This interview is week 4 of Sean Claes' 52 Weeks of Austin Music Interviews.
I’ve known Billy Perkins of Austin metal band Butcherwhite for quite a few years. A few months ago, I attended a benefit for the victims of the wildfires held at Hanover’s in Pflugerville and he was there with a new band, Honeycreeper.
I believe it was one of their first gigs out in public, and I really got into the straight up ready-for-arena rock of their sound. I kept up with them over the last few months, and I learned they are about to enter the studio to record their debut album, and they’re continuing to get their footing in the Austin music scene by playing out regularly. In fact, on February 11, 2012, they will be taking the stage at Headhunters.
The band is made up of a collective of seasoned Austin musicians… members of the Black Crowe’s tribute band, Sometimes Salvation, the killer Razr 13, and the aforementioned Butcherwhite. Members include Billy Perkins (vocals), Eddie Mendoza (Bass), Chris 'JRAB' Thomas (Drums), and the twin guitar power of Danny Wright and Darrell (Doobie) Daugherty.
I talked with a few of the members about the formation of the band, their sound, and the future of Honeycreeper.
Sean Claes: Interesting name. Who came up with it?
Billy Perkins: We had tossed around a few names. Some we found out were already taken, and some just didn't stick. Finally one evening right before I left for rehearsal, my girl and I were watching a show on Hawaii's volcanoes. When the land is entirely covered with black volcanic rock, there's a certain kind of plant that is the first life to burst through the rock.
We learned that a bird called a honeycreeper is dependent on that plant, and vice versa. As soon as we heard the word "honeycreeper," we both looked up and thought maybe that was it. About an hour later, I presented it to the band and everyone dug it.
Claes: You’re all members of other local bands (Butcherwhite, Sometimes Salvation, and Razr13). How did you come together?
Chris “JRAB” Thomas: Darrell (Daugherty) wrote some songs and was wanting to record a record. We started jamming. I had wanted to jam with Billy for a while. With Danny (Wright) and Eddie (Mendoza) already playing with Darrell in the Black Crowes Tribute, Billy was the final piece...
Darrell “Doobie” Daugherty: I met Eddie and Danny in the Sometimes Salvation (Black Crowes) tribute band. I fell in love with these two guys' ability to play! When I started this band I already had my sights set on these two guys. JRAB came into the picture when he started dating a good friend of mine that plays for Marshall Dylan. After searching for a vocalist for quite a while, JRAB knew a cat named Billy Perkins that played with Butcherwhite. We asked him to come out and jam and I want to say he was hooked at that point. LOL
Claes: You’ve got that old school rock swagger to your sound. This is a departure from the sound of your other projects. Was this one of the reasons Honeycreeper came together?
Daugherty: Not really, but we liked the fact that even though Butcherwhite is a metal band, Billy can actually sing and not growl! We made it clear from the start that we were not looking for cookie monster for our vocalist!
Perkins: In the beginning, I had just agreed to fill in for a while until the guys found a permanent singer. I wasn't expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. There were a handful of existing songs that Doobie wrote, plus a couple of fun covers they had been jamming on. It didn't take very long for me to see the potential for something more, and I soon became very interested in writing some songs with these guys.
Whereas Butcherwhite is more primal, Honeycreeper allows me to explore a more visceral side. The guitars are in very capable hands, so since I don't have to play, I can focus on vocal melodies and try to write more poetic lyrics. I'm enjoying a different kind of creative process, while trying to become a better singer and showcase another side of myself vocally.
We're all huge fans of old-school rock bands like UFO, Robin Trower and more - back when bands had twin gunslingers on lead guitar, and singers who actually SANG. Eddie and Doobie are also great at harmony vocals. To get my game face on for Honeycreeper, I listen to a lot of vocalists like Mark Farner (Grand Funk) and James Dewar (Trower). That's how we roll.
Claes: It’s nice to hear a guitar solo again. That is something that is missing from much of today’s music.
Daugherty: Dude, when the grunge came into play and all the solo guitar was gone, I was soooo disappointed! I had worked years on my guitar solo playing. Regardless what other bands were doing, I was not going to stop ripping it up! Screw that! And when you hear our record or come to our show you WILL understand.
Perkins: There are times when we're playing that I'm so blown away by what Danny and Doobie are doing, that I just become a fan and stop and listen. We believe in letting a song breathe. If it turns out to be 8 minutes long, so be it.
Claes: How does a Honeycreeper song come into existence?
Daugherty: I will usually lay down a scratch track on my recorder with a simple beat on the drum machine, present it to the band to see how everyone jells with it, and then let everyone work their own magic.
Claes: You’ve got some heavy themes in your songs. Tell me about the track “Set Me Free.”
Daugherty: It's basically about the decision of war. Starting war for personal gain, money, oil etc. without thinking it through. Think before you strike. As the lyrics say, "Re-trace your thoughts and all these things you can surely avoid!"
