Deep in the heart of Oakland a band arises, mixing all the roots of American music. Blending different genres ranging from Blues to Gospel, Second Line New Orleans Jazz, and early R&B, The California Honeydrops have received numerous awards, including five East Bay Express Readers’ Poll awards (2011), including “Best Band,” “Best Album” and “Best Musician.”
This Saturday, The California Honeydrops will be playing at The Palms Playhouse in Winters at 8 p.m. Additionally, the band is keeping itself busy with a forthcoming live album in April and a tour of Spain in March. They’ll be going to New Orleans in April as well, the birthplace of their influence.
MUSE sits down with front man Lech Wierzynski for this exclusive interview.
MUSE: How was the band formed?
Wierzynski: We were all playing the subways of Oakland and got together to scrape by and get some cash. We just started playing the blues out there for people. Actually, to this day we still play on the street.
What is it about playing on the streets that you like?
Well, there’s no amplification on the street; you’re right there with the people. It’s definitely closer since it’s just the instruments playing, you know. As a band, you’re bringing music to the public space. And when you’re playing out there, there’s no expectation of the music. If people like it and dig it, they can stop whatever they were doing and listen for a while. If they don’t like it, they can just walk on by.
Can you talk about the genre-blending that you guys do?
The thing about that is everyone in the band likes different types of music, so everyone brings in different styles; it’s not really a conscious effort. Really, it’s just inevitable for anybody who is playing music. That’s just the nature of it.
Can you talk about the heavy New Orleans influence in your music?
That’s where the whole of our music and the attitude comes from. It’s that parade and carnival culture down there. It’s music that is meant to be celebrated. We’ll mix in those street beats and horns into our songs. What it is is that we’re really doing it for the love of the music — we ain’t afraid to share it with other people.
There’s a genuine feel to your music; do you think you can explain that?
Well, there’s this difference between thinking about yourself as an artist and thinking about yourself as a craftsperson. You should just really be doing it for the people. We try to keep our motivations pure.
There’s a difference between “indie” music and true independent music. The California Honeydrops are definitely in the latter. What are you thoughts on this?
There’s a lot of different independent music out there. There’s also a lot of real genuine “soul” music. We don’t fit into any of those categories. If you’re talking about genre, this revival thing has been going around for some time. We’re definitely not the indie rock thing. People ain’t gonna get Guitar Hero with me.
One of your best songs that defines your band is the track “Cry for Me.” Can you talk about that song?
I wrote it after a family friend passed away. I was sad and I started writing some sad songs about it. It wasn’t working, then I thought about what she would want. She was this really cool and joyful lady. So it was about celebrating life; it’s about making the best of a bad situation [and] embracing what happens, I guess.
Is there part of you that wants to do more “sad” music instead of the “celebration” music you guys usually do?
I mean, I get influenced by bands I see. We saw this band and they played everything really slow, so we played really slow for a while then we went back to spazzing out after a week. I like them all. To me, it’s all creatively fulfilling. I wish we could fit in the slower stuff, but I’m fine with just keeping it up-tempo for now.
Lastly, is there anything you’d like people to know about you guys?
They don’t really need to know anything about us. We’re happy as long as they’re having a good time, even if they don’t like the music, as long as they’re having fun. And I’d like to thank the fans; they enable us to do what we want and like to do.
RUDY SANCHEZ can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.