Honeybucket is Cleveland’s essential newgrass band comprised of Brendan O’Malley–mandolin player, Adam Reifsnyder on guitar, and Abie Stefanchik brings the upright bass. They have a new album (and a video) coming out in a few short weeks on August 8th and will be doing a big, fun show at Music Box Supper Club to send it off into the world.
This interview is the full length version of the original post here.
Me: Can you tell me a little bit about the band? Are you all from Cleveland?
Abie: Brendan and I grew up together actually in Cleveland Heights. We’ve known each other since we were wee. Went to middle school and high school together. And then Adam is a transplant.
Adam: Yeah, I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky and then I was in Cincinnati for a while and ended up here. I’ve been here about six years I think? No, five years.
Brendan: He calls Cleveland home.
Adam: Yeah. I love it here.
Me: More than Kentucky?
Adam: I mean, I left Kentucky when I was…fifteen so I never really experienced Louisville as an adult. I never really lived there as an adult. But compared to Cincinnati I like Cleveland a lot better. I don’t know if that’s good to print or not. (everyone laughs) But I love Cleveland. I love Louisville too but I haven’t been back there at all.
Me: How did you all meet each other. Abie and Brendan, you said you knew each other forever?
Abie: We knew each other…Brendan was actually really good friends with my younger brother for a while. He actually taught my brother how to play drums which is pretty cool. And then we–we actually played a little bit of music together in school but it wasn’t until after we graduated from highschool. We both had a little bit of college under our belt and ended up back in Cleveland together and we ended up playing seriously in a band together. This was maybe eight years ago? nine years ago? That’s kind of my history with Brendan.
Brendan: The story with Adam is I was bartending at a place that’s no longer there but I was bartending and he came in with his fiance and friends and we just kind of struck up a conversation right there at the bar and just started talking about music and it was just completely random. We met up and started writing music together. Then we were a duo for a while, Adam and I, and then we brought in Abie and that’s when the band started to take form.
Adam: Yeah, Brendan and I would do sort of two acoustic guitars and singing and just play every three or four months at coffee shops. Like at Dewey’s in Shaker Square. It was good and we recorded a few things in my apartment but he actually found a mandolin what under your…
Brendan: Oh, yeah! I’d played guitar for many years and my dad had a mandolin under his bed. I knew what a mandolin was but then I found this case and I dug it and it stuck.
Adam: We’d already been talking about bringing in another singer. It was really important to us, because we both sing and we love to make harmony as a big part of the music. It was really important that if we brought someone else in that they needed to be able to sing and harmonize. Then we thought, well, we have mandolin and guitar. We’ve got your high and your mids we need some low end stuff. It took–Abie was playing in a couple of other bands I think at the time.
Abie: Yeah, I was still at school. I was in another outside of school band and I was playing in a professional jazz group and I was playing in a metal band actually which was out of character for me actually.
Brendan: No it was not!
Abie: Well, a little bit! It was not what I was typically listening to.
Brendan: Listen–Abie brings the thunder. It doesn’t matter if it’s jazz or bluegrass or metal.
Adam: I mean you beat on your bass at every show that’s a little bit of metal. The most metal we get, I guess. But yeah–we brought him in and then we had a rehearsal Halloween night of 2011 and we were like this really works.
Abie: And Brendan, you’d been playing mandolin for what like a week, two weeks?
Brendan: Yeah. I was still playing some electric guitar and we were not sure what form…we were still in like gas form. We weren’t yet solid matter. We didn’t know what we were but then it just congealed and I started playing mandolin more and we started writing more. We all started listening to more roots music and bluegrass music. We were like this is a cool current that we can hop onto and have our own spin on it.
Me: Tell me a bit about your musical roots. What was the first instrument you learned to play?
Abie: I started on piano. When my brother and I were really little we had a piano in the house and no one in my family played the piano. My dad sings, my mom sings, my dad played a little bit of guitar but they wanted us to play piano eventually so we had a little upright piano. And my dad would tell a story, just make up a story and my brother and I would sit at the piano and he would be talking like, “AND THEN THE GIANT STARTED STOMPING THROUGH THE VILLAGE.” and we would start hammering down on the low keys. That’s the giant stomping. And then he would say, “AND THEN THE HERO CAME RUNNING OUT OF HIS HUT!” and we would try to play the hero say in the mid range. And it was just noise, it was just nonsense but it was my first instrument. My first experience playing music.
Me: I think that’s really neat because from the very beginning it was connected with feeling and emotions.
Abie: Yeah, and a story too. Telling a story is always fun with music. And then that was the instrument that I first took lessons on. But now I play the upright bass that’s what I eventually transitioned to in the sixth grade. That’s what I picked. In the fifth grade, the highschoolers came around and they all demonstrated all of the instruments and the trombone player played the theme from Star Wars which–I was this close to being a trombone player because of that. I was like that’s the best and I want to do that because it sounded just like Star Wars. But the bass player who demonstrated–his name was Mac and he was the coolest person I had ever seen in my life–and I still kind of feel that was that Mac was just awesome. I got to actually meet him later, he was a counselor at camp that I went to and he was still just as cool!
Brendan: Mac is a cool name. Only cool dudes are named Mac. Did he have a cool last name?
Brendan: Mac Mayer.
Abie: You know, it’s–alliteration is always cool. But that’s why I play the bass. I was in awe. I was like–I want to be just like him so I need to play the bass. (9.05)
Me: What about you, Adam? How did you start off?
Adam: My parents were both pretty musical especially my mom. She did a lot of musical theater and was playing piano a lot when I was growing up. My parents both had a plan they wanted me and my brother to try an instrument for two years at some point before middle school or something like that. See how we liked it. They said, “if you don’t pick an instrument we will put you in piano lessons. If you want to play something else that’s cool but you have to try it for two years. If you don’t like it you can quit. We’ll never say anything again.” Which I think is really cool. It just planted the seed early that I need to play something. Actually, some people came and played a bunch of stringed instruments for my fourth grade class in middle school and I–for some reason–I really latched onto the violin. I took that up and a few of my friends. One of my best friends took up viola. Somebody started cello. We were all just–let’s go do the orchestra together! And I ended up taking that up and sticking with it for a while and I really liked it but I think that I never really latched onto the classical style of music. It didn’t really speak to me. Eventually I ended up taking guitar like midway through high school but violin I stuck with through the end and I can still play. So that was my first experience with it.
Me: And you still play violin now?
Adam: I can. I don’t play it in the band. It’s been a while. I’m a little rusty but I know what I’m doing a little bit. I actually wish I–I kinda want to get back into it so I can fiddle. I never really tried fiddling. It was always Suzuki method and doing more of the classical stuff. I think I really would enjoy fiddling.
Me: How about you, Brendan?
Brendan: So, when I was like in the seventh grade I was like, ”How can I get girls to like me?” (Everyone laughs) Aaaaaand the guitar was the path of least resistance. I didn’t have to fight anybody or do anything like super macho. I didn’t have to be a quarterback to play guitar. That’s it.
Abie: Don’t see yourself–because your folks…
Brendan: Yeah, my folks both play. My mom sang. When I was a little kid my mom was gigging in Cleveland a lot with jazz. My parents met in an Irish folk band back in the eighties called the Bog Trotters. They had a little career for themselves for a little while in the eighties and my dad doesn’t play professionally any more so much. They still do. They play gigs out together but my mom sang jazz for a long time in Cleveland. She was kind of in that world so I was hauling her speakers a lot when I was a kid. I was her little roadie. Then she kind of pushed–well, my parents didn’t really push me into music at all but I definitely had to take piano lessons. I didn’t want to do that anymore so I didn’t play anything for a while then I…I mean there are instruments lying all over my house.
Abie: There’s like every instrument. At least string and percussion in there.
Brendan: They really didn’t have to…like–I didn’t have a choice. I had to learn something.
Abie: It was kind of similar with me. I mean, neither of my parents were trained musicians but both of my folks sang all of the time. They sang a lot. I think it’s the same for you. When you’re just around it, especially from a really early age, it becomes kind of a part of you. There’s people who, even if they’re not musicians, they talk about growing up and their folks sang or they played music. I feel like they have a deeper appreciation for it. It’s just there and it makes it a lot easier.
Brendan: Yeah. And then I picked up a mandolin and I’ve been rocking it. I mean, I have more years of guitar under my belt but–
Adam: Mandolin is just upside down guitar.
Brendan: Yeah, it’s just upside down guitar. I’ve been playing that and it’s cool. I like it.
Me: What kind of music did you grow up listening to?
Brendan: Boy. I really wanted to do the freakin’ guitar like Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn, and John Mayer to a degree. I really wanted to be John Mayer for like a second which I’m not proud of but whatever.
Adam: I still love John Mayer. Though, his first album is very bubblegummy.
Brendan: But yeah, I really gravitated toward the guitar, rock stuff I guess.
Adam: And you grew up listening to the Beatles like crazy. Wasn’t it like your religion?
Brendan: Yeah. We have a Beatles chord songbook and that’s like our Bible.
Adam: That was big in our house growing up. Beatles, Zeppelin, Van Morrison–my dad was really huge into Van Morrison…um…Fleetwood Mac which I totally picked up. I totally picked up the Beatles, and Fleetwood Mac, and Zeppelin and got into Van Morrison later. My brother really got me into Pink Floyd for a while. He was really pushing the psychedelics on me. (Everyone laughs) The music, the music! Yeah, I was eight and I was doing psychedelics with my brother (He laughs and shakes his head).
Brendan: No, that came later.
Adam: Michael Jackson was also huge. Not really someone I tried to emulate because–why bother–but I loved Michael Jackson growing up and still do. And then influences later were John Mayer, Incubus was a huge one, I really loved A Perfect Circle which was…just random stuff.
Brendan: It’s so funny because the stuff you listen to as a kid is not at all what I listen to now. Like Sublime? I listened to Sublime so much. Sublime, Slightly Stoopid, and all those guys and that whole movement I feel like you have these waves in your life where you’re listening to different genres. I think we all listen to bluegrass now to a degree but it’s not really what we put on first I would say.
Adam: We fell into the kind of bluegrass genre mostly because we found a mandolin and Abie already played upright. It was like an accident. And we got into it more after and I think we really appreciate it but it’s not where any of our backgrounds are which is cool because we write pop and rock music. It’s not bluegrass.
