Granted, there's about 749 bands vying for your attention at Bumbershoot this weekend, but if you get a chance I highly recommend checking out the>"/>
Granted, there's about 749 bands vying for your attention at Bumbershoot this weekend, but if you get a chance I highly recommend checking out the up-and-coming soul/rock/groove band Honeycut at the Esurance Stage on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. I caught the Bay Area band -- which is signed to Quannum (home to DJ Shadow, Blackalicious, Lyrics Born, etc.), and released its debut album, The Day I Turned To Glass, earlier this year -- this past April at the Showbox and they were dynamite. Musically, they cross the slinky Brit-rock of the Stone Roses/Primal Scream/Kasabian/etc. with creamy soul that recalls everything from vintage Motown to Shuggie Otis. They're also primo entertainers, especially French-born keyboard whiz Herve "RV" Salters, who can jam on the keys like Bernie Worrell while simultaneously leaping and dancing around like Bez from the Happy Mondays. A couple of days ago, I chatted with the gregarious Salters over the phone from Golden Gate Park. Check out some of that interview after the jump.
Do you guys like playing these big festivals, like Bumbershoot, or are you more into doing the club shows?
We like it all. It's a very different kind of thing -- when you’re playing a club, obviously the crowd is there for you only, and there is an intimacy that can be developed. The bigger shows, the festivals, you get to play the bigger crowds, people who don’t necessarily know you, which is a good thing, I think.
So you don't necessarily prefer the challenge, and opportunity, of winning over a big crowd as compared to being able to feed off the energy of people who really know the music?
I really like both, frankly. Playing a crowd that already knows you is comfort. You step onstage and they’re already down, and you can feed off the energy that they send you right off the bat. But there is this beautiful challenge to winning an audience over when they don’t really know you, and when that happens it’s even more rewarding, in a sense. I think we all come from that school, you know, belonging to bands that people don’t really necessarily know when you step onstage because you're opening for other cats or you haven’t had a big record or whatever, and having to win them over because you’re good and not just because they know your songs. I think that’s a good art to master, if you can manage to do that.
There's so many bands at an event like Bumbershoot, it seems like it could be hard to stand out.
Right, right, yeah, that’s the thing, you’re trying to create some excitement. There are a lot of other bands, but I think the one thing we do have going for us is that we have an unusual lineup. When we played South by Southwest this year we kinda stood out and people noticed because there were a lot pf phenomenal bands, but we feel like we have a little something to bring because no one else is quite like us – a dude playing the MPC live, a dude playing the clavinet and making it sound like a guitar, you know, wailing and shit...that’s always gonna be kinda unusual, so for us, festivals are cool because they underline the fact that we’re so different.
It was pretty cool that at the Showbox show in April, when you came out it was pretty empty on the floor, and then after a few songs people started coming out from the bars at the side and the back, and by the end there were a ton of people jumping around and dancing.
Yeah, that’s rewarding, that was really cool. When the crowd is willing to do so, that’s a good crowd. It takes a little courage when no one is up there dancing to the band to be the first one to do so!
You had some pretty good style and dance moves goin' on, too.
[Laughs] Thanks, man. The thing is, really if you step back and look at it honestly, rock shows are almost as much or even more about the visuals than they are about the songs. If you go to a show and close your eyes and just listen to the music, more often than not the sound is pretty bad, you can't really hear the words ...but then you open your eyes and it’s okay, it makes sense because you’re seeing something, also. So definitely there is a visual aspect to being onstage and playing rock and roll music, and denying that I think is a little bit of a mistake. And that’s one of the reasons we jump around so much and try to entertain people when we get onstage, because regardless if they’re hearing something that sounds like jelly or they can actually hear what’s going on, they’re gonna have something to look at, you know?
You've played up here a number of times in the past six months -- do you think Seattle crowds get what you're doing musically more than maybe some other cities you've played?
I think so, yeah, I think so. There are other cities where we haven’t felt the same kind of love we’ve felt in Seattle. We’ve been to San Diego a couple of times and they were good shows, but people weren’t really jumping through the roof so much as they do here. I dunno, maybe they were just all really stoned.
What is it about Seattle, do you think? Do you think maybe it's the diversity of music, that there's vibrant rock, hip-hop, soul, and funk scenes all co-existing here?
That's a good point, maybe that's it. I dunno, I can't tell, sometimes it just clicks. It’s like you meet someone and right off the bat it just works, right? And you meet other people and it’s like machinery that isn't well-oiled. I think audiences are the same way, I can’t really explain why.
Do you find that people have a hard time pinning down your musical style when they're trying to explain your sound to their friends? Or maybe when you read reviews of your album?
Yeah, and I personally love it, it’s always interesting to see how people interpret your music, you know. I personally am proud of the fact that people interpret it differently depending on their own background. Someone who comes from a rock background will hear a rock band when they see us onstage, you know, even though there’s no guitar it looks like we’re rocking out like a rock band. But then a hip-hop cat will see that exact same thing and see Tony [Sevener] rock out on the MPC and think it’s like a hip-hop band but there’s singing instead of rapping. Depending on what you’re bringing, you can see Honeycut and interpret in different ways. Which is really cool. I feel like, anything that’s got to do with creativity isn’t completely whole until it’s been listened to or appreciated visually or seen, if it’s a movie, or whatever. I think until it’s in the eye of the beholder its not completely finished, and once it’s been interpreted in one way or another, that’s when its complete.
On the flip side, some artists will say once the art itself is finished, that’s it. It doesn't matter how it's received.
I get that, too, actually. There is something to be said about that, the only thing is, what is it that you’ve finished, exactly? As an artist it is what you thought you were making, but then you play it to someone else and you realize, wait, maybe I have done something else? You can be done with your work of art in your basement, but until someone’s listened to it, it’s only what you think it is.
I guess some artists look at it as pure self-expression, while others look at it as a form of communication.
Ah, that’s a very good point. For us it’s communication, yeah, you can say things with music you can't say with words, which is why it’s so interesting to see people try to explain your music with words. They compare it to other things, which people have to do, I understand that, it’s normal, you wanna be able to make people relate to something they’ve seen or heard. But you never are really going to, ultimately, because music is its own language. Especially when there is a strong instrumental element to the music, like in our case. That, you really can't explain in words.
Do you feel like because of the label you’re on [Quannum], people have preconceived notions of what you’re about before they actually hear you?
Well, I think some of the hardcore Quannum fans might have been surprised. I think we were kind of the band the label used to start branching out.
How do you feel about that?
Oh, I feel great about that! I feel proud about that. They’re such a great label, but it’s a rocky road when you’re the first band …I think the thing is that the hardcore Quannum fans that only listen to hip-hop were a little lost, but the fans that are into the label because its' about open-mindedness weren’t. And a lot of people who are into the record didn’t really know about Quannum -- there are some people who have been discovering Quannum through us.
Wow, that’s cool that it works both ways. They seem like a great label to be affiliated with.
For me, really they’re my adopted family. A few years ago, [Blackalicious's] Chief Xcel really kinda took me under his wing and basically just made me part of their family, and that’s been really fantastic for me.
When did you move to the States from France?
Me and my wife moved here in 1999, but I was kinda off the music thing for a while, just doing jobs and things. And then I eventually got back to the music about five years ago, and that’s when I hooked up with Xcel.
How did that come about?
Through a common friend -- a cello player who played on [Blackalicious's 2002 album] Blazing Arrow. So when I moved to the Bay Area five years ago, he gave me Xcel's e-mail and I sent him a message one day saying, "Hey dude, if you’re into vintage keys, consider a Frenchman," and literally the next day he called and said, "Come tonight, we’re working on the Lifesavas record," and that was that. it really clicked and we’ve been working together ever since. He’s really the guy who brought Honeycut into the Quannum fold -- he heard our songs early on and he championed us to DJ Shadow and Lyrics Born and all the other cats, and they all liked it, So that’s how we came to be on Quannum.
So when was the first Honeycut live show?
The first show happened...it was pretty symbolic, man, it happened the day after we finished mixing our album, a little over a year ago. It was a little terrifying in the sense that we weren’t sure how we were going to transpose this thing that was pretty intricate sonically on the record, to make that translate onstage with a minimal setup because we didn’t want to have a string section and all that stuff. But we knew it would somehow fly because we all had quite a bit of experience as live players. The live MPC thing allows us to have the production aspect of our sound mixed with the live aspect of a real drummer, because he’s playing that stuff live, so we knew as far as the sound and the sonics of the stuff we’d be covered and still be live and organic.
Only a year ago, huh? Wow, you seemed really tight and polished at the Showbox.
Well, we'd been playing for ages together before that show, like several years. But from that night on we knew we were a band.
So do you still feel like you're touring behind The Day I Turned To Glass, or are you looking ahead to newer stuff now?
Kinda both, kinda both. We’ll be playing a couple new tracks at Bumbershoot, but mostly we feel like we’re still promoting that first album. I think a lot of people still need to hear it. I think it has potential to reach a lot more people than it has. We’re already really happy about the reception, but we want it to go as far as it can.
Are there any places or things in particular you're looking forward to seeing or doing while you're up here in Seattle?
Oh yeah, lots of stuff. I actually used to live up there -- I was in Ravenna for a year and a half. I really love that neighborhood over there, and Capitol Hill is great.
Wow, I had no idea you lived up here.
Yeah, and actually [singer] Bart [Davenport] and tony also lived in Seattle.
Really? When was this?
This was like 2001, 2002...wow, that was more than four years ago. I mean, basically we were all fans of each other as musicians, and we just knew each other around town and we first got together and jammed as a trio completely unofficially in Seattle, in my basement.
Heh, so it all started in Ravenna.
Yeah, man. So in a sense we're a Seattle band!