R&B & So Much More

More to Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears than meets the eye

When you put the new Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears record Scandalous into iTunes, its blissfully ignorant simplicity lists the genre as “R&B.” And while there are R&B flourishes, the categorization does a major disservice to the music. The Austin-based six-piece has hit a nerve with its sound: a glorious, barnstorming mix of soul, blues, punk and indignant, righteous rock ‘n’ roll. The band’s second full-length blows through headphones and speakers with an intensity and groove that showcases the band’s influences but also manages to incorporate those influences into a unique sound. “We always try to play the music we like to listen to,” Lewis says while the band enjoys a day off before playing Montreal. “We have our own character though. We take our influences, the dudes we like, and for some reason it just comes out like our own shit. We’re definitely influenced by Junior Kimbrough, James Brown, Howlin’ Wolf, ’70s punk stuff like The Stooges and Dead Boys and Lightnin’ Hopkins. It’s cool though, because everybody in the band listens to different stuff so it’s like a cool Oprah’s Book Club or something.” The band hit the national radar in 2010 when they became, hands down, one of the most celebrated acts to play that year’s SXSW festival. As a hometown favorite, Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears’ live energy and singular sound caught the ears of critics from coast to coast. Afterwards, the band embarked on several tours, opening for the likes of Spoon, Okkervil River, Dave Matthews Band and The New York Dolls. Again, the band’s music is beyond easy categorization and will appeal to a plethora of music lovers. Frontman Joe Lewis first picked up a guitar from the pawn shop where he was working, and in true Austin fashion, was able to incorporate a host of influences and sounds and turn out a coherent and lively sound well worth checking out. “Because there is so much music in Austin,” Lewis says, “it’s like a Hollywood for musicians. It’s where people come to form a band. There’s a huge community of people to talk to and play with. Some places have these scenes that are a little more cliquey, and Austin is definitely heading that way. You used to be able to play more with different people. You could show up at the club at 5 or 6 o’clock and give them a demo and get a spot. Now it’s harder to get paid down there; it’s turning more incestuous.” The band met their producer Jim Eno (Spoon’s drummer) while opening for Spoon on the West Coast. The fit was immediate and beneficial. Eno has produced both of the band’s long-players, and the new record finds Lewis and crew hitting on all cylinders. Piercing guitar riffs mix with horns and a tight rhythm section to form a sound simultaneously familiar and unlike anything you’ve heard. “We met Jim on the first tour we did, opening for Spoon on the West Coast,” Lewis says. “He told us to come check out his studio back in Austin. Since then we’ve really gotten to know him. Like the song ‘Livin’ In The Jungle,’ it didn’t have that turnaround before Jim came around. It was his idea and it really made it a better song.” The new record traverses genres with a soulful ease, bouncing easily between old-school Delta blues and soul with a punk intensity that seems effortless. “Scandalous” works perfectly as the early morning soundtrack to a hung over drive to work, a family-barbecue soundtrack and a late-night rap session with old friends. Lewis channels James Brown on the album-opening “Livin’ In The Jungle” and then manages to recall Robert Johnson on the simple yet-passionate “Messin’.” The album showcases a young band hitting its stride and delivering honest music with a modern feel and deep grooves. “I’m proud of the new album,” Lewis says. “It’s a big step up for us. The band’s tighter and I’m a better singer. Where the last album was mostly party songs, most of the songs on the new album are more stories songs.” As evidenced by the band’s almost immediate reception from their hometown peers, Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears are onto something infectious and inventive. Their upcoming stop at The Waiting Room will probably be your last chance to see this dynamic outfit in an intimate setting. They are headed for bigger stages, critical adoration and the kind of musical success any band of this caliber is worthy of. Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears play The Waiting Room on Monday, April 4 with Those Darlings. Show starts at 9 p.m. and tickets are $12. For more info or to buy tickets visit onepercentproductions.com.

posted at 03:15 pm
on Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

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