Abie: We were talking earlier and it’s like we trick people almost. Not intentionally but we have this old timey bluegrass string band sound. We could talk about musical details, this thumping one/five bassline kind of thing and this like percussion-y chunky mandolin playing that really accents the offbeat. That’s what give the impression of bluegrass but when you look at our songwriting and the structure–these are pop tunes, these are rock-n-roll. I don’t think we had that goal in mind. We weren’t thinking about it. It’s really a great expression of all of us. I never imagined that I would play in a bluegrass band even as an upright player. I did a lot of jazz and a lot of rock and stuff and some classical too. But this music seems like the perfect expression of what we want to say in a weird sort of way.
Me: That was something that really impressed me about you guys. The first time I saw you play live you covered Queen’s “Fat Bottom Girls” which I thought was just fantastic because it was definitely not the song that I ever pictured a bluegrass band covering and you did it well. You made it infectious and fun. It was definitely bluegrass but definitely still the original song. I thought that was something really, really unique.
Adam: What show was that?
Me: Morgan Mecaskey’s album release.
Abie: Oh, at the Grog Shop.
Adam: We did play that song there. I was like did we–
Abie: I think that’s the first time we played that.
Adam: I think so too. Yeah.
Me: What was the first, or one of the first albums that really captivated you?
Abie: This sort of piggy backs on the last question because I didn’t really get to answer it (My fault. I skipped Abie. Total accident.) It was a Jimi Hendrix greatest hits album. It was–My grandmother had just bought me a walkman cd player for my birthday and I was so excited and–I don’t know how we came across it if my parents bought it or what but it was a Jimi Hendrix greatest hits. I just listened to it on repeat for a year. I don’t think I took it out–maybe once or twice I put something else in and then was like, “Eh. Nope.” and I put Jimi back in. And that was like the first time that something like hit home. I grew up listening to what my folks listened to. A lot of Beatles, a lot of Bruce Springsteen, a lot of Bob Dylan and stuff, Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and all of that is still there but they didn’t really listen to Jimi Hendrix and it was the first time I had heard this. They call it acid rock for a reason. It’s like burning your eardrums! The sound! It was kind of cool to hear something for the first time. It’s always incredible. And just to hear this and just–how the hell is he doing this? How is this sound coming through these headphones? What is going on?
Brendan: Weezer’s “Blue Album” was a huge one for me. But for a different reason. Because I was trying to get a girl. Well no, I liked a girl. It was a huge album because of what was surrounding it. I mean, the music is sweet but this chick who played saxophone–Jenny Vale who played saxophone. It was kind of badass I mean she was an eigth-grader, I was a seventh-grader—holy shit. And she gave me that cd and I was like–mind blown.
Me: That’s a beautiful story.
Brendan: That’s how most of my relationships are, actually.
Adam: Two came to mind immediately. There was a Beatles anthology. I don’t even know what the name of it was. It was blue and had them looking down a stairwell. I think it was a certain time period. It was blue and the cd’s had apples on them. Like granny smith apples. I can really vividly picture it but I don’t know what album it was. It was two cds. I listened to that a ton and I also had Michael Jackson’s “History” which was one disc of greatest hits up until that point which I think was mid-nineties and then another disc of new stuff and the new stuff was pretty shitty but I still loved it and I listened to both albums a ton and those two really stuck with me. Beatles and MJ.
Brendan: Do you guys have favorite Beatles albums? (Points to me) You included.
Adam: The problem was that I listened to a lot of anthologies so I didn’t know what albums they were on originally. I don’t know my favorite.
Brendan: I think Rubber Soul is my favorite. I have a lot of emotional attachment to that one.
Abie: You know what’s funny is I think it’s kind of shifted over time. Sargent Pepper was kind of the first album that I latched onto as the first album that I loved. And then when I was in highschool and I discovered marijuana–The White Album. (Brendan laughs) Not that those things necessarily correlated. They just both kind of happened at the same time.
Brendan: They correlated.
Abie: The White Album just kind of blew my mind. And we had it on vinyl! My dad had a huge vinyl collection at the time and so that’s four sides. That’s two records. You sit there and you put on track one of side one and you go, you flip the record over and then put the new one on. That’s like two hours of listening and it’s like–
Brendan: A lot of weed.
Abie: No! That’s not even the point. They’re just kind of linked in my head because they happened around the same time but it was–kind of similar to the Jimi Hendrix thing–hearing something that I had never really heard before and hearing it in a new way. And historically, if you look at that album that was them–they had stopped touring, they had stopped performing. This was them, you know, just doing insane shit in a studio. Let’s invent a new sound. Then, I think now, as a bit more of a mature person–Rubber Soul. That was never the first thing I would latch onto. I love the goofiness of Sergeant Pepper. (To me) What about you?
Me: Me? (They affirm me.) I can honestly say that I don’t have a favorite. I have battled with myself to try and find a favorite and I just can’t. I love them all differently.
Abie: I don’t have a favorite ice cream flavor. I love it all.
Me: Do you have a favorite, Adam?
Adam: I don’t because my parents had those anthologies.
Brendan: How about ice cream flavor?
Brendan: Mine’s pistachio.
Adam: I think cookies and cream.
Abie: I was eating pistachio ice cream the other day.
Me: Well, since we’re on the topic of ice cream I’m skipping a few questions.
Adam: Oh, you’ve got an ice cream question.