Claes: I saw you perform “Day of the Eagle” at Hanovers in Pflugerville when you played Firestock. How’d you choose that cover?
Daugherty: I'm not sure who came up with the idea of playing that tune, but when we played it at rehearsal for the very first time, Danny played the ending solo and knocked it slap out of the park! It was an amazing solo! We have kept it in the set ever since then.
Perkins: OK, this is one of those tunes that I was referring to earlier, where the guitars are just so incredible and beautiful that I just have to step back, close my eyes and listen. First of all, it's a Robin Trower tune - one of the best rock guitar players on the planet.
You don't just nonchalantly cover a song like this. It's full of passion. It has to be sung accordingly, with as much soul as I can muster. But mainly, the guitars need to also reflect that passion.
Danny plays "Day Of The Eagle" like he just sold his soul to the devil. And that's pretty much how all of our guitar leads are in this band.
Claes: Your debut album is coming out Spring 2012. Who are you recording with?
Thomas: RAZR 13 recorded our record with Paul Soroski and ROCK ARMY RECORDS. I've known Paul since 2000. I drum teched for PODUNK (Pauls band) in 2004 when they were out with TESLA. They gave me the "JRAB" nickname....keeping it in the family!
Claes: Will it be a full-length or EP?
Daugherty: We were going to do an EP, but the new material that we were writing was being put together so quick that we decided to do a full length record.
Claes: Tell me about Rock Army Records.
Perkins: Rock Army is a local label manned by Podunk bassist Paul Soroski. Paul is gonna record us in his studio next month. Paul and I have been friends for years but have never worked together, so
this is going to be fun.
Claes: Billy, It’s hard to interview you without mentioning your day job. For the last 14 years you’ve been owner of Penhead Designs. You’ve done poster art for Cheap Trick, Widespread Panic, Hayes Carll, Alice In Chains, Willie Nelson, BB King, Slayer, and a host of others. Do you have a personal favorite?
Perkins: Well, after 20 years of doing rock poster art, I have a few favorites. I also have a few that I'd like to sweep under the rug. Although I've done work for some big name bands, I've found that I can get really attached to posters that I do for my own bands. I put a little more of my heart and personal character into those. I've done Butcherwhite's posters for years, and I'm looking forward to doing more for Honeycreeper, like this one.
I share artistic duties in Honeycreeper with JRAB, who does a lot of promotional flyers & posters around town and is a talented artist in his own right.
Claes: Your posters are something that goes past the definition of “gig poster” and more into the realm of artwork. Where can people buy prints?
Perkins: I highly encourage poster art fans to visit the coolest poster site on the planet, www.gigposters.com. A lot of the artists, including myself often hang out there & chat about posters. I have some of my work for sale on that site, here's a link.
Claes: Back to Honeycreeper. Where are some of your favorite places to play in Austin?
Thomas: The Dirty Dog Bar for one, but....I will play in your kitchen if you wanna hear our music!
Daugherty: We play a lot at Dirty Dog, it has a good stage, lighting and kick ass system. Nice club.
Perkins: We're still pretty new, so there are a lot of places we'd like to play. I could see us ripping it up at the ROT Rally, or putting on a good show for an Antone's crowd. We're equally at home on Red River.
Claes: Do you guys see taking the band on the road at any point?
Daugherty: We would love to. It's something we need to talk about and put together, as we all have day jobs as well at this point. So buy this record so we don't have to! LOL
Thomas: I live for the road...fingers crossed!
Claes: You’ve got a show on February 11 at Headhunters (720 Red River) with A Good Rogering, Forever Town, Blarney Street Hooligans and Masikrator. What can you tell me about the bands on the bill?
Thomas: Skunk from A Good Rogering is a good friend, we played with them in San Marcos.
Daugherty: A Good Rogering is a very good band. They have a heavy funky sound that is very original.
Perkins: Masikrator is a great punk/metal instrumental trio. My buddy Ken Kemp, who was Butcherwhite's bassist for 5 years is part of Masikrator.
Claes: OK, if you had the chance to have Honeycreeper play a show and you got to hand pick the bands to play with (any bands in the world), what would the line-up be… and where would you play?
Thomas: King's X, Tesla and Shinedown...in Kansas City, MO. That's where I'm from.
Perkins: Hmmm. It would need to be a guitar players bill. How about Michael Schenker, Thin Lizzy, Gov't Mule, Honeycreeper and ZZ Top (in no particular order)...at Auditorium Shores.
Claes: Would you like to add anything?
Thomas: Check out all the great bands on Rock Army Records.
Daugherty: I personally am very blessed to have the caliber musicians in this band that we have. We are kicking ass and we haven't even been together a full year! It will only go up from here!
Perkins: This is going to be a fun ride. I think people are gonna dig it.
Check out Honeycreeper at Headhunters on February 11, 2012.
Sean Claes is the owner of Austin's INsite Magazine and has been a freelance entertainment writer since 1996. If you like what you read... please share. To visit Claes' homepage, go here - http://www.seanclaes.com/.