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Interview: Stereo Honey


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Being shown backstage at one of Brixton’s most historic live music clubs, felt like stepping into the great shadow of success.

The Brixton Electric, once played by the great Jimi Hendrix himself, is reputed for hosting the first shows of some of the most cutting-edge bands from the 60’s through to present day. And it was at this historical venue that I was invited to meet Stereo Honey, a 21st Century band with an 80’s-electro feel, as they prepared to step into the shadow of bands like Sade, Pet Shop Boys and King who played before them.  

I met the band backstage, in a room I like to imagine hasn’t changed much since the venues days as The Ram Jam Club in the late 60’s. The walls were bare brick, the space just big enough to hold a worn leather sofa, a couple of chairs and a cool-box of beer. Pete, Ben, Nick (guitar and keys) and Jake (drums), welcoming me with smiles, and hugs, so by the time I’d settled myself in one of the chairs, my nerves about interviewing four-on-one had all but disappeared.

To break the ice, I threw out a question which had been burning since I first heard their name… how did you come up with that?! A question met with a laugh from lead singer and guitarist, Pete, readjusting his glasses before letting me in on the guilty secret.  

“I really like this band called Daysleepers,” he began, “and one of their tracks is called stereo honey. And I was just like zing.” He stopped, grinning demurely round at the others, “it was only after that that we realised there were so many ‘Honey’ bands.”

“After a yearlong argument about what the name should be, as well,” bassist Ben pitched in. 

“I genuinely didn’t realise,” said Pete, “and then all of a sudden, we were like yes we’ve found the name, launched it everything and then it was like, oh look there’s this band ‘Something Honey’, and this band ‘Honey Something’. But we’d chosen. So, we swam with it.”

“It’s what Radiohead did,” he added in defense. “They stole their name off of Talking Heads.”

Agreeing that this definitely warranted their creative theft, I wondered when it was that the group decided this was going to be more than a hobby?  

“I think, probably from the beginning?” Nick answered, with nods from the others.

Ben explained how the magic began; “We were in a punk cabaret band to begin with, just the three of us (Pete, Ben and Nick). Then we went our separate ways and came back remembering that we had good chemistry and decided to set up a few jams.”

“It took a while for us to find our place, our sound. Then Jake came into the fold. We were auditioning drums and singers for ages. Pete was originally on drums!”

Perched across from him, Pete stifled a recollective snicker, “Oh, yeah,” he seemed to admit to himself, as much as to me. “Oh yeah, that’s right.”

That, I could definitely agree with. Everything about Stereo Honey feels fresh and exciting. So, what about their creative process? How exactly does all this innovation launch into life? 

“It always starts from somewhere,” Pete explained, “a guitar part, a set of vocals, whatever. But we will always finish the tracks together. The process is very democratic… so we often disagree! Which is fine, I think. I mean, if you’re writing a song, and you’re putting everything into it or a guitar part and then you take it to everyone and they say, change that bit, you’re always a bit like ‘no, that’s mine!’ but no, no I think it’s good!”

“An idea is never wasted,” Ben put in.

“No,” agreed Pete, “And it really sheds the fat. If everyone was just really cosy about stuff then nothing would ever get down to its core. We all say what we think. We don’t hold back and we’re very honest with each other. And I think that’s healthy.”

“We’re just teaching each other to be better musicians,” Ben concluded, “though there is a good voting system when we’re writing. If one of us wants to do something but the other three don’t then you’re overruled. It only moves forward if there’s a majority vote.”

“I remember reading that Maccabees did something similar,” said Pete, “which is why they spent so long getting an album out. So we’ve kind of resided ourselves to the fact that maybe we’ll take a little bit longer than everybody else!”

Feeling that this groups rise has been anything but slow, I asked if they felt much had changed for the band since they’d been signed for their EP?

After a few moments though, Ben answered, “I’d say only change is that we’re a bit more conscious that people are actually going to listen to it!”

Pete agreed with a thoughtful nod, “That’s true, there’s no pressure when you’re writing just for your mates, you know. But when you’re thinking people are actually going to listen and say what they like about it on Twitter, it stops you settling as easily.”

But when did they know they were ready, then? Ready to take their music out into our highly critical public sphere?

“From the August that we formed, we didn’t play a show until the next February,” Nick revealed.

“We had a rule,” said Ben. “That we wouldn’t play until we were ready.”

“We incubated it,” Pete explained, “Because you know, it goes back to this point of not really knowing each other that well, or at least for that long. We felt it was important to incubate the project and make sure we were all tight and gelled.”

“The first step into the light of day has to be a confident step,” said Ben, “so it was long year, but it was a good year.”

You’re only new once. It seemed like a wise message for aspiring musicians.

Nick agreed, “You can get carried away after writing maybe, five songs, and being really excited with this new chemistry, but you really just need to hold back until you know you’ve got the best songs you can have.”

“The feedback we’ve got industrywise is that it’s the best thing we could have done. Jake revealed. “Lots of people said that the first thing they with new bands is stick them in a room together for six months and say, practice. But we’d already done it.”

How many songs did they have before they went out, I wondered?

“A lot!” Ben laughed.

“We wrote maybe fifteen, twenty songs and just binned all of them,” said Pete.

“No, we kept two,” Ben corrected him. “One of them, Angel, is going to be on the EP, and it was actually one the first ideas we ever came up with.”

“And then there’s Heart,” said Nick, revealing the second track, “that came from an idea we jammed in Pete’s bedroom.”

“We wrote all of these ideas while I was uni, in my little student house,” smiled Pete. “The guys would travel all the way into Vauxhall to my crappy house and we wrote these songs in my bedroom while I was studying.”

"I mean, university is just such a great time to start a band. You’ve got a nice little cushion of a loan and just this massive network of people.”

And too much time – I put in, knowing the feeling.  

“Yes,” Pete laughed, “for some courses anyway! For philosophy, definitely. Law? Don’t start a band.”

So where did the band set their heights, I asked. Which venue, which city, is the ultimate goal? It was a cliché question, but It gave a surprising answer:

For me and Ben, it’s Brixton Academy which is just around the corner,” said Nick, nudging Ben, who nodded.

“Tonight is actually a bit of a dream come true. A big club in Brixton.” He said. “We went to a lot of our first shows together when we were teenagers at Brixton Academy and just really love that venue.”

“It’s pretty special,” said Pete. And I have to say, I certainly felt like I was about to witness something monumental. 

But before I left the band to their preparations, I had one last question: before you chuck me out. Tell me… do you have any strange pre-performance rituals? Anything weird that you guys do to prepare?

The band all looked at Pete.

“I stand in the venue shower and sing for half an hour,” he admitted. “I guess that’s quite weird.”

“It could be anything from a stereo honey song, to the sound of music…” said Nick with raised eyebrows.

Pete grinned. “Julie Andrews is a great way to exercise your vocal cords,” he said, quite rightly, unabashed.  

Stereo Honey will be touring the UK this October. Click here to find a venue near you.

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