Me: You can’t have an interview without an ice cream question. So–you’ve got a friend in from out of town and they want the best ice cream in Cleveland. Where do you take them?
Abie: Mason’s Creamery.
Brendan: oooooh. Damn.
Abie: Yep. Out the gate.
Adam: I would do Mason’s too. Mason’s is amazing. I finally went to the store, to the storefront. Have you been?
Abie: Yeah! It’s awesome there. It’s like the cutest little place.
Adam: I tasted like everything. I would go to Mason’s too. I mean, Mitchell’s is great and they have some really awesome flavors.
Abie: Yeah. They’re totally a Cleveland staple. They have done their due diligence, they make excellent ice cream. I just…I don’t know.
Brendan: I don’t take my friends out for ice cream.
Me: Your friend really wants ice cream.
Brendan: I’m like no way. We’re not. We’re just going to go to ABC Tavern and get wasted.
Abie: What an asshole.
Brendan: That’s what I’m telling my friend. I’m like fuck you. I’ve got shit to do. I can’t be fucking–
Abie: Wow. You’re getting really mad about this. You just swore three times about ice cream. (Everyone laughs) You’re like “No, you eat ice cream where you live!” (More laughter)(28 min)
Me: When did you start to consider yourself a musician? Start with Abie?
Abie: Huh. That’s a good question. That’s a tough one. When did…I guess–when was I aware of it? When did I think of it as part of my identity? Um…it was probably in highschool. I’ve never really thought about that before. It’s kind of a cool question. I would have to say somewhere in the middle of my junior year of highschool. Prior to that I loved playing music but I never thought I was good. I had no confidence, I had no positive self-image in terms of music. It wasn’t until highschool, specifically sophomore year because freshman year I was just terrified. I was in orchestra and I didn’t know how to really read music, and I was watching the other bass player’s hands to figure out where my fingers should go. I could not read music. The level of music was so challenging and it really pushed me and stretched myself. It wasn’t until that second year of highschool that all of a sudden I’m second chair and the first chair is a senior and I’m the only bass player in the jazz band, and they asked me to be in the small ensemble of jazz. All of a sudden I’m finding that obviously other people see value in me. (In the background the sound of a kid playing the recorder starts coming from a nearby house. Brendan, Adam, and I all laugh. It’s pretty loud.)
Abie: Is that the ice cream truck?
Brendan: Somebody’s practicing the recorder.
Adam: It’s Ode to Joy. It’s on the recorder. It’s probably like a third grader.
Brendan: Probably some kid who went to Fairfax just like me and Abie. Wait–it’s summer…he’s doing it for fun! Holy shit! (Everyone laughs again).
Adam: He’s not even being forced! That kid’s playing recorder for fun!
Brendan: What a nerd!
Abie: As we talk about our musical pasts.
Me: Never give up on your dreams, kid! (There’s laughter, clapping, and calls of affirmation,)
Abie: Anyway, I think I had my first professional gig too. I got paid to play music for the first time when I was fifteen or sixteen years old.
Brendan: The paid gig was the thing?
Abie: Kind of. That’s part of it. As soon as money is passed down you become a professional.
Brendan: We had a band director at Rocksboro Middle School down here.
Abie: Brendan and I did.
Brendan: Brendan and I did…Abie and I did. I’m Brendan. (Laughter again) And he was pretty instrumental. He treated us all like little musicians. He ran this jazz band–he had this style where you were accountable for learning the shit and he would not mess with you. Like–you kids had better learn this.
Abie: Yeah, if you didn’t have your stuff prepared, he would yell at you. He would kick you out. It was after school. You had to want to be there. And it was Fridays! Fridays after school. You really had to want to be there.
Brendan: But also, He would make you stand up and make you play your part too. He would spot check which is terrifying.
Abie: That’s terrifying at any level.
Brendan: And I didn’t ever experience that.
Abie: And the older you get, it gets even worse.
Brendan: Yeah, getting spot checked in the middle of a choir or something is like–holy fuck. So yeah, I don’t know. My answer to that question is that in some ways I don’t feel like– I haven’t really internalized the musician thing until recently in a lot of ways but in other ways it’s kind of been building since I was a little kid, I guess. The label that you put on it is–As soon as you’re confident to say, “I’m a musician.” then you’re a musician, I guess. Like they say with poetry: if you write a poem and three people read it and agree that it’s a poem, then you’re a poet. I kind of go by that mentality. If I write a song and three people agree that it’s a good song then I’m like, “oh, alright, I’m a songwriter.”
Abie: And you don’t have to be a professional musician to be a musician.
Brendan: Right, they’re completely separate.
Adam: For me it was highschool also but for me–I moved between my freshman and sophomore year. I moved from Louisville to Cincinnati. I’d grown up in Louisville. I’d left all of my friends. I was starting completely fresh. And I moved to Cincinnati on my future highschool’s last day of school. I literally had the whole summer with knowing not a single person. That time kind of sucked but I was like I’m gonna do some things that I’ve never done before. And I’d been thinking about playing guitar or like taking up an instrument that I’d never done before. Violin was just not really doing it for me. So I decided that I was going to take up guitar. I picked it up, played it all summer. By a year later I was working on recording an album and writing. For me, learning solos and becoming a lead player wasn’t something that really drove me. It was always to write music. I kind of started singing on my own and writing music, and I started recording an album. I put it out my junior year and started playing coffee house shows along with it. And I started to see that people liked it and knew some lyrics–that was it. I think when people knew the lyrics to my songs and told me, “This is my favorite song. I really love this.” Having an album and having people respond to it, them coming to shows and singing along was huge for me. I was like, “I love this. This is great.” It was something that I created just for me, really. It’s very personal. Then to have someone else respond to it was what made me feel like a musician.
