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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Local Frequency: Noise Pop Q&A w/ Honeycomb

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 1:59 PM

  • Dominic Santos

The "experimental folkies" in Honeycomb produce an orchestral mélange of ukulele, vibraphone, and lush string arrangements, taking listeners on genre-crossing trips mid-song into psychedelic fantasy lands. Add in raspy vocals from 21-year-old singer and songwriter Emily Ritz--who channels both Billie Holiday and Connie Francis--and the group's sound takes another stylistic turn, this time towards acoustic jazz, blues, and soul music.

Honeycomb's new six-track, self-titled EP is the perfect soundtrack for a rainy spring. With its slow pace and soulful harmonizing, "Flesh and Bone Machine" is a new generation Motown breakup ballad. "Milky" is a throwback to a '30s Andrews Sisters act that breaks down with lo-fi harmonies. The song sounds like it's coming at you through your grandparents' antique radio. "Sparrow," the EP's first single, is actually about spring. It opens with the soft, marching pace of cellos and clicking drums. The soaring vocals lift off with the bird in the song. Clocking in at 24 minutes, the EP is unfairly brief.

Honeycomb is the brainchild of Ritz, who was a solo artist prior to organizing the band. This CCA film-student and New York native got her start playing open-mic nights at Hotel Utah, where she met many of her future band members and friends. (Honeycomb's lineup is now eight musicians strong).

Honeycomb opens for John Vanderslice this Friday at Café Du Nord as apart of Noise Pop, a show that doubles as the band's EP release. Local Frequency met up with Ritz at Philz to chat about getting Vanderslice's blessing, diesel school buses, and Ol' Dirty Bastard.

If you could describe your sound as a San Francisco neighborhood, which one would it be?
Emily Ritz: China Basin: it's kind of a mix of everything. There are some parts that are really beautiful, like by the water. Then sometimes you have these awful industrial parts, but it somehow fits together as one thing. I have an awful lot of influences that vary from one thing to the next. You'd never hear it in my music, but my biggest influence is Ol' Dirty Bastard--it's sad he's not around anymore--also Lady Gaga. I know those are quite random, but I like people who have absolutely no fear in being out there.

With eight of you in the band, do things get a bit confusing sometimes?
ER: Not so much. It's great because all except three of us live in the same house together, and that's where we practice. The only thing that's hard is that everyone in the band plays in at least two or three other bands, and it gets difficult trying to coordinate rehearsal times. [The tour van] isn't quite a regular school bus, and it isn't quite a short bus either. It runs on bio-diesel. We get to spend the next couple of months retrofitting and renovating it. I'm excited.

What are you reading right now?
ER: I'm a full-time student and tend to not have much time for pleasure reading. This semester I'm taking this course called "Poetics of the Body." I've been reading about the history of human rights and ownership of the body, death, and torture. I'm also taking a class on WWI. Both classes are on Tuesdays--they're my most depressing days.

Tell me more about the upcoming EP.
ER: I didn't actually think we were going to record an EP. I was against it at first because I didn't think it was going to be possible. We got a grant from The Bay Bridged, which is how we ended up getting the Noise Pop show.

Most of the EP was recorded at Hyde Street Studios and at Tiny Telephone. We were doing one last day of recording at Tiny Telephone and John Vanderslice stopped in. I wasn't there that day, but he listened to one of our songs and thought it was cool. The next day I get an email from the Noise Pop booker saying that JV asked if we could be the opening support for his show. I think I cried. This is just so huge for us. I called him that day to say thank you and left him a voicemail. He called me back saying, "Thanks for the sweet message." Originally we were going to wait to finish the EP to go to SXSW and take it on a little tour. But since Noise Pop happened we decided this was the perfect opportunity to finish it up, and present it on the best event possible. I feel so proud, and so amazed and blessed.

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