This album, like this band and its members, cannot be put in a box. Though very much ‘of this time’, the music and stories on this album take you through many eras, places and points of view. Some songs might find you reminiscing, cruising your old neighborhood a sunny day with a full orchestra pouring out of the stereo. Then suddenly you hear tambourines and voices pouring out of a storefront church. You may find yourself sweating out a weeks work on the dance floor at a house party or just singing round a campfire with a guitar and washboard. You might find yourself taken from a street parade surrounded by mournful horns, to gazing up at the starry sky contemplating your place in the universe, all in a single song. There are many journeys and emotions awaiting the listener on Call it Home. You never know where the Honeydrops will take you, but where ever you end up, you’ll want to dance.
This album is the work of people that spend their whole lives on the road playing music. They play in all sorts of music in all sorts of places for all kinds of people, from big cities to small towns, from barns to theaters for audiences young and old, hip and unhip. They love all kinds of music and don’t feel the need to package a particular sound for the radio. Sometimes they dress up sharp, sometimes they perform naked. Clothed or unclothed they always love to make people dance. They believe the purpose of music is celebration, healing, and spreading love and joy.
How is Call It Home: Vol 1 & 2 different from prior albums?
Lech: It’s our first double album. In a way it’s our first concept album.
The concept being the idea of home?
Lech: That’s a subject that’s been on my mind since I was a kid. I was born in Warsaw, Poland. My parents brought me here as a kid and we moved around a lot. They were always talking about missing where they were from and I was always wondering who I was in that way; the question of whether I was Polish or American or both. I didn’t set out to make an album about that, but these songs were coming out that way. Also, the place I’ve been living here in Oakland has changed so much since I’ve lived here. It was a place I felt really comfortable in when I came, but I don’t feel comfortable anymore; it’s a place I can’t really afford to live in anymore.
Being called a party band is and always has been perceived as a compliment. How much of a task has it been getting that same atmosphere in the studio?
Lech: We did a little bit of both. There are certain tracks where we were just seriously partying as we’re recording the album. We had to bring the same vibe as we do on stage, otherwise it’s not going to feel right. Then, there are certain tracks that are more painstakingly focused in a way that we aren’t usually onstage.
Call It Home started with Lech’s growing catalog of original material, followed by demos recorded at the band’s home base—“The Blues Cave”—and finally tracking in Bay Area facilities such as Decibel Recording, Tiny Telephone and New and Improved studios.
Lech: 16 songs made the album. We went through 25 or 30 songs that we demoed. Once we were in the studio we wanted to be ready and happy and comfortable—in a creative place musically to flow with it and get that on the wax. The setup for each song was completely different, which made things take a long time. We were trying to capture a lot of different eras on this record.
Recording took a year and a half, with studio time divided by touring—including opening for legendary singer and guitarist Bonnie Raitt on her extended U.S. tour. What effect did touring with Raitt have beyond her appearance on the record?
Lech: The band ebbs and flows. I think we got better at playing a song. That helped us immensely in the studio. We definitely are more comfortable now just knocking out some songs, having fun with them. To me, Bonnie is a person that’s really focused on the meaning and emotion of each song. She’s kind of a master at communicating that. The main thing that has stuck with me is putting that intention behind each song, and knowing emotionally where I’m going and finding ways to communicate that with people.
In an age when albums have become, once again, secondary to singles, and in an
industry that has tacitly branded music, with its delivery system of downloads and streams, as disposable as ever, along comes this wildly diverse album from The California Honeydrops—to be issued on vinyl as well, no less. Why make an album like this now?
Lech: There are a lot of different reasons. One main thing I wanted to do is paint a picture of who we are as a band. We’ve had many albums come out in the past. I wanted to have something that encapsulated the 10 years of grind that we put in; all the different styles we’ve gone through in that time; all the different aspects of our lives that those 10 years have contained. This was a breakthrough year for the band. I wanted something that captured the totality instead of doing something small. That’s why you’ve got the whole cosmos on the album cover. This is my life. This band has never been for sale. This band has been everything for us. It’s something that we do for the love. I’m proud of that.
And a double-album, at that.
Lech: We just had so many songs. I’ve been writing tons and tons of songs. We had this material and it didn’t really seem to go on just one album. So, it became two volumes. These days everyone wants you to put everything into a neat package. That’s not the way this band is. This band has consumed our entire lives over the last 10 years. This album includes everything—all sorts of music that don’t all go together on a record in a certain way, don’t all fit the same genre. I felt no pressure to do that. We as people, we’re infinite, manifold, all kinds of things. In this world of selling yourself, of branding yourself, you try to pigeon-hole yourself so that it’s clear to the consumer what they are consuming. But, that’s a disservice to yourself. Why would you want to limit yourself? You have to express all parts of you so that you can stay sane.
And for those that prefer downloads or streams?
Lech: You can cherry-pick. All the songs are good. But I do think it’s put together so that it flows well. We did certain things to make the songs like one long loop. It’s a lot of music, but it also works really well as two short albums.
It took two volumes this time to convey the diversity and dazzle of The California Honeydrops. Does that mean you have a better understanding of what makes a Honeydrops song?
Lech: I think there is something that makes a Honeydrops song, but we don’t know what that is. For me, thematically, I’m very cautious of things I want to put out there; the types of messages I want to put out and hold myself to playing night after night. I want it to be something that it helps for me to feel day after day. Something that uplifts, and maybe it’s sad, but it has to have some kind of positive function. I’m kind of a believer in that.