Me: Ok. Let’s talk about the album. Does it have a name? Can I know the name?
Adam: Yeah! It’s called Stompin’ Grounds. With an N’.
Brendan: One of the features of this album is our Kid Cudi cover which we shot a music video for. So that’s going to be on the album.
Me: And you’re releasing that at the same time as the album?
Brendan: Yeah, on August 8th at the Music Box we’re going to project the video for people to see.
Adam: It’s not going to be online before that. We’ll probably put it up soon after. We have a teaser trailer up now. It’s like thirty seconds long and it looks awesome! We actually just got the first cut today of the whole thing. Abie hasn’t even watched it yet. It’s going to be really, really cool.
Me: And this is your first album together?
Brendan: No, this is our second. We did it with the same studio as the first one which is called “The Ohio EP”–Danger House right over on–
Abie: No, man, it’s called “Honeybucket”.
Adam: “The Ohio EP” was like a really early demo recording we did. We recorded here in his (Brendan’s) attic.”
Brendan: We have had various recordings. Danger House is on Washington right over in Cleveland Heights. It’s headed by Dave Douglass who was the drummer in a band called Relient K.
Me: Oh, we have a mutual friend.
Brendan: Yeah, he does Morgan’s albums.
Me: Yeah, and I know Morgan but my friend was just telling me that he spent the Fourth of July with Dave Douglass of Relient K. And I was like, “Oh yeah, I listened to them in highschool.”
Brendan: (he laughs) Everyone’s like, “Oh yeah. I knew them in highschool.” He still does their reunion tours sometimes.
Adam: He just got back from a big tour. I think he played some shows with them like in the last month or so…
Brendan: But anyway–he’s a great engineer and we had a rapport built up with him from the last album which is on itunes and spotify and all that stuff. So we went back to do another same length same–we each have songs that we’ve written on the album so we all had our share of songs that needed to be done. And the same method of recording. We tried to do a live–it’s a hybrid of live recordings. Our rhythm tracks are all live but we isolate certain things like solos and vocals and things like that. It’s a little more stripped down.
Abie: I would say that this new one is a lot less stripped down. This new one…we’ve had these sort of demo recordings, we played a few shows, we had some really great songs. We just all felt that it was time to make something really clean, really professionally done. I think we were all really enamored with this idea of this bluegrass style recording. We were still getting in to this thing. We definitely had our sound and we were solid. Our songwriting was already there.
Adam: When we went into the studio, we had only been together like a year and a half.
Abie: Yeah, it was less than two years. So for the first one, we were all in one room and we did instrumental tracks all together. We all had a mic. Each instrument was mic-ed and they each had a line-in and there was a lot of bleed. The idea was to get a more organic sound. We actually recorded vocals the same way. The three of us would just stand in a room and we all had our microphones just trying to capture this live thing and it was because we’d had a lot of success with the energy from our live shows.
Adam: And we would have done all the instruments and all vocals in one take if we could but there was going to be too much bleed from the instruments. The only reason we separated into three and three was out of necessity really. Acoustic instruments and six mics would just be crazy.
Abie: But yeah, so we–uh–It was probably halfway through the recording process, maybe a little further along. I think we were recording vocals and we already had our instrument tracks kind of solidified and all of us–the three of us and actually Dave too. We all kind of came to this realization that there were things that we wanted to do on our recording with these songs that we couldn’t do because of the way we were recording it. Because of the lack of isolation. You know a lot of people, they record in a booth by themself and every track is completely separate from every other track. So there’s only so much you can do when there’s bleed. It was us really realizing that we are not bluegrass. We have a bluegrass sound but we are this pop band and we needed to record more like a pop album and basically have a more produced sound. It was always this thing–we love this first album we did. These six songs are awesome and they’re a lot of fun to still listen to but there’s also this feeling of ‘we could have done it better’. And so, when we went into this second album we had this knowledge. And again with Dave included–he had this experience with us to and we all had a much better idea of what we wanted to sound like and we did a lot more isolation, a lot more seperation of things.
Brendan: He was our George Martin.
Abie: Eh–I don’t know. I wouldn’t… He’s great but I don’t wanna call him the fourth bucket, you know?
Brendan: This album has train whistles on it. Which we are pretty excited about.
Adam: It’s the oldest thing you own, right?
Brendan: This train whistle is the oldest possession–
Adam: It’s like a toy, wooden–
Adam and Brendan: (make train noises together)
Brendan: (Looking around, through the window into the house) Where the hell is it?
Adam: I don’t know. I hope you didn’t lose it.
Brendan: I hope I didn’t lose it either.
Adam: Well, it’s the oldest thing you used to own. (Everyone laughs)
Brendan: Oh shit. Well, so that’s pretty cool. We’ve also got–what else did we record on this that was weird?
Abie: There’s one track that has–I think seventeen separate vocal tracks at one point. Layered. It sounds amazing.
