Kasey Anderson & The Honkies

 

There’s a reason we celebrate bands like Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers as much as we do here at PEV – we know it ain’t easy to sing rock n’ roll. What seemed to be the only way music was made back in the day is harder and harder to find on today’s alternative scene. It doesn’t just require a swagger and style that’s unlike any other brand of music… it requires a voice. A friggin’ rock n’ roll voice. And luckily for us, we’ve found another guy with the pipes to get the job done – Mr. Kasey Anderson. 
 
He and his band, The Honkies (Andrew McKeag, Eric Carson, Julian MacDonough) are touring all over the place spreading their rock gospel and have a new record coming out on February 15 to show for it: “Heart of a Dog”. We asked Kasey about his song writing process and he provided an excellent explanation: “Songs are everywhere. Sometimes it's like Keith Richards says, lightning strikes and you just have to hold on and figure out what to do with it; other times you're trying to break out of prison with a toothpick and a tea spoon. We're all trying to understand the world around us. Writing a song is just figuring out how you see that world and putting it in a language people might understand.” We couldn’t agree more – or said it better ourselves. 
 
If you’re having any doubt about the rock n’ roll quality of “Heart of a Dog” – check out this quote from Anderson: “There's not an acoustic guitar anywhere on it. I spent two years touring solo and wanted to make a record that was as far away from that as I could… I just wanted to make a record where people couldn't use the words ‘twang’ or ‘roots rock’ to describe it. It gets pretty old.” Friggin’ awesome. The band will no doubt be touring non-stop once the record lands, so check their web site for the schedule. There’s a lot more to get into, so get into the answers to the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Kasey Anderson & The Honkies

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you stand out over the others in your genre?

KA: I was riding in an elevator once with Peter Case, we were headed up to our respective hotel rooms for the night. A couple of guys got in and, since Peter and I both had guitars with us, they asked the inevitable questions.  "What kind of music do you guys play?" Peter responded quickly, "Rock 'n Roll." "Who do you sound like?" "Chuck Berry." I think that sums it up pretty well. My band plays Rock 'n' Roll, and if you do that, Chuck Berry's in there somewhere.

I try not to get into the "what makes you stand out" stuff. There are plenty of bands that I love that wouldn't necessarily "stand out" to other people, and plenty of bands that seem to "stand out" to a lot of people that I find unlistenable.

PEV: Calling Seattle and Portland home, what kind of music where the members of the band into growing up? Do you remember your first concert?

KA: We all grew up listening to The Stones, The Pogues, Tom Waits, X, Cheap Trick, that stuff. I'm a little younger than the other guys in the band but I was born into a really great record collection; my folks had those records on all the time, along with Dylan, Springsteen, Woody Guthrie, and Sinatra.

My first memory of seeing anyone perform is Bill Cosby. My dad took me to see Bill Cosby when I was pretty young, maybe 7 or 8. I know that's not a "concert" in that no music was played but it is a really vivid memory for me and one I think about pretty often.

PEV: Tell us your take on the music scene is like in your hometown and what was it like trying to break into it?

KA: Andrew, Eric, and Muzz maybe had different experiences than I did, with those guys being in Seattle when it was so saturated with bands and attention. I was up in Bellingham for a number of years, and that's a really small town so it's pretty easy to become a big fish in that pond, which isn't an especially healthy thing for a person's ego. There's a lot of self-perpetuating delusion in Bellingham and I don't miss that at all. I've always believed location is immaterial unless you're somebody looking to do session work or a lot of that songwriting-for-hire stuff. Then you should probably move to LA or Nashville, but outside of that, it has always been my belief that, if your songs are good, your audience will find you. It might take a while, but it'll happen.

PEV: With that, what can fans expect from a live Kasey Anderson & The Honkies show?

KA: It's a rock and roll show. They'll hear most of the Heart of a Dog record and some tunes from my other records. No pyrotechnics or choreography yet. We just haven't had the rehearsal time.

PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?

KA: Where's my capo?

PEV: Having all been in other bands before how is playing with Kasey Anderson & The Honkies different then those other works?

KA:  These guys - Andrew, Eric, and Muzz - are all in other bands, so it's really a thing where they've got all these responsibilities to juggle and have time to really over-analyze the songs and beat myself to death over the tiniest details, so it's a good working relationship because every time they show up to rehearsal I have a whole new set of completely unreasonable expectations.

We're all friends and we're all busy so really, the band is just an excuse to hang out together. We're bound by a common aversion to taking ourselves too seriously.

PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for your music? Where do get your best ideas for songs?

KA: Songs are everywhere. Sometimes it's like Keith Richards says, lightning strikes and you just have to hold on and figure out what to do with it; other times you're trying to break out of prison with a toothpick and a tea spoon.

We're all trying to understand the world around us. Writing a song is just figuring out how you see that world and putting it in a language people might understand.

PEV: Thinking back to when you first started out do you ever look back at your career and think about your earlier days and how you’ve arrived where you are today?

KA: I can't speak for anyone else in the band but I don't really do that, no. I mean, there's a fair amount of reminiscing that happens because if you're in this business long enough you build up a sort of cache of stories but I don't ever sit and think about my "career trajectory" or whatever, no. I don't think that's an especially productive way to make art.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of Kasey Anderson & The Honkies?

KA: That we met at a Scientology retreat. It's not even remotely true, but you'd be surprised to hear that, right?

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a career for you?

KA: By the time I was 14 I had a pretty good grasp of the fact that music was the only thing I was even remotely good at and it was either going to be that or bussing tables for the rest of my life. Bussing tables remains a peripheral option.

PEV: Tell us about your latest release, “Heart of a Dog”. What can fans expect from this? How is this different from past works?

KA: There's not an acoustic guitar anywhere on it. I spent two years touring solo and wanted to make a record that was as far away from that as I could, so we made this record where I'm singing - I'm not playing guitar anywhere on the record, except for one or two songs - and the band is doing the rest. So it's different in that regard; it sounds different. I just wanted to make a record where people couldn't use the words "twang" or "roots rock" to describe it. It gets pretty old.

PEV: How is life on the road for you in the music world? Best and worst parts?

KA: The best part is that this is my job. I'm incredibly lucky and well aware of it. The worst part is all the shit that happens before and after the 90 minutes on stage every night.

PEV: Is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?

KA: I'd like to spend more time in Canada. I haven't been there in a few years and I love Vancouver and Toronto. I'd like to get back up there.

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What’s it like when you get to play at your hometown?

KA: I'm 30 and I've been doing it for ten years now so, at this point, it's just what I do. It's my job.  Hometown shows are tricky because there are so many people you want to see and spend time with but there's never enough time. They're always the most stressful for me.

PEV: What can we find each of you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

KA: Andrew and Muzz play in 50 other bands, Eric's in The Long Winters and he works at a studio - Electrokitty Recording - so outside of that, we all just sit around and stare at our cell phones like everyone else in America.

PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration? Why?

KA: Right now? Tom Waits. The sound - his voice - is so distinctive; you know you're listening to a Waits record at note one.  I'd love to go back and be in a room with Sinatra, just to see firsthand how he does what he does with phrasing and breath control. It's really remarkable.

PEV:  Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?

KA: It was great to see Joe Pug have such a great year last year, and I think anyone who hasn't heard his name yet will hear it a lot in 2011. Joe's an incredible songwriter -- just maddeningly good.

PEV: If you weren’t playing music now what do you think each of you would be your career?

KA: I think we'd all live in an apartment together and talk about babes like one of those fun sitcoms.

PEV: So, what is next for Kasey Anderson & The Honkies?

KA: Heart of a Dog will be out February 15, and then we'll go from there, providing the world hasn't ended by then.

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