The X-Files was one of the top TV shows, Bill Clinton raised the speed limit from 55 mph, and Saddam Hussein won Iraq's presidential election with 99.96 percent of the vote the year local indie-rock stalwarts the Honeydogs released their debut album. Nearly 15 years and nine albums later, the band's lineup has evolved and expanded, but they are still creating their inquisitive, intellectual brand of organic, hooky indie rock. Their first album in three years, Sunshine Committee, builds and elaborates on that formula.
City Pages recently weaseled our way onto the calendar of Honeydogs' singer-songwriter Adam Levy (he is also busy these days with his new solo project Bunny Clogs, playing with Hookers $ Blow, and teaching at MacPhail and the Institute of Production and Recording) to pick his brain about the new album, why the Honeydogs are still relevant, and what it takes for a fortysomething father of three to get his rocks off.
City Pages: The title of the new album, Sunshine Committee, is described as "the cloying co-workers who attempt to bring a little Trojan Horse of happiness to a dysfunctional corporation on the eve of mass layoffs." Surely the Honeydogs are not identifying with such parasites...are you?
Adam Levy: Sunshine committees are always well-intended. I guess there is a hint of irony in the title, as the band hasn't shied away from playing music that dealt with some darker subject matter, and we are living at the precipice of some dark times. I wrote the song as a tribute to relationships where the partner is propping the other one up, trying to keep a partner's spirits buoyant, and their efforts being underappreciated.
CP: In the past, you've written songs that have touched on topics such as abandonment, social decay, addiction, war, death, and other assorted whimsies. However, Sunshine Committee is considerably more hopeful. Why the change?
Levy: I started feeling the silver lining around the clouds a few years ago when I wrote this batch of songs. "Good Fight" is pretty much a response to years of my own songwriting that I think was expressing a great deal of pain and discontent related to a lot of things, especially the political climate in this country. I'm more hopeful than I was a few years ago even though the tunnel seems pretty long now.
CP: With this album, the band has swelled to seven members. How has this influenced the sound and dynamic of the band?
Levy: It feels like our "moonlighting" gig as Hookers $ Blow has had the unintended effect of expanding the Honeydogs both musically and physically. Hookers is first and foremost a soul band, with all of the instrumentation and vibe that music offers. I guess it's just logical that there is some crossover musically. Plus, Matt Darling on trombone and Stephen Kung on trumpet are amazing players and have taught me a lot about music since we started playing together. Bigger is better. This record has a decidedly more live feel than the last few.
CP: You formed the Honeydogs with your brother Noah on drums back in the early '90s. What's he up to these days?
Levy: Noah has been playing with everyone from the BoDeans to Five for Fighting to Peter Frampton. He also adopted a little girl from Ethiopia. We still manage to play together in Hookers $ Blow occasionally. I still love playing with him.
CP: You've been doing this for a while. You're wise, seasoned. So tell us, if you could magically transport yourself to any decade in which to be a rock 'n' roller, which would it be and why?
Levy: I would have said "Any place but here, any time but now" a few years ago, but I'm finally starting to enjoy the musical possibilities of the era in which we live. There is a glut of shit, but there is also some great music being made now.
CP: It's been nearly 15 years since you released your first album. What inspires you to make music today, compared to when you were first starting out?
Levy: I am beginning to embrace the idea that failure breeds improvement. I used to be scared of taking musical and career risks and looking silly when things don't work out the way you planned. I think the creative well is boundless. As long as my body holds up, I'm gonna make music. I don't have a choice.
CP: Fast forward another 15 years. What are the Honeydogs up to?
Levy: Ten more records, and the brass ring is: I'm hoping we'll get the Depends sponsorship tour.
THE HONEYDOGS play a CD-release show with the Hopefuls and Caroline Smith & the Good Night Sleeps on FRIDAY, MARCH 13, at FIRST AVENUE; 612.332.1775