Adam: Yeah. It’s something that we always had in mind when we wrote the song. It’s a song called “Back Porch” which we’ve actually been playing live for well over a year now. But we always had this bridge where there’s different vocal lines going over each other and it builds, and it adds more stuff, and brings back earlier melodies and stuff. And we’ve always had this in mind that we wanted to do this, and build it, and have a lot of tracks but we can’t do it live. We can do a version of it and it sounds great and it works really well but I think that on this recording it’s the way that we envisioned it when it was first written. It’s kind of cool for us to hear it realized.
Abie: This album has a mix of stuff that we’ve been playing for a long time and also some stuff that we haven’t been playing for very long at all.
Adam: One song we’ve never done live.
Brendan: One song–it’s a ballad that we just finished. And it had components that have been finished for a year, just one of those songs that’s been sitting in your desk drawer for like a year and a half, two years and it’s not finished and you don’t know what the hell to do with it and then finally someday it clicks together and it’s a song. Then it became, you know. So–we got that in there and it fit together with the rest of the songs we had picked out.
Adam: And we’ve literally never performed it before in front of an audience. The August 8th show will be our first time.
Brendan: And everything in between too. I mean we have a couple of these songs we’ve been doing…I mean, Abie’s track, “Whistles and Wheels” is like two years old. But it needed to be recorded. We had to have it.
Abie: I think I wrote that song pretty shortly after we recorded the first album. Almost immediately all of us were like–shit, if you’d done that two months earlier…
Brendan: And the same thing with “Stompin’ Grounds”. “Stompin’ Grounds” has been around for two years.
Adam: Yeah, you had pieces of “Stompin’ Grounds”…I think I have a demo of it in an email from 2012. So like–less than a year after we formed and I pulled it back out and helped finish it. But we’ve had–there are a couple of songs that have pieces that have been with us since almost the time we started which is pretty cool. But they feel very much like us now. They’re very current.
Brendan: Do you want to talk about the music video for a little bit?
Me: Yeah! Sure!
Brendan: Well, I work at–well, you know–we met at Spice. And so–Spice Acres where they grow some of the food is in Cuyahoga Valley, basically Brecksville. And I asked them if we could come down there and we had this concept of… The song is “The Pursuit of Happiness” and Kid Cudi is kind of talking about being in pursuit of a party or–(to Abie and Adam) How would you describe the song? Without our take on it?
Adam: I think–yeah, his take definitely surrounds the party more but there’s two videos for it. One of them is a party and the other one is him continuously waking up from a dream and like going through pieces of his day. He’s kind of partied to much and he’s waking up again.
Brendan: And he gets drunk and is like, “well, this party atmosphere is sort of me but it’s not really what I want. It’s got kind of this dark element to it. But when we did this cover, when we first arranged it, it worked so well as a bluegrass song. It still does.
Adam: It’s a Honeybucket song too. It felt very us.
Brendan: And it brightens up the mood of the song. All of a sudden our version of “Pursuit of Happiness”, while it has all of the same lyrics. We didn’t change any of the lyrics.
Adam: We just moved them around.
Brendan: It sort of takes on this–for me, when we put out the idea of a video I sort of immediately saw like a vocational aspect to the video. Like a workin’ man sort of thang happening. It’s like working hard and then we’re going to go play hard. Which I think is like sort of what Cleveland is sort of built on. So…
Adam: Yeah, kind of this blue collar vibe…
Brendan: Yeah, blue collar but we’re still getting trashed. We’re a beer town. So that was what I wanted to do. The concept kind of got distilled down and we’re like alright, let’s shoot a video, shoot on the farm as farmers and then we’ll show us running around in Ohio City with our friends and at Market Garden and that’s–that was the concept behind it.
Adam: I think too we–the idea of capturing a little bit of this essence of the original video and trying to give like a little goose of hiphop into the video. We did a lot of slow motion.
Abie:A LOT of slow motion.
Adam: It just adds. It makes it funny.
Abie: I mean Kid Cudi is sort of a Cleveland treasure. I mean, he is! And we wanted to kind of tip the cap.
Brendan: It’s very much a Cleveland song. It’s supposed to be a Cleveland song I think. Or at least a Cleveland video anyway.
Adam: And there is a lot of Cleveland in it. (49.04) Our friends came out for it. Like, our friends were a part of it.
Abie: We did an open call on facebook for our second filming session. The first one was at the Spice Acres farm. It was just the three of us.
Adam: And chickens and pigs.
Abie: And chickens and pigs. And they feature prominently as well.
Brendan: Yeah, they’re the stars.
Abie: That actually was a really fun day of filming. There’s a great shot of Brendan just holding the chicken near his face. (Brendan laughs) Like– “Here it is! What do I do with this now?” So our second day of filming was at two locations. It was at Market Garden Brewery and Sam McNaulty was just really great and let us use his space to shoot this video. So there and at the Cleveland Hostel they have an amazing rooftop patio which is probably the best view of downtown in the whole city. At night it’s just amazing. You see that and you see the Westside Market tower. So we got to use a lot of Cleveland establishments and some really iconic looking footage. And like I said, we had this open call so it was family, friends, and fans who came out and they were the stars.
Brendan: And they were camera ready for five hours. They sacrificed their evening. It was like herding cats a little bit.
