran– eh, called Hopkirk, sorry. One of my  guitars is called Hopkirk and he is a custom built guitar for me and I love him so much. I’ve learned to love him, and, I played through this other amp, which is actually a Randall amp that I bought for 50 quid. (*Note: “quid” is slang for the British pound, and converts roughly to $75 USD) from second hand and I’ve toured with it everywhere. I take it everywhere with me and I love it to pieces and it’s just, it’s just my amp.

Everyone’s always like, “Whoa, that amp is so weird!” I know you get them in the U.S. but you don’t get them over here very often. Randalls don’t sell over here and everyone’s like, “It sounds like uh, kind of of like a cross between a… and it’s just like such a unique sound.” And I’m like “Yeah, and it cost me no money and it’s a bit sh-t –well, it’s not a bit sh-t, it’s…it’s amazing, but I’ve just battered it so badly. Like, totally about to die on me because I’ve been so bad to it but I love it so much and I’d probably have to say, if I was going to go for like, a dream amp, if it was some sort of Randall custom built, I would go for that. That would be my absolute dream cause I just love their stuff and I don’t really know anybody that plays them except for me and I think uh, Metallica used them. …Or [I would go for] some sort of Marshall, like, crazy big Marshall [amp] would be cool too.

And guitar-wise, I love Telecasters. That’s my kind of “signature guitar.” I used to have a lot of other guitars but I just feel [Telecasters] suit the music and they suit the style and they’re just so good for like… I’m such a chord crasher. I just love chords so I’ll just sit and like, play chords until my heart’s content. But yeah, Telecasters are so great for that so that’s why I use two Telecasters.

…A lot of people have [even] tried to buy Hopkirk off me. The guys from [the band] Real Estate…both their guitars broke at the same time. It was a total tragedy and I ran out with both my Telecasters and handed them to them and then like tried to squeeze in the front, just so I could take a picture of Real Estate playing both my guitars.

So when they came off stage, they took the handmade one. They were like, “Oh my God, like, I’ll give you 1000 dollars right now for this guitar!” And I was like, “Uhh, well, I kinda need it cause I’m going on tour but uh, any other time you know, just come back. You can borrow it!”

 

Kira: Ah, that must have been cool. Did you get the photo?


Stina: Yeah! Ahh, I think… I actually don’t know where it is! If anyone does have that photo, please send it to me cause  that was like, one of the proudest moments of my life, you know, seeing my guitars being used by Real Estate. That was pretty epic! Obviously, there was a tragedy that both their guitars broke but, it was good that they were using mine. 

 

Kira: In light of Björk’s newest round of revival toward the topic of women in the music industry, what would you say to, and or about, the young girls and women out there, following their various paths in the music business –whether it’s making the music or being an engineer, or a manager – and do you agree with Björk’s opinion that yes, “It’s tough for women in the [music] industry?”

 

Stina: Yeah, I read it, I read what Björk said. I think, it’s got to the point now, where a lot of stuff that’s happening in the internet, and like, there’s so many opinions and stuff, people saying whatever… When I started the band, that was something that was, coming to a head, I guess, like a couple years ago? And there’s only one reason why it has become so mainstream and hot topic, [which] is because it’s true. People who are like, “Oh yeah, okay, let’s stop talking about this now because you’ve made your point clear. We all know about it.” It’s like, well, no, because it’s still happening so that’s, I think that it was very brave of her to keep on bringing it up –especially at the point where like, she’s obviously trying to promote a new album.

To be honest, Björk doesn’t need to be accepted. She’s amazing and she’ll do whatever the f–k she wants but, um, it’s good for her to say. She said [something to the effect of,] people [not] believ[ing] she produced her own album and played all the instruments and came up with all the ideas. She must be working with someone else. That’s something that I think, most women, in a male dominated industry feel. I know working tours is one of the hardest [things] that I’ve ever had to do. When you’re like, away from home, in a different country, for weeks on end, and you’ve got to lug… especially a base level band when you start out… It’s like, you’ve got to lug all your own gear, you’ve got to sleep in a sh–ty bed for only six hours and then drive for however long, and, yeah… People just don’t think girls do that. Like, I just don’t think they take it seriously.

We used to get quite a lot of kind of stick about people not thinking that we were in the band for a long time. We turned up with like, a driver or, with someone who was helping us and [people at venues] would turn around to them and be like, “So how do you like your drums setup?” And they would be like, “Oh, I’m not in the band, this is the drummer” and obviously the drummer is a five foot, blonde, Scottish girl. And they’d be like, “Okay, cool, yeah, yeah” and five minutes later they’d just turn around and say it again or say like “How does the guitar go?” to someone who’s not me. [Meanwhile] I’m like, “Hello? Uh, yeah, I know my gear. I play the guitar and I bought this amp and all these pedals and I set it all up myself, so, I kinda know how it sounds…”

Or, they just automatically think that you’re gonna be rubbish. That’s another thing that a lot of the time after shows – and this could be like punters as well – will come up to you and be like, “Ohh, my God, I just didn’t expect you to be so…good sounding! Like, sounding so good and like, loud! You’re so loud!”  It’s like, “Yeah, I play a Telecaster…I’m playing through a Fender amp that’s like, turned up and I’ve got distortion pedals. What did you think it was going to sound like?”

