More than 10 years after forming as an Oakland busking duo, the California Honeydrops are now one of the Bay Area’s most popular bands, performing an upbeat brand of irresistibly danceable soul music and garnering acclaim for both their energetic live performances and ambitious album recordings.
Even in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, the funky five-part band is throwing a party this weekend, albeit a live-streamed virtual party, when they celebrate the release of their new EP, Just One More, And Then Some with an online concert on Friday, June 26.
The streaming concert will feature the California Honeydrops performing two full sets of music live from the stage of the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, beginning at 7pm. The online event is free to watch, and virtual tickets can be reserved now.
Like other Marin County venues, Sweetwater Music Hall has been closed to social gatherings since March when shelter-in-place orders went into effect. Recently, Sweetwater has been open for take-out food and limited outdoor dining, though concerts have been on hold.
The California Honeydrops are also feeling the effect of the enforced social distancing, and saw their planned summer concert schedule evaporate in the wake of the pandemic. In lieu of tour dates, the Honeydrops have been performing weekly “Friday Night Sessions” that are reaching online audiences of over 25,000 people per stream. The band is also giving back through these online offerings, donating 25 percent of each week’s revenue to a different charity.
Now, with their new EP, the California Honeydrops are ready to really party.
“We wanted the EP to be super raw and to reflect how we play live, so there’s little-to-no dubbing on the tracks—what you hear is what you get,” says vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Lech Wierzynski, in a statement. “They’re fun, upbeat songs. Kind of let your hair down, celebrate joy and making music together. That’s why people come to our shows, so we tried to capture that feeling during a time when we can’t gather, a time when people may be looking for a little love and connection. As always, more than anything that’s what we’re trying to put out there.”
Just One More, And Then Some features four tracks that showcase the band’s ability to musically move between Bay Area R&B, Southern soul, Delta blues and New Orleans funk. The title track that opens the EP boasts dueling guitars and organs before a raucous chorus takes over.
“These songs are an open invitation for anyone listening to follow that sound you might hear from the street, coming from the little house tucked away in the back,” says drummer Ben Malament, in a statement. “We want to conjure a place where anyone and everyone is welcome to pick up an instrument or a microphone, a piece of floor to tear up, and just be appreciated for digging in and being a part of it.”
That place in Malament’s mind could easily be the Sweetwater Music Hall, where the band has played several times over the years. In addition to co-founders Wierzynski and Malament, the California Honeydrops lineup includes Johnny Bones on tenor sax and clarinet, Lorenzo Loera on keyboards and Beau Bradbury on bass.
For the last decade, the California Honeydrops have extensively toured in support of legendary artists including Bonnie Raitt, B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Dr. John. On their own the California Honeydrops regularly sell out headlining shows at venues across the country, and they have performed at major festivals such as Outside Lands, Monterey Jazz, High Sierra and many others.
While the upcoming concert on June 26 will not include a live audience at the Sweetwater, the band is still eager to get on the stage and musically conjure that happy place for the viewers and listeners at home, as the group remains dedicated to cultivating a live music connection with their audiences.
“The whole point is to erase the boundaries between the crowd and us,” Wierzynski says. “To make people become a part of the whole thing by dancing along, singing, picking the songs and generally coming out of their shells.”