Interview with Honey Beard

Honey Beard is a Canadian Electronic Pop duo from Toronto, Ontario.  Their genre could be described as Dark Synthpop, like Depeche Mode met M83 then adopted by Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark.

We had the chance to talk to them a bit.

Headphones For Robots: Who is Honey Beard? Where does the name come from?

Tom: The name came from a song Gaz wrote about himself back in 2009 (a long time before Honey Beard). Back in Ireland when the Economic crash hit Gaz became unemployed and over the subsequent months of not working he quickly found himself lost in a timeless haze with no routine, usually drunk/high and feeling like a failure. At that time he was in a band where he sung a lot in falsetto and constantly had a sore throat, so he was drinking down raw honey from the bottle to sooth the pain. However Gaz would often wake up in the middle of the day with honey caked into his beard and thought it was the perfect representation of how bad he had become and how low he let himself go, so with this inspiration he wrote a song called Honey Beard which was about his self-doubt and dejection while searching for something in his life he could hold on to. So a few years later the song name resurfaced when picking a new band name and it was the best of a band bunch so we picked it!

 HFR: How did you start making music together? Could you tell us a bit about your influences?

Tom: Gaz and I first met while training for Australian Rules Football, it was Gaz’s first day at training and he didn’t know anyone in the club or the city for that matter as he only immigrated to Canada a few months prior, so I took it upon myself to teach him how to kick but before long we were talking about music and it really rolled out from there.

 Tom: Historically our influences are far and wide and for the most part have nothing to do with electronic music. A big starting point for us was the soundtrack to the film ‘Drive’. It kind of pointed us in the direction that we wanted to take Honey Beard.

 Gaz: I grew up listening to Jean Michelle Jarre in the car with my Dad when I was very young, and growing up as a child in the 80’s, that era’s music was always in the background. But when I really got into music I began worshipping Metallica, Machine Head and Megadeth, then migrated to Nirvana, Soundgarden and Smashing Pumpkins. But at some point I began to listen to Pink Floyd, The Doors and Tool and it was these bands that have influenced how I approach and create music. These days I get a lot of ideas and influence from bands like Depeche Mode, OMD, MGMT, M83 and Gunship!

 HFR: Can you tell us about Dreamless Sleep (Title Song)?

Gaz: In terms of the lyrics, the words are a little vague but give just enough clues as to what the message is about. This song, the first song on the album, is like a warning for events that unfold on the last song “Momento Mori” which describes the destruction of the earth.  Dreamless Sleep speaks to two issues that affect each other, the non-secular side of humanity creating climate change denial and the leaders complicit. Dreamless Sleep predicts that the sea will swell and drown us all but before we meet our end, the loud and brash leaders of this world will be clutching their holy books praying that they will go to a better place but for the folks, like me, who don’t prescribe to that stuff will simply lament on a life lost to fools and await an endless dreamless sleep with no heaven or deity to save me.  So in a way, it’s a song that exhorts an anxiety of the absurdity of this humanity and the pointlessness of a life where we are born into thinking that our individuality is unique and our egos are special but collectively we are all going kill ourselves and achieve fucking nothing.

 Musically we played around with one driving synth arpeggiator moving from 3 notes to 2 notes with a long break down in the middle and a searing synth lead that kind of guides the song from start to finish. We think the song is also a great introduction to what the album will sound like without leaning too heavily to on typical electronic tropes. It’s unashamedly born from 80’s synth sounds but it’s got a modern drum and bass combination and the synth itself evokes a kind of sad darkness which reflects the message of the song and the album as a whole.

  HFR: What is your approach on writing music? What about the lyrics?

Tom: We have two typical approaches, the main approach is that both of us will sit at home and come up with a song either in a basic verse/chorus form or it could be almost complete. We then send the song to each other and compare notes until we are both happy with the track.

 The other approach is jamming a song out (usually late on a Friday night whilst fantastically inebriated). We bring out an electronic drum kit and just jam away until something flourishes and, if we’re still in control of our faculties at that time, we will record the version and then clean it up at a later time between the two of us, The Stream (from the album) is a good example of that.

 Gaz: The lyrics always come last but when the song is written usually a vocal melody is sung using gibberish lyrics so as to establish melody, then after that actual lyrics are written and recorded.  But lyric ideas are always floating around waiting for the right song to be applied to.  We take our lyrics very seriously and probably spend more time on the words than we do on the music. The song ‘Let Me Disappear’ (3rd track of the album) had its lyrics and melody completely scrubbed and rewritten days before the album was due for mastering!

 HFR: Could you tell us a bit about your “go to” equipment? What do you use when writing a song and which are your favorite instruments?

Tom: For song writing, any midi controller hooked up to Logic does the trick. We can spend several hours at a time going through all of the different software instruments until something clicks. On stage, I use a Micro Korg quite a bit. Considering how much equipment we haul around to gigs, it’s nice to have something so compact but still powerful and versatile.

  Gaz: My favourite is the Alesis Micron (red trim). Before we began using Logic this was my main synth and its pretty powerful with some sweet sounds.  I rely a lot on my TC Helicon Voicelive vocal effects processor as I try to change up the vocals on every song. It’s a great effects pedal. When we play guitar I cherish my line6 DL4 delay pedal, the sounds out of that are gorgeous.  We use an AKAI MPK 61Key midi controller and to be honest it’s a piece of shit, its too delicate for the road to the point where it latches by itself and the display doesn’t work, its betrayed us a few times in the middle of a show.

 HFR: Honey Beard in a near future? Are there any shows coming up within 2017? Any chances to see you in Europe?

HB: We have a few shows and festivals here in Canada set up but we are taking a trip to Ireland in September to play a few shows and festivals there including the Electric Picnic festival on September 2nd, so we’re looking forward to that. Right now we’re in the drawn out process of putting a long schedule of shows so watch this space!

 HFR: Last words?

HB: Synth music is an incredibly fun genre to be a part of but our genuine approach is to make each song meaningful, to layer it with depth and purpose. That method may not always tickle the general populace who tend to look for the typical saccharine feel good froth or some catch all throw back to B-movie sci-fi soundtracks. We’re out to evoke through our words as much as our sounds, we may not always get it right but our songs are in constant pursuit of that and we hope it can be well received!

We would like to thank everyone who has been buying and listening to the album since it came out in March and are already planning the 2nd album for next year!

 If you like our stuff you can catch it on Spotify or look at some of our videos on youtube. It’s easy to search for us just use the handle @honeybeardband and you will find all our social media!

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