Honeydogs frontman Adam Levy reveals the heartbreak of son's suicide

Daniel Levy, 21, took his own life in January

For a brief amount of time in late 2009 and early 2010, Daniel lives with Levy's step-sister Aby Wolf (A. Wolf & Her Claws) in an apartment in Uptown.

"It was a very intense winter," Wolf says. "It was evident that he was in a dark place, but the fun and memorable times were when I got home from work and he'd be up late drawing."

Later that year, Daniel moves back to Saratoga Springs. While attending Skidmore College, he studies philosophy and takes a course called "Death and Dying," and starts working in a tattoo parlor, translating his drawings into tattoos. Levy does whatever he can to connect to his tormented son—they even get tattoos at the same time sitting side-by-side—and enlists Daniel to create psychedelic album art for Liminal Phase, his sonically challenging experimental side project.

Daniel Levy at Christmas, 2010; with Adam at high school graduation, 2008; with sisters Esther and Ava, 2011
courtesy of Adam Levy
Daniel Levy at Christmas, 2010; with Adam at high school graduation, 2008; with sisters Esther and Ava, 2011
Adam Levy at home with daughters Esther and Ava and nephew Isaac
Jayme Halbritter
Adam Levy at home with daughters Esther and Ava and nephew Isaac

Location Info

Map

First Avenue

701 1st Ave. N.
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

Details

The Honeydogs play an album-release show for What Comes After with Rogue Valley and Farewell Milwaukee. 18+, $10-$13 ($1 from each ticket goes to Four Winds Hospital), 6 p.m. Saturday, March 10, at First Avenue; 612.332.1775.

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"The desire to express himself surpassed any notion of recognition," Adam says. "It was very internal. No interest in self-promotion, and getting him to finish things was really hard. If you look at his last year of sketchbooks, it's vast amounts of unfinished drawings."


When the Honeydogs assemble to record What Comes After this past June, the band consists of Adam Levy, guitarist Brian Halverson, Norton on bass, keyboardist Peter Sands, drummer Peter Anderson, trombonist Matt Darling, and trumpet player Stephen Kung. Utilizing each player's initial musical instincts during the sessions at Institute of Production and Recording, the recordcoming out on Minneapolis-based Grain Belt Records—is a massive synthesis of dramatic swoops and clever asides.

"It's got the complexity of 10,000 Years and Amygdela, more recent orchestrated stuff," Levy says. "It does kind of look back at our roots origin. There's Dylan and Nick Drake, and semi-bluegrass country-blues stuff that's in there too."

This proves to be a time when Daniel's descent into depression begins to really take a toll. Adam's songwriting has always been personal, but this album is filled with reminders of his real-life turmoil.

"A lot of this record was me dealing with issues of my son before things got really bad," Adam says. "He was always at the front of my mind. Now it has even more resonance and makes sense to me in so many more ways. A lot of things I'm talking about are questions I'm asking in there. Things got progressively worse to the point where he lost faith. His mom and I were spending a lot of time trying to talk him off the ledge. He was pretty candid about where he was at."

In the fall, Delton and Levy worry enough about their son that the only remaining option for treatment seems to be electro-shock therapy. This past holiday season, Daniel comes to stay at Levy's house in Minneapolis, but seems morose and in a trance-like state.

"I kept trying to prick his consciousness, and get him into a mode where if he was really thinking about suicide, he was going to leave behind a lot of people who really loved him," Adam says. "He was so far gone that there really wasn't any reeling him back in. The last few weeks, we were on the phone for an hour to three hours at a time talking about the darkness he was consumed with."


The day Adam returns from his farewell to his departed son in Saratoga Springs, Noah invites much of their extended family to his house in St. Paul. The collection of step-, ex-, and half- prefixes sits around the dining room table and eats and talks for three hours about what has just occurred.

Although Adam is exhausted and devastated, Noah remembers the night as a powerful one that pulled many family members into a room together who hadn't seen each other or spoken in years. By the end, it dissolves into a multi-generational dance party in the living room.

Right away, Levy jumps back into the day-to-day of his bands, his job at McNally Smith, and interacting with the public and the press.

"I've been talking about this a lot," Levy says on the afternoon of Super Bowl Sunday. "For me to say this is off the table would be pretty disingenuous."

Levy's warm, well-restored home is filled with records, books about music, framed artwork, instruments, and a black dog named Peaches. His blond-haired daughters Esther, 13, and Ava, 11, flit up and down the stairs, and jazz hums from a red turntable in the middle of the room. Girlfriend Lily Troia, who has collaborated with him on several projects, is nearby in the kitchen.

His person is equally well-kept: A tweed newsboy cap covers his curly salt-and-pepper hair, and he wears a western flannel shirt with sleeves rolled up to expose a spider tattoo designed by his son on his left forearm and a tattoo on his right forearm that means "to heal the world" in Hebrew.

During a break, he grabs a puffy coat and a cigarette and walks down into the chilly air of the Midtown Greenway bike path. He knows exactly how many steps are needed to reach the halfway point of his smoke.

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1 comments
Elizabeth
Elizabeth

Thank you, Adam, for being willing to talk about this deeply personal pain.

 
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