Honey Salt

Interview: Honey and Salt

Austin, TX, math rock band Honey and Salt will be releasing their sophomore album, Honey and Salt, next week via Spartan Records. I got the chance to sit down with vocalist/guitarist Wade Allen and bassist Austin Sears about the writing of the record, fighting nihilism, and the best band that ever was, Fugazi.

What’s the songwriting process like for Honey and Salt?

Austin: It’s dependent on the song, but typically we’ll finish the instrumentation first and work on the vocals after that. A lot of the time I’ll just come up with guitar parts and go from there, but some of the songs just came from jamming out. From there we’d just go through everything with a fine-toothed comb and make sure everything that’s there is supposed to be there.

Wade: Yeah, it’s definitely a mixture. We planned it out that the first half of the album was way more poppy and accessible and then it gets weirder and weirder.

Austin: Less structured.

Wade: Like, the first three or four songs I would have these riffs as a foundation – actually, a song more or less, with a verse and a chorus and a bridge. And I would say half of these songs are pretty well-structured. But then there’s two or three that we all kind of developed off of one riff and then did way more experimentation in practice.

Yeah, I picked up on that. I actually meant to ask about that, that the two halves sound so different.

Austin: It was definitely intentional to have some songs not be typical verse-chorus-verse structure. We’ve always liked progressive music and we’ve always liked pop music, so I guess we wanted to show off that we could do both in the same record. [Laughs]

I know that the record is a very political one, and I also noticed that you use like, “actualize,” “authentic,” “meaningless” a lot. I wanted to know how that type of language relates to the political aspect of the album.

Wade: Oh, man. That’s a good question. I wanted to repeat some of the words – not to the point where it’s the same words in each song, but because there’s a theme. I notice I say, “wake up” or “waking up” in a lot of the songs too. That was a conscious effort. Austin and I came up with a theme maybe a year ago, about a lot of sociopolitical things in the world, and a lot of things about living in Austin – we don’t make a lot of money, and there’s a lot of money coming in now.

Austin: It’s raising everybody’s rent.

Wade: Yeah, it’s making things difficult.

Austin: And unequal.

Wade: Yeah, there’s a lot of income inequality, and we’re part of that. So lyrically – I used to be a philosophy teacher, so that’s the way I usually express myself, from that perspective. I don’t writer philosophy, I taught intro classes, but I think lyrically it was a way for me to express my life philosophy without sounding super pretentious or stuffy.

I think that’s a really cool approach. It’s a nice blending of personal and political but it still feels accessible.

Wade: That’s awesome to hear, because we thought about that.

Austin: How do we walk that line? We’re not trying to be Anti-Flag.

Wade: Yeah, and I love that band, but their lyrics are like, “This is us.” Or Ani DiFranco, who writes really personal political lyrics, and I didn’t really want to go down that path either. We made a conscious effort to bring in some personal political stuff, but a lot of the record is about trying to stay positive in a very bleak world. I have a lot of friends who pretend that they’re pessimistic and they don’t really care about anything, and it just comes off as very lazy. Lazy about the future of our world, our society. We wanted to directly write and address that aspect.

I totally agree. I feel like if you don’t think things can change, what’s the point?

Austin: Exactly. It almost becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy at that point. If you’re not looking for any meaning, you won’t find any meaning.

Wade: We talked about that too. I don’t want to be a Propaghandi, Fugazi type of political band, even though I love Fugazi more than most anybody else in the band. I didn’t want songs about any direct calls to action, or lyrics about Trump or something. We just didn’t want to do that.

Austin: I’d rather start the conversation than just poke at the problem.

Off-topic, what’s your favorite Fugazi album?

Wade: Oh, man, oh, man. Just from a nostalgic perspective, even though it’s really weird, I would say Red Medicine. There are songs on that album that are super poppy and then there are songs that are like, “What the hell? They’re just making noise.” I love that album. It’s everything I like about that band. But I really like End Hits and I think The Argument was a really good album too.

There’s really no wrong answer. Fugazi’s a perfect band.

Austin: That’s his favorite band. [Laughs]

Wade: One of them for sure.

Would you mind talking specifically about “Oyster?” I’m curious how that song fits into the narrative of the record. 

