The California Honeydrops are a party band and proud of it. When they take the stage, it's impossible for the audience to stay in their seats. The five-man ensemble is just as animated as their fans, often jumping off the stage to dance with them. They bring that unbridled energy to every tune on their new four-song EP, Just One More, and Then Some, out on June 26 on their own Tubtone label. The music has a feel that harks back to the sound of '50s and '60s New Orleans, a hybrid of R&B, jazz and rock 'n' roll that nods to the roots of the Crescent City, and rock in general.
"We love that New Orleans vibe," said bandleader, songwriter, lead singer and multi-instrumentalist Lech Wierzynski. "Huey 'Piano' Smith and the Clowns may be the ultimate party band of all time. He wrote songs full of joy, silliness and light, but with a heavy groove. This EP hopes to capture some of that feel, with 'Pocket Chicken' being a direct tribute to his style and lyrical content.
"Everything was recorded live, focusing on an old style of playing live jams like they did in the '40s and '50s, with a bit of the '60s in there as well. We picked songs that fit into that vibe. One of them, 'Shack in the Back,' is a tribute to the house I live in. We often have parties there that go on all night."
The songs were recorded quickly, in a three-day session at sax-player Johnny Bones' house. The Honeydrops had just come back from a tour and wanted to document the bond they'd forged on the road.
"This was done a while ago," Wierzynski said. "Then we went back on tour, so we didn't have time to listen to the tapes. After the lockdown, we listened and liked what we heard. We got it mixed and it was ready to go. We had nine tunes—four for this EP, and enough for another EP we hope to get out before the end of the year.
"What you hear is what we did. The only overdubs were the backing vocals by Aviva Lipkowitz, Amethyst Starr and Deva Mahal. They often sing with us, but couldn't get into the studio in time for the session, so we had them come in later."
The EP kicks off with "Just One More." Wierzynski's acoustic guitar, Beau Bradbury's stand-up bass and the rippling arpeggios of Lorenzo 'Lolo' Loera's piano set up a laid-back—but relentless—pulse, with Wierzynski's vocal pleading for one more kiss before he leaves town. A short, sharp sax solo from Bones, that sounds like it came out of a Specialty Records hit from the '50s, drives the message home. "Pocket Chicken" has tasty "girl-group" backing vocals singing the praises of Southern fried chicken. Lolo's piano references the playing of Huey Smith, with funky handclaps, Bones' exuberant solo and Wierzynski's lead vocals adding to the fun-filled vibe.
Wierzynski said "Honey Sugar" is a tribute to the Los Angeles R&B of Jimmy Liggins, one of the guitarists who helped transform jump blues into rock and roll. His brother, piano-player Joe Liggins, is one of Lolo's favorite artists, and his playing references Liggins' boogie-woogie style. Wierzynski sings a playful vocal full of over-the-top romantic images, pumped up by the heartbeat of Ben Malament's kick drum. "Shack in the Back" is a Second Line strut. It's goosed along on the opening verse by Wierzynski's reggae guitar rhythms, Bones' honkin' sax and Malament's brittle, driving snare. The track captures a feel-good atmosphere that should make it an instant party anthem. The EP explores the lighthearted sounds of early rock and roll and crams the entire musical history of the '40s and '50s into four succinct tracks.
"We really live to play live and get people up and dancing," Wierzynski said. "Since we can't do that right now, we wanted to put out an album with a live feel to hold folks over until they can hear the real thing. That's why we keep doing our Friday Night Sessions, every week at 6pm. We put them up on our Facebook page. We donate 25 percent of everything people contribute to different charities.
"Sometimes it's just me, Lolo and Ben—our 'quaranteam'—sometimes the whole band. We've been locked down together, so we don't wear masks, we just jam. That's why we're excited about our EP-release party. We'll set up at the Sweetwater on June 26 and start playing at 7pm. I don't know any bands that play as many different varieties of music as we do, so there are no guarantees with the Honeydrops, ever. All we guarantee is that you'll have fun."
You can find the Honeydrops Sweetwater gig at this link: https://go.seated.com/events/5fa7bfbf-5b01-44c2-af8d-e8186809cfdd The streaming PASS is free.