In this Honey Moon interview, we speak to Jack, Zach, and Joey about turning Sopranos plotlines into song lyrics, the literary influence of On The Road, and Joey’s unconventional strategy that caught Jack and Zach’s eye and earned him a place in the band.
On the album cover for Honey Moon’s debut LP, Same Old Paradise, you’ll spot lead guitarist Zach serenely strumming at one end of the band’s floating iceberg settee, propped up by a bunch of flowers. Lead singer Jack is kickin’ back with Kerouac’s On The Road, his mind far away from worldly troubles or fears of capsizing. The group’s affable bassist, Joey, is calmly steering the trio through unknown waters, geared up like a Venetian gondolier. Do they have a destination? It’s unclear and unimportant because everything they need is within reachable distance.
The scene is a brilliantly illustrated metaphor for Honey Moon’s journey through one end of the lockdown tunnel and out again. For Jack, Zach, and Joey, songwriting, sometimes remotely from scattered corners of London, was the prime stabilising force keeping their heads above water.
It’s a placid image that resonates almost perfectly throughout the record. It’ll only be a few eagle-eyed fans who spot the gritty influence of Italian-American mafia bosses from New Jersey surfacing on the album’s ninth track title, ‘Amour Fou’.
‘It’s the name of a Sopranos episode,’ reveals Jack, ‘in which Tony has an affair with another of Dr Melfi’s [his psychiatrist] clients, Gloria, the Mercedes car saleswoman. They both have lots of problems and create a new world for one another, a temporary happiness made of little dates that makes Tony feel like a little boy again.
‘But then it ends quite horribly. Without getting into the gory details, it ends very violently, and it really struck me at the time. I thought about it a lot.’ For a number that opens in a wonderfully bossa nova style with, ‘She likes the cut of his lapel / A quiet style in an old motel / She’s the reason he’s satisfied / On Sundays…’ to then close in the same tranquillity with the lines, ‘She’s gasping / Hanging from a chandelier / Can’t ask him / To keep her company between the sheets / What a way to end the week’ is quite the achievement.
The Jack-Zach-Joey origin story isn’t quite as violent, but it’s just as sultry. Before Jack and Zach had met Joey, they’d been writing and performing as Honey Moon throughout their uni days, performing across the country but mainly in London. During a gig at a Camden pub in 2016, The Monarch (now called The Monarchy), where musicians perform with their backs facing the front window to the audience inside, a passing Joey heard and spotted Honey Moon playing. He felt compelled to enter.
‘He introduced himself and asked if we needed a bass player, and we didn’t at the time, but then we bumped into each other again, and he repeated the question,’ Jack recalls.
‘I was very keen,’ Joey happily adds.
‘Yeah, I’ve got this sweet memory,’ says Jack, ‘of you sending us a video on Instagram of you sitting next to a glittery lamp, listening to our EP. We were a tiny band at this point, and I was really touched by that.’
‘It’s the modern way of flirting’, Joey points out.
‘Yep, so basically Joey was courting us, getting down to live sessions, posting us all these little…’
‘-nudes’. That’s right; Joey was Honey Moon’s first superfan (but not an ‘onlyfan’).
‘And it got to a certain point,’ says Jack, ‘where we needed to find a way to stop Joey from sending all these nudes. We realised the only way to curtail that and control this guy was to put all that naked energy into playing the bass for Honey Moon.
‘It worked really well because obviously, we stopped getting all these nudes, which was ideal, and Joey started playing bass, which was a much more productive use of his time.’
‘I was genuinely a big fan!’ Joey protests, ‘I remember listening to that record and thinking Jack’s voice is very timeless.’
Jack and Zach both agree Joey’s introduction galvanised the group, leading to a string of dates across the country, before gaining recognition from the late Liverpool duo Her’s. Honey Moon were called on to support them on their UK tour, and they had the time of their lives. Stephen Fitzpatrick and Audan Laading’s impact on Honey Moon cannot be understated.
