Artists do two things: show the rest of us what we look like from the outside (that’s one) and fail to explain themselves in any reasonable way (the second thing). And I think you’ll find the two things are actually the same thing.
This reputation artistic people have for being oddballs has more to do with us than them. We are all part of one, whole and complete thing. We usually call that thing The Universe, even if we don’t know what that means. As tiny crumbs on the inside of that complete thing, it’s awfully damned hard to think about what that looks like from the outside. Just ask a cosmologist. Part of their job is figuring out how to describe to all us motes of dust what The Universe (whatever that is) looks like from the outside, when there isn’t an outside to look from in the first place. Their job is hard enough, and they have actual stuff to point at to say, “that’s part of what I’m talking about—and you can see it right there.”
Imagine if, instead of pokable things like suns and molecules, the reality they had to describe was made of stuff that isn’t anywhere at all. Stuff like decency and ugliness and oddity. The ingredients, in other words, to humanity (whatever that is). Even if none of us can point at Humanity, we all know what it is. We have no idea WHERE it is, of course, which may lead us to the mistake of thinking it isn’t anyplace at all.
The reality of the situation is we can’t find humanity because we’re in it. Sort of obvious when it’s pointed out to you, but someone had to point it out to you. Maybe I didn’t. Maybe someone did many years back for you. Or maybe it’s never occurred to you at all.
If it’s a weird thought to think that humanity is a definite thing (and it is), then the next obvious thought is what could that do to your life?
The answer of which is literally everything. It is the motivation for every decision you make. Nothing’s anything except by being called it, and caring to call things anything is what it means to be human, and meaning is what it means to be human.
Which doesn’t MEAN anything, except on some profound level more satisfying than thought.
None of us can look at humanity from the outside. But some of us can fake it, through some fairly robust psychic gymnastics.
That’s what artists do. And they never sufficiently explain themselves because we’re all unwilling to trust the reflection of ourselves they provide.
That’s all artists, although how much they’re willing to meet you where you are varies from one to the next.
Growth through devolution
The Honeyclub plays rock and roll. Established in September 2019 by childhood friends performing under the names G. Lou, Bo J. Al, and Feety Joe, The Honeyclub grew up in a musical world where they could have done any number of, as my dad might have put it, terminally unique things. If you go out into the world and find out what “the kids these days” are doing musically, as often as anything you’ll get some wonderfully imaginative answers. It sometimes feels as if every new band also needs to invent a new genre-meld to talk about who they are and what they do. That, or you might hear, “we don’t know what we do.” Which is almost better, you know? Then, at least, I can decide for myself what I’m getting out of listening to them.
The Honeyclub goes in neither of these directions. The way G. Lou put it, “we are just rock and roll.” Which could have been a cop-out, but he went on to talk about what he meant by that. Modern rock, he thinks, lacks ambition. We talked for a while about the amorphous quality suffusing some (not in any way all, but some) of the modern music scene. A lot of new bands spend a lot of time and energy trying to achieve this or that specific sound—either falling into the grooves of an old genre or some specific band. While they do, some of them miss an opportunity available to everyone making music.
That being the fundamental, incalculable something that rock and roll accidentally captured, and that the world got so excited about without ever quite figuring out. We don’t know what rock and roll is, exactly, but we know it on a deeply satisfying level when we see it.
G. Lou and the rest of The Honeyclub make rock and roll, and they do so with a level of self-awareness that makes their sound strangely comforting. They don’t sound like anywhen except now, but they also could walk into or out of any club or dancehall anytime during the last eighty years and I don’t think they’d surprise anyone there. They’ve captured an easy-on-the-ears pop-rock vibe that both nestles right into any classic-rock-themed playlist, and at the same doesn’t sound like anyone but The Honeyclub. G. Lou says they wanted to achieve something like that, so not so bad.
The poetry of music
G. Lou, Bo J. Al, and Feety Joe followed their sense of what sounds good to find their sound. The way G. Lou put it, they don’t really take a lot of cues from any other bands to inform their sound. Instead, they looked at brilliant minds from the past (like one of our favorites over here, Bowie) and asked how those people tackled creative challenges. Then, instead of taking inspiration from the sounds achieved, The Honeyclub learned from the creative processes pursued by this or that brilliant mind.
Having learned that, I asked whether they took any inspiration from sources outside the world of music. G. Lou said, “well, I have been reading a lot of beat poets…”
Their upcoming album, Imagine Life, will be profoundly influenced by these beat poets. For instance, the band is working on a track called “Dynamo,” taken from the Allen Ginsberg poem “Howl.” The track is about the conflict between constant things and transient things in our lives. Another track is called “Fishes,” and it will be a speculation about what’s going on outside of the pond. We’re the fish in the song, and the pond is a metaphor. Not sure what it’s a metaphor for yet, because at time of writing I haven’t heard the track.
These sound like deep and cunning subjects for a band that writes easy-to-listen-to rock and roll songs. But that’s the clever thing about rock and roll. It can be pleasant and cheerful to hear, but then it can also be about overcoming cocaine dependency.
Imagine Life is coming out sometime this year. I asked G. Lou for an estimate, and he said that if he committed to some month in particular then that would mean he’d picked the one month when everything would go wrong and contrive to prevent the album from dropping. I don’t have a definite estimate, but I can definitely recommend looking up their current singles and EP. I can recommend “Oh, Girl!” in particular. Not sure why. Just entertains me. Keep an eye out for their upcoming singles, probably coming out in the next few months.
The Honeyclub. Time travelers, no doubt, claiming to come from the conveniently tiny and difficult to pronounce town of Sprockhövel. A likely story, and just what a time traveler would insist to throw you off the scent.