Abie: In a great way,though.
Brendan: It was like herding cats in a good way. It was fun. But we needed people’s…When people are on camera it’s just exhausting to do it. Pretend like–We can party for a few hours but eventually you’re like OK but eventually you’re like, “Ok. I’ve got to put on my happy face and like do another shot of whiskey and pretend that I’m a little bit sober…” but…It was a really cool process. It was definitely a learning process for us because we’d never done anything like this before.
Abie: We’d never done a video and we’d never tried to…I mean, this was pretty large scale to try and incorporate that many people and three locations…Like I said, I haven’t even seen the final cut but the trailer was amazing. That was actually the first footage I saw was the teaser trailer that we released. I watched it like six times in a row. It made me really happy.
Brendan: The other thing…The other thing that’s pretty cool about this show that we’re doing at the Music Box which is a pretty special venue for us for a couple of reasons. Before Music Box was there we established a relationship with Colleen the owner and she became a friend and threw some really cool shows our way. We kind of promoted this really great venue as this really great place to play and she treated us so well. We do a Halloween party every year–
Abie: It’s an anniversary! We formed on Halloween night.
Brendan: Yeah, so we do a big Halloween show and last year we did it there and it was a great night. It’s my favorite venue in Cleveland, I think. It’s a great place to see a show. It’s a classy night. It’s–
Adam: The sound there too…the sound is fantastic. Both on stage and in the audience. As a musician you’re paying attention and you’re like, “What is it like on stage? How do I perceive my sound?” Because sometimes you play on a stage and you’re like, “Well, I thought it sounded like shit.” and the audience is like, “No! You guys sounded great! There was amazing sound!” And this is on both sides it is just pristine and amazing.
Brendan: And she books some really big acts there and to be able to share a stage with some of the people that she brings in there is really, really cool. It’s…I mean…It’s great. It’s a really special, cherished place for us because…It’s part of the changing tide in Cleveland right now. The flats are having this regional comeback.
Abie: Waterloo too.
Brendan: Waterloo. Yeah. I mean Cleveland’s totally–this is a really good thing to have.
Me: Do you have any venues that you aspire to play?
Brendan: Fucking Progressive Field. (Abie laughs)
Brendan: Oh, you mean we’ve got a gig at Progressive Field? Is that what you’re saying?
Adam: We might….we might have an opportunity to play.
Brendan: National anthem? Sweet. That’s pretty awesome.
Adam: I’ve been meaning to tell you guys about that.
Abie: (to me) You’ve got a scoop right now.
Adam: But–venues I’d want to play. I’d really like to play the main stage at the House of Blues. I think that’s a sweet stage. We’ve played–
Brendan: Happy Dog. They won’t call us.
Adam: We played the Cambridge Room. Which is a smaller venue there (at the House of Blues) and that was actually a really awesome stage in a cool room. We like to play a lot of the local venues. Like the Beachland Ballroom stage.
Brendan: I’d like to play at that Masonic Auditorium. I want to see what that’s all about. Remember that?
Me: I’ve been in there. It’s huge.
Abie: I saw CAKE there. It was awesome.
Brendan: Kate? No CAKE. I thought you said Kate.
Me: No, not me.
Abie: I saw Kate. I didn’t even know her.
Adam: The Masonic Auditorium would be sweet but we’ve gotta be able to fill that space. That’s a lot of bodies.
Abie: That’s a lot of tickets…(Brendan goes inside to get another beer.)When I was in highschool, I was a freshman and there were these juniors who were in a ska band. And they were like my rock idols. The bass player’s brother was my age and we were good friends. We still are good friends. But they were this band that I kind of aspired to be and the following year my brother and I started a ska band. I remember I said, “Let’s play the Grog Shop.” Like–once we get to the Grog Shop we’ve done it! And now we’ve played the Grog Shop a lot and it’s–
Adam: That was our first show ever!
Abie: That was our first show. Our first public show was at the Grog shop.
Adam: We booked that before we had a name and we decided the name at dinner before the show.
Abie: We were sitting in Winking Lizard!
Adam: Yeah, on Coventry. We were sitting in Winking Lizard. We were like, “We need a name.” I think Brendan and I had booked it as A&B which was our duo beforehand and then we formed this in between the time we booked and the actual show. We were like, “We can’t play this as A&B.”
Brendan: (returning from beer run) So, Kate, do you think that, in the interest of time we could get through three or four more or something like that? We do have to rehearse at some point tonight and I think we’ve been going on for like–close to an hour.
Abie: We’re a little long winded.
Adam: We should probably just hang out sometime.
Brendan: Seriously, though.
Abie: Do you want to hang out with us?
Me: I’d love to. So–Favorite Great Lakes Beer.
Brendan: Oooh. I’m a big fan of the Edmund Fitz.
Adam: I always go back to Dortmunder. I like some of their seasonals. My favorite one just had its season right now…I forget what it’s called.
Abie: Lake Erie Monster?
Abie: That’s a new one.
Adam: Yeah, I really like that. I had that last night. But yeah–I think Dortmunder. I always go back to Dortmunder. It’s a solid go to beer.
Abie: It is. It is. Any time of year. Any situation it works. I love–
Brendan: Any situation?
Abie: Any situation. You know–you’re gonna fight a mugger.