Wade: Well, the title is a reference to the philosopher David Hume. It’s a reference to a quote about how, from the point of view of the universe, the life of a human has no more value than the life of an oyster. So it’s about the question, “How do I deal with a seemingly meaningless universe?”

Austin: And an indifferent reality.

Wade: How do I give meaning to my life in this society, this country, whatever? A lot of the lyrics are me trying to deal with my own values that I feel powerfully about and whether or not these values actually have truth to them. You know, because there aren’t any values in the universe. [Laughs] A lot of it is me trying to assess the way I’m going through life and caring about things and the fact that I’m not a super religious or spiritual person, but I’m trying to find this meaning to my life and other people’s lives in this bleakness, in this nihilistic universe. I think there isn’t a lot of meaning in the universe, so we have to go and live our lives in a way that gives meaning to our lives.

I was curious why you decided to self-title the album. I know a lot of bands self-title their records, but since yours has such clear themes, I was curious why you decided to go that route instead of titling it something that was more connected to the narrative of the record.

Austin: We felt like, as a band, this was the clearest statement of who we are. We have our other releases that we’re happy with, but we all felt like this was our best work.

Wade: Yeah, we tried to throw different names out, song titles, but it never felt right. Maybe one of us would be into it, but as a collective we didn’t like them.

Austin: Once we had finished the record, it felt like self-titling it was the only thing that made sense.

Wade: I like what Austin said about how we wanted the self-titled to be, like, “This is who we are as a band.” And with John and Spartan Records, they’ve been helping us out a lot, just getting our name out there. So we also thought having it self-titled would be a good way to get our name out there, honestly. The other answer is we just couldn’t agree on anything. [Laughs]

Austin: That’s the short answer. [Laughs]

Wade: What’s your favorite Fugazi album, by the way?

Oh jeez, I wasn’t ready for this. I think Red Medicine is a good choice because I feel like that’s when they went from being a punk band to something bigger than that.

Wade: Exactly.

But In on the Kill Taker was my first experience with Fugazi so that’ll always have a place in my heart.

Wade: Yeah, God, there’s some awesome songs on that record.

Have you got any favorites on the record?

Wade: “Oyster” I think is my favorite. I don’t know why, but I think it’s the best-sounding song. From start to finish, I loved writing it. It has emotional significance because it was the first song we wrote with Ben on drums. The last third of the song we all wrote together. I brought in these little riffs and themes and then we all expanded on it together. It just rips to me.

Austin: I think “Cascade” might be my personal favorite. I think it’s a progression for us as a band. We’ve definitely never written anything that sounded like that before. It’s crazy.

Wade: It’s crazy and it’s got some post-rock stuff going on. I think actually if I were to choose a desert island song it would be “Simple Errors.”

Austin: That’s definitely my favorite poppy song.

It’s my favorite of the poppier songs too. It’s catchy as hell. What are Honey and Salt’s plans for the rest of the year?

Wade: The album release show in Austin, then we’re going on tour for two and a half weeks up to Chicago and back in April. Then in the summer, I think in July, we’re trying to do either an east coast tour or a Pacific Northwest tour. We mainly wanted to go up because John and Spartan Records are based in Seattle. We figure we should probably go up there. [Laughs] Hopefully we could do a supporting tour for a bigger band. If finances permit I’d like to go to Europe or Japan. That seems like the next step.

That would be sick.

Wade: Yeah, I think England, France, Italy, I think we’d do well there. I think they’d dig us. Japan too, but it’d be tough to do both.

Say you get a supporting tour for a bigger band this summer. Who’s the dream tour with?

Wade: Does it have to be a current band?

Yeah, just because I don’t think Fugazi is getting back together, sadly.

Wade: That was going to be my answer! [Laughs] I think my top two would be Tera Melos and Minus the Bear.

Austin: Mine would probably be Tera Melos or The Fall of Troy.

Wade: I hear The Mars Volta is getting back together? If so, that’d be cool.

Anything else you want to say?

Wade: Thank you so much for talking to us.

Austin: Yeah, seriously.

Thank you guys. 

Zac Djamoos
Zac Djamoos Zac Djamoos is a contributor at chorus.fm. He can also be found at @zacdjamoos on Twitter.