Interview: Honey and Salt Discuss Their New LP

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Photo by Kelly Ngo

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Honey and Salt has been a band for nearly ten years, but the band is just now getting around to releasing their sophomore album. Though they have seen multiple member changes and a hiatus here and there, their self-titled release on Spartan Records features what vocalist Wade Allen feels comfortable calling the “current and final lineup.” He credited an influx of energy to the addition of drummer Benjamin Sams as well as the “good conflict or tension” that stems from each member’s unique musical background, coming together to create something more than just another math rock band.

“I come from a more punk background,” said Allen. “I like a lot of songs that are short, sweet, and just have a good hook to them.” At the same time, he sees the importance of structure from both a math rock and pop music angle. Both bassist Austin Sears and drummer Benjamin Sams have an affinity for prog rock, though Sears leans more toward hardcore and Sams has a love of metal. “When [Sams] first joined the band, he didn’t really know what math rock was at all.” Honey and Salt attempts to balance all of these influences, which leads to an interestingly varied listening experience. Allen described the first half of the new album as “way more poppy and accessible. And then it gets progressively weirder and more chaotic.” The end goal for the band is to write technical songs that are fun to play and also accessible to a greater audience.

Apart from focusing on a more pop structure, Allen said that a major change for the self-titled album came during the recording process. While the effect of doubling vocals allowed Allen to sing softer and less intensely on Seams of Value, producer Phillip Odom “really pushed me to be more energetic” on this new album. “We doubled vocals a lot less. He just really, really pushed me to be less emo, if that makes sense. And really pushed my vocals to the limit.” Allen was much happier with his vocals, stating that they have a lot more character. “That’s really part of me becoming a better vocalist, too. I think Austin and Ben have pushed me a lot in the last couple of years to be a better vocalist because I’ve noticed that’s something that I can improve upon. As a musician I can always improve.” Honey and Salt also shows more vocal play between Allen and the other members, which forced him to push forward to ensure that his vocals on their own, as well as the harmonies, shined.

Allen focused on creating simplified, yet expressive guitar parts as a direct response to Honey and Salt’s previous work. “Previous songs I would write, I would write a lot of lyrics, a lot of guitar stuff, and I would just try to do as much as possible at once. It was just a bit over the top and gratuitous.” This time around he sought to do more with less: catchy guitar hooks and lyrics that were sparser, but more dense and meaningful. “I also wanted to give Austin and Ben a lot more freedom to do whatever it is they want,” Allen added. “I try to use my vocals and the guitar as one unit. And that way the drums and bass can have more space to be creative and do their own thing because I think they’re kind of an amazing rhythm section. I have a lot of freedom because they can turn a really simple pop thing into this crazy jazz beat and it’s awesome.” Though the guitar may not be quite as intricate as other math rock bands, it is the layers created when all the instrumentals come together that gives Honey and Salt their distinct mathy feel.

Allen’s profession as a college philosophy teacher plays into the band’s lyrical content. “Because I teach at the community college level I don’t have to do research or publish articles so writing lyrics is a way for me to have a creative outlet as far as bringing forth my philosophical background.” He feels that in the past this may have gotten a little out of hand though. “I wanted this album to be way more accessible and, honestly, less pretentious,” Allen said. He credited his fellow bandmate for reining him in when necessary during the writing process. “I tried to simplify my lyrics a lot and I repeat lyrics a lot more. But also I want the lyrics to have some sort of meaning behind them at the same time and not just be kind of gibberish.” The overarching theme of the album is a call to remain positive “in a world that seems, at least from my point of view, pretty bleak and pretty fucked up at the moment.”

Instead of being nihilistic and giving up in the face of the terrible things that happen in the world, Allen wants people to find something they can do about it. Honey and Salt hope to bring subtly and a somewhat tongue-in-cheek view on things, rather than being an in-your-face political band like Anti-Flag or Propaghandi. “Whether it’s creating art or going to political protests or being active in the community, we feel like we can find value and meaning in things and try to, I know it sounds cheesy, but we can try to make the world better.”

Scott Fugger | @scoober1013

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