‘They taught us how to be really good musicians and human beings who look for the best in everyone,’ says Jack, ‘It sounds really cheesy, but they were real sweethearts, the exact opposite of ego-driven types. Long before we met them, I was inspired by their sweet, sugary, doo-wop sound with modern pop sensibilities.’
Joey underlines the lasting impression Stephen and Audan have had on him: ‘Me and Zach were working on a demo the other day and it wasn’t until I was on the bus home listening to it when I realised, ‘[gasps] It sounds so much like Her’s!”
‘I still learn their songs,’ Zach concurs, ‘Some of their chords are mad.’
Admiring tributes from a band who owe Her’s so much. Not long after touring with Honey Moon in the UK, Stephen, 24, and Audan, 25, were travelling from Phoenix, Arizona, to Santa Ana in California, when tragedy struck. Their tour van was hit by a speeding pick-up truck travelling eastbound on a westbound carriageway. On 24th March 2019, two of the brightest young talents in British music were lost.
The ordeal rocked Honey Moon like nothing they’d previously experienced. They were together in a cafe Jack worked in during a closing shift when they received the news. It took a long time to process what had happened, and much of Jack, Zach, and Joey’s grief was converted into writing ‘Closing Time’, the end track that seals off the record.
On a velvet wave I slide
I slip beneath another sigh
Angels hear a voice in Spring
But they don’t know what Summer brings
The city streets were glowing
When we said our goodbyes
And danced a northern night away
We’ll do it all again someday
Losing friends is a cruel episode many endure in life that is difficult to recover from, but Honey Moon were soon to be presented with a different challenge. All of us, along with every creative worldwide, were forced into quarantine in March 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic drove everybody indoors for the first ‘lockdown’ experienced in this country since the Blitz. For the first time, songwriters were unable to gain inspiration as participants in a free society.
Bleak times and settings can often pressure the artist to think outside their circumstances and the milieu of entrapment. Casting back to 1985, it was during an interview with the BBC that the lead singer of The Smiths, Morrissey, elucidated how restrictions like the ones we’d suffer from 35 years later could birth new ways of writing music.
Narrated over some dispiriting and grey b-roll footage of him walking along the King’s Road in Stretford, Manchester, Morrissey relates: ‘I never had a social life. I never left the house. I just sat in and read, watched television, and done [sic] all the things in life that are considered quite negative and quite soul destroying.’
Striding towards the camera as though presenting a history documentary, the merchant of misery continues: ‘The only way that I could find any mental relaxation is to simply go out and walk, and to walk around these streets, which can seem quite depressing to most people, and seem quite laughably simplistic, but for me, it was perfect fuel because then I would go home and I would write furiously. I found that, for me, it was a brilliant outlet. It was the thing that helped. But also, you have to have a grain of hope, which is a very difficult thing to have.’
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Escapism helped solve the yearning Morrissey felt for connection and a place where one could be roused by beauty. When this theme was forced on Honey Moon and everybody else, it helped them just like it did The Smiths, sounding out a chord of promise that can be heard throughout the eleven songs on Same Old Paradise.
‘Writing and listening to music was a form of transporting us all away,’ Jack explains, ‘The idea of ‘Same Old Paradise’ came from On The Road by Jack Kerouac. He says it to himself halfway through the book about the main character, Sal Paradise. At the same time, we were creating this paradise for ourselves’. Indeed, Sal prophesies Jack’s later hunger for lockdown release when he relates, ‘I looked greedily out the window’.
‘I like the idea of imaginary places,’ Joey adds, ‘They’re probably more fun than anywhere in the real world, actually, and I prefer spending time in places like that. It’s where ‘Sultan Saloon’ came from, and it’s where one of my favourite albums, Tranquility Base [Hotel + Casino, by Arctic Monkeys], came from too.’
Same Old Paradise, Honey Moon’s debut album, is an imaginary place where we can all spend time and have fun whenever we press play, and it’s out now.
Disclaimer: Joey never sent Jack and Zach any nudes. It was a joke. Probably.