If U2 played regularly at late, lamented underground mill spaces like Fort Thunder, they’d be lucky to sound something like Honeyhander, a Providence fivesome that incorporates everything from early Depeche Mode and the New Romantics to dark, tensile bands like the Fall and those from the old Factory label. There’s even some shoegazer action going on a la My Bloody Valentine and a little post-Wave Radiohead vibe, which should please some of the folks in town that miss those long-lost days of early alt-rock. That said, Honeyhander sounds very much like they’ve taken all of these influences and squooshed them into their own thing. It’s pretty tasty and, if they find a way to keep it going, may be the linchpin of a vibrant new scene. Honeyhander is Anthony Ferreira (vocals, synths, guitars), Mike Cardoso (guitar), Christopher Todd (drums, percussion), Dan Burns (guitar), and Shane Broderick (bass).
That’s a big lineup for a rock band, and as evidenced by their debut EP Woolly Mannerisms, they make big splotches of noise daubed from a colorful palette. In fact, they’re so colorful Honeyhander is attracting the kind of attention not often seen in these parts — that is, from big-time record labels. Honeyhander, like many of the bands Rhode Island spawns, is edgy and uncompromising, daring and experimental. Unlike many of our very bravest bands past and present (Six Finger Satellite, Arab On Radar, Chinese Stars, Daughters, the Bolt), they fall on the accessible side of the tonal line. But they use that accessibility to bludgeon their audiences with decibels and daring every chance they get. Woolly Mannerisms, released on the Strictly Amateur Films label in the US and Release the Bats! in Europe, contains only a handful of tunes, but what’s present is gripping and beautifully realized. It oozes with personality and focus. Details grow like whiskers out of a hairy face, stubby at first, then needle-long and sharp; as the song builds, those details become a full-blown beard, a mug adorned with thick layers of hair. Like all promising bands, Honeyhander seems to have a strong sense of purpose. And they maintain that purpose throughout the EP’s best tunes: the opener, “Wear Out Your Muscles Mary,” and “Our Connoisseurs Are Feeders,” a track you can stream on the band’s website, honeyhander.com. Ferreira produced and mixed the recording, and it’s clear he and the band took an incredible amount of time developing the sound. The recording is thickly layered. The story goes that after an intense and fatiguing mixing and mastering process, Ferreira was unhappy with the end result and redid it. In his best crazed Brian Wilson persona, he paced the room for days, shut in, blaring the mixes and tweaking the minutest of details. “I detoxed from listening to it at all after we finished it,” he says on the band’s website, “and in retrospect I’m glad we were that anal with everything. It sounds really terrific.”
HONEYHANDER + KAYO DOT + BARYCOISE ORCHESTRA + BANANA HANDS | AS220, 115 Empire Street, Providence | Jan 21 | 401.831.9327