Trail Mix – The California Honeydrops

The California Honeydrops are a band that doesn’t mind working.

Witness, if you will, that this month they released Call It Home: Vol. 1 & 2, their seventh record in just ten years, a wildly frenetic writing and recording pace that singer/guitarist/trumpeter Lech Wierzynski admitted to me is only a fraction of what the band is capable of.

The band’s energetic nature is captured in both their recordings and live shows; Southern blues and soul blend with New Orleans jazz and West Coast funk to create a non-stop dance party.

And audiences are taking notice.

The California Honeydrops have become festival favorites, turning up on bills around the world, and have shared the stage with icons like Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Dr. John, and Bonnie Raitt.

I recently caught up with Lech Wierzynski to chat about the new record, working with a music legend, and some of honey’s more surprising uses.

BRO – Some of your earliest days in the band were spent playing on the streets of San Francisco and in Oakland subway stations. Best busking memory?

LW – It’s hard to name just one, but last month we marched around playing music in my neighborhood in north Oakland and south Berkeley on a Monday afternoon while filming a video for “Call It Home.” There were so many moments of spontaneous joy and creativity with complete strangers in that one hour of just goofing off. As we marched past a homeless encampment, of which there are many due a lack of affordable housing in the Bay Area, a guy popped out of his tent on a unicycle and started juggling and another woman came out dancing and cheering. When we got to the train station, a random guy came out of his car and sang with us. That kind of stuff happens every day when you go out and busk and surprise people with good live music. It’s one of the purest ways to create and experience music.

BRO – This is your seventh record in just ten years, and it’s a double album to boot. How do you keep up that kind of writing pace?

LW – The music industry encourages you to narrow yourself down so you can fit in a box and be sold easily to some target demographic, but we want the album to reflect all the things we do and love in our ten years as a band, from playing in the streets, or naked in the woods, at barn dances, bars, festivals, and theaters. This album takes you to a lot of different places and genres that way. A lot of the songs come to me in my dreams, which is very lucky and speeds up the process of writing. If we didn’t spend so much time touring, we could have made twenty records by now, but I like performing way more than recording.

BRO – We are featuring “Call It Home” on this month’s Trail Mix. What’s the story behind the song?

LW – I had been complaining to my parents about the gentrification of the Bay Area and how upset I was to see so many friends, and ourselves, priced out. They listened and were sorry for me, but I cold tell by the tone of their voices that they were having trouble relating to my situation. My dad’s entire hometown of Warsaw (Poland) was literally reduced to a sea of rubble when he was seven years old during the Warsaw Uprising. They had come to the United States as political refugees forty years later, feeling from a hostile government. My grandmother who raised me survived the war in forced labor as a young adult. Thinking about the challenges they faced and the way they persevered made my troubles seem small and inspired me to write this song. It’s a song of hope about being uprooted and making a new home in a strong place with the power of love.

BRO – “Call It Home” also features Americana legend Bonnie Raitt. What does it mean to you and the band to have her on this song?

LW – It means Bonnie Raitt is a really cool person. She used to poke her head in to our dressing room when we toured with her and sing along with us while we warmed up. We said, “Hey! You should do that in the studio!” She agreed. Having somebody like Bonnie Raitt as your number one fans has been really great for us. All of a sudden, people started saying, “These guys are pretty good.” People today are always waiting for someone else to tell them what’s cool and good. So it’s nice to have an American music legend speak and sing on our behalf. That said, we have gotten a lot better since going out on the road with her and watching and learning from Bonnie and her band.

BRO – Favorite use for honey?

LW – One time, I cut my finger really badly and had to get a chunk of it sewn back on. After a week, the doctors said it didn’t look the finger was going to make it. I was scared I’d never play guitar again. So I took the advice of a new age hippie witch I met at a music festival and started putting manuka honey on it. It immediately regained color, vigor, and strength and healed up shredding faster than ever before.

And honey on cornbread is great, too.

The California Honeydrops will be all over the Southeast over the next ten days or so. Shows in Tennessee, Louisiana, Alabama, North Carolina, and Virginia are all on the schedule. For information on how to grab tickets to these shows, the band’s other tour stops, or how you can get your hands on Call It Home: Vol. 1 & 2, please surf over to the band’s website.

And to hear “Call It Home,” along with tracks from Moon Hooch, Wood & Wire, Old Crow Medicine Show, and Hi Lo Ha, check out this month’s Trail Mix.

Places to Go, Things to See: