Years ago when the Honkys began making their rootsy freestyle rock with electric guitar, banjo, mandolin, and acoustic bass, they had no idea what was going on in the UK. The trendy West London folk scene would emerge eventually and foster such bands as Mumford and Sons, Fleet Foxes, and the Dunwells.
Meanwhile, here in the states, the Honkys were on the cutting edge of a similar sort of music that was hard to categorize. Fans and promoters reacted by lumping them in with the rockabilly nation.
“We don’t claim to be a rockabilly band,” says Oceanside frontman Bret Hazzard, “but we fit into a lot of those types of [rockabilly] events.”
Hazzard’s played in bands with his brother since high school (in 1982 they called themselves the Bel-Aires.) Broy Hazzard plays acoustic guitar. “Same one he’s had all his life.” Sean McCarty, on upright bass, completes the Honkys.
If they are not well known throughout San Diego it is because the Orange County natives still travel north to gigs up in the Inland Empire venues they started out in. They rarely travel south, he says.
There are no drums in the two-guitar-and-bass lineup. “We’ve had a drummer sit in with us for live shows,” Hazzard says. “But we also bring suitcases full of instruments and things like washboards, shakers, tambourines. People come up from the audience and play what they want.” He calls it an inventive thing. “It works well. My brother is a strong rhythm player. That generally tells people where to go.”
The Honkys have a true grit thing going in their sound, but it is much less rockabilly than one might expect. “We all like raw, old music in lots of different ways.” He speaks of the loss of McCarty’s father and brother as a source, perhaps, of some of the darker bruises in their songs. “And my brother and I both liked the Grateful Dead. We improvise quite a lot when we’re playing live. Our live shows are definitely different than our recordings. All the stuff that happens,” he says, “all that energy.”
In January 2012, the Honkys finished recording their second full-length at Thunderbird Analog Studio in Oceanside, owned and operated by Paladins bassist (and ex-husband of Candye Kane) Thomas Yearsley. The Honkys’ first album The Honkys Volume One was released on Yearsley’s Lux Records, with Volume Two released in 2012 by Lux Records and presented by Tasty Wax Recordings, a San Diego label owned by Phil Needleman.
“We live these crazy, interesting, busy lives,” Hazzard says. “It’s been pretty cool. A lot of crazy things happen,” he says of his music career in general, “but it’s kind of serious, playing music.”