Adam: Hang out with school kids…
Brendan: Gonna fight somebody? Just crack a Dortmunder. I will solve the problem.
Adam: First thing in the morning. Any situation.
Abie: Great Lakes should use that. A beer for any situation.
Abie: They just re-labelled all of their stuff.
Brendan: It looks like crap. I hate it. Sorry.
Abie: Blackout Stout I would have to go with. It’s just an amazing example of the imperial stout style and it just–
Brendan: You’re an imperial stout style.
Abie: Yeah. I am an imperial stout style. I don’t particularly like it in the summer time but it’s not available in the summer time.
Me: And in Cleveland, summer only lasts two months anyway.
Me: Ok–East side or west side?
Adam: That’s terrible. We’re everything.
Brendan: But where do your loyalties lie?
Adam: My loyalties lie in the near west. I lived off of Coventry for a while when I first moved here and I’ve been in Ohio City for like four years and I love it. I don’t venture that far…I like Gordon Square and Lakewood and that stuff a lot. I’d say west side for me.
Brendan: Here’s the thing–if you say you’re from the east side, people on the west side look at you like you’re from fucking Mars. There’s a big east/west divide here and I love the east side AND the west side.
Abie: You need your passport to cross the river.
Brendan: Yeah! You need a passport! Seriously! It’s like–I don’t know. The east side is a bit more…I can’t say.
Adam: What are you talking about? You’re totally east side.
Brendan: Well yeah, but I work and play all on the west side. I live here (east side) but I’m on the west side all the time. I have to drive over to hang out with you guys all the time. But I like my woods and my privacy.
Adam: I think that if you were to buy a house, you would buy a house on the east side. I think you’d still be in the Heights.
Brendan: You’re right. I’m a persnickety east sider through and through.
Abie: That’s a tough one because I grew up here. Like a mile away from where we’re sitting right now on the east side. This was my world. I didn’t….I mean–Westlake? Fairview Park?
Brendan: I think west siders have more fun.
Abie: I was talking. (Adam laughs) Anyway, I live on the west side now. I live with my fiance and we live together on the west side in Lakewood for a number of years now. I really love it. I think that is where we kind of want to build our life. So I’ve gotta go with west side. But east side…east side is always going to have its special place in my heart. I still work in Cleveland Heights.
Adam: You’re probably on the east side more than you’re on the west side.
Abie: Probably. At least awake.
Adam: But the two places that you’ve lived as an adult have been on the west side.
Abie: Yup. I lived in Gordon Square for a little bit then Lakewood.
Brendan: (to me) What’s your answer to that question.
Me: I’m from New York. I moved here three years ago. (They all laugh.)
Brendan: Oh. You’re like, ”What are you Clevelanders all worried about?”
Me: I love Cleveland but…. I spend more time on the west side because there is more things to do and it’s easier to get to. I love the idea of Coventry and this area out here. There are lots of cool things. But it’s difficult to get to and even once you get here the roads are ridiculous. There are parking meters everywhere! I like the idea of it but it’s not as friendly. It’s pretty though. Last question–Your epic movie just ended and you’re riding off into the sunset–what song is playing?
Adam: We’re in the movie?
Me: Yeah. You’re the one on the horse or the brontosaurus or whatever you’re riding.
Brendan: Uhhh, “White Unicorn” by Wolf Mother. Because I’ll be riding a white unicorn.
Adam: When you said “brontosaurus” it immediately triggered memories of “Peewee’s Big Adventure” in the bar where he’s testing tequila with all the bikers around him so I’m gonna go with “Tequila”. I don’t know who does that.
Brendan: That’s your closing?
Abie:That’s your closing?
Brendan: Wow. That’s really ending on a high note.
Me: What are you riding.
Adam: I’m riding a brontosaurus. You planted the seed and I grew it.
Abie: This is a hard question. It’s–
Brendan: First of all, what are you riding?
Abie: I don’t know that I’m riding anything. I think I might be walking.
Brendan: Or biking. (they laugh)
Abie: I’m probably on my bicycle. (more laughter)
Adam: Of course you’re on a bike.
Abie: I don’t actually own a car right now. Which is rough when you play the upright bass.
Adam: It’s rougher for us.
Abie: I’m getting a car soon. This month. Um…
Brendan: Well, do you want a mythical creature? What do you want to ride, dude. You could ride a mythical creature.
Abie: What? Like a stegosaurus bike?
Adam: Stegosaurus bike? What’s a stegosaurus bike?
Abie: It’s like kind of alive but it’s got pedals.
Brendan: It’s a stegosaurus amputee who has wheels instead of–
Abie: It’s like an android! Like a cyborg stegosaurus!
Adam: This thing keeps getting crazier and crazier…
Abie: It’s only got motors for its face and tail. Its legs are wheels.
Brendan: Cool. Yeah. That makes perfect sense.
Abie: I’m more interested in this creature I made up than the song!
Adam: What’s the music?
Abie: It’s gotta be like…”Frankenstein” by–what is it–Johnny Winter? Is that who it is? Dundundun dun dun dundun daaaah dundundun dundun rrrrrr. That’s it. That’s the one. Riding my mechanical, half alive, half robotic stegosaurus to “Frankenstein”. I don’t even think I won. I probably lost actually in this movie. It’s not that triumphant.