Cat, who drums for me now, her ethos to it is great because she is so past that point where she’s angry at all. She’s just like, “Well, clearly you just have to be the best. If you’re the best, then nobody can say any of that sh-t to you. Cause if they did, then they’re stupid. So you just be the best and what’re they going to say?” And in a way, I think it makes women who are not just musicians, but like you said, women who work as sound engineers or work as promoters, they just work really hard because, unfortunately – but also fortunately I guess – they just have to work twice as hard to be noticed and taken half as serious. The woman who is our tour manager – she’s going to be managing us for a little bit of the time in America, I’ve worked with her before – that’s how she [thinks]: “I just work really, really hard because then I’m taken seriously.” I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing but that seems to be the way that most women who are in the [music] business work.

 

Kira: What’s the quirkiest thing that’s happened before, during or right after a set? What’s some weird anecdote or story that maybe hasn’t been put out there yet?

 

Stina: Um, quirky….uh. Oh, I don’t know! Do you know, when you’re on tour, so much weird stuff happens. It all just becomes like your life and then you go home and you tell these stories to your friends and they’re just like, “What?” Like obviously they’re just been going to work or doing whatever and I’m just like, “Ah yeah, this time when I was on tour, when like, this happened…” and they’ll be like, “Oh God, that’s crazy!”

I’m trying to think of funny things. There’s so many! All I can think of right now… I just have this image of like, being at the Thekla, which is in Bristol, which is a boat show… it’s like a venue that’s on a boat. There was this amazing group of fans, these Honeyblood guys that came to see us and they had like, cause it was nearing Christmas,  wrapped themselves in Christmas lights. But, they were battery powered ones so they were just walking about, like, with Christmas lights on. They looked so cool! They stood right at the front and sang all the songs and then afterwards they waited by the van and we came out…We usually have like maybe, a bottle of wine and then we’ll have…well, we try not to eat like loads of crisps and chocolate because  you get fat and lazy on tour so, we try to have like, carrot batons or like, hummus, or something like that. I had cleared the fridge out so I [only] had like, a packet of carrot batons and I ended up just feeding like 20 kids, carrot batons next to the van.

I was like, “You guys hungry?” And they were all like, “Yeah!” So I just fed them loads of carrots and they were so nice. They were super great –like, lovely, lovely guys and I’m so happy to have such cool kids that come to our shows that are so enthusiastic about carrots. They didn’t have to eat them. I think they felt like they had to because I was like, “Do you want some carrots?” but yeah, it was nice. Then we were leaving and I was like, “You guys want another one…?” And they said, “Yeah!”

 

Kira: That’s a good story right there.

 

Stina: Well, healthy eating for the kids. That’s what I’m promoting right here. If you’re coming to shows, make sure you get your daily vegetables –carrots are good for vitamin C and seeing in the dark, which is good for night time because that’s when the shows are! There you go!


Honeyblood’s North American tour kicks off with their show on 27 February at Rough Trade NYC in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and continues through to the beginning of April. Full date and venue information is below. Tickets for the Rough Trade show can be purchased through the Bowery Presents, here.

 

27 February 2015 – Rough Trade NYC – Brooklyn, NY #

28 February 2015 – DC9 – Washington, DC #

1 March 2015 – Johnny Brenda’s – Philadelphia, PA #

3 March 2015 – The Silver Dollar Room – Toronto, ON #

4 March 2015 – UFO Factory – Detroit, MI #

5 March 2015 – Empty Bottle – Chicago, IL #

6 March 2015 – 7th Street Entry – Minneapolis, MN #

8 March 2015 – Barboza – Seattle, WA #

9 March 2015 – Mississippi Studios – Portland, WA #

11 March 2015 – The Rickshaw Stop – San Francisco, CA #

12 March 2015 – The Echo – Los Angeles, CA #

13 March 2015 – The Hideout, San Diego, CA #

30 March 2015 – House of Blues – Cambridge, MA &

1 April 2015 – Massey Hall – Toronto, ON &

2 April 2015 – Royal Oak Music Theatre – Royal Oak, MI &

3 April 2015 – Riviera – Chicago, IL &

4 April 2015 – Overture Hall – Madison, WI &

# show with 2:54 (Twitter: @twofiftyfour)

& show with Belle and Sebastian (Twitter: @bellesglasgow)

 


Keep up with Honeyblood’s latest news and check out their music via their official website and these social media outlets:

Facebook
Twitter (@yumhoneyblood)
YouTube
SoundCloud
Bandcamp

Honeyblood’s debut album is available now on CD and vinyl through FatCat Records and can be found digitally on Bandcamp, iTunes, Google Play and Amazon.

Check out the official music video for the song “Killer Bangs,” below.

And if you want to read the rest of the exchange from this interview, just subscribe with your email in the box on the right side of the homepage to receive a special password to access an extended, “Second serving of Honeyblood!”
 

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