Honeys and the Rock

A member of the local alternative band the Honeysticks is passing out flyers advertising the band's self-titled CD after a recent show at Cheers. The slip of green paper features the recipe for a Honeysticks drink: a quarter-ounce each of vodka, Midori, Chambord, and amaretto, with equal parts sour mix and pineapple juice. It was created by a bartender friend of the band, and though the Honeysticks are actually named after a brand of lip balm, the tasty drink is an apt concoction for a band that blends a variety of recognizable influences into an eclectic alternative cocktail.

Although the Honeysticks have been together for only a year and a half, the quartet possesses a firm grasp of upbeat pop sensibilities and no-frills rock musicianship (even more surprising, perhaps, since one member is still in high school, and the others are barely in their twenties). On stage, the Honeysticks rip into a mellifluous cascade of jangly guitars and quick-change drum lines, served up with little in the way of flash or pageantry (which is a nice way of saying they don't have much stage presence). Singer-rhythm guitarist Minette Cabrera's simple yet charmingly innocent vocals fall somewhere between Natalie Merchant and the Cucumbers' Deena Shoshkes, sometimes affecting the dramatic trill of the Cranberries' Dolores O'Riordan. Guitarist Joe Miranda's use of watery, multilayered effects and minor-key chord progressions shows the influence of moody Brit-pop bands such as the Cure and Stereolab as well as straight-forward American groups à la Live and Velocity Girl. Bassist Joel Cabrera (Minette's younger brother and the high schooler of the bunch) offers solid rhythm lines, and drummer Ariel Vega -- the keystone of the band's tight sound -- adeptly beats out complicated rhythms, while his punky backing vocals add an extra layer to the mix.

The Honeysticks' strength, says Vega, is its versatility. "The way we see it, there are two main scenes here," he states. "There are a lot of hardcore bands, like Swivel Stick, Ed Matus' Struggle, and many others, and then there are pop-oriented bands like Orgasmic Bliss, 23, the Bureau, and the miles. We are caught in between. We fit in with both crowds, and people from both scenes come out and see us."

The band was founded in early 1995 initially as a studio side-project for Orgasmic Bliss rhythm guitarist Marthin Chan, along with Cabrera, Vega (then a member of Lunabelle), rhythm guitarist Julie Benson, bassist Steve Martinez, and keyboardist Aramis Lorie. "In the beginning, the songs were much softer and had a more lush feel -- like Mazzy Star," Vega explains. "But we've definitely evolved into a power band." The project evolved into a proper band when Miranda (late of Swivel Stick) joined up. "About three or four months after the original lineup [got together], we met Joe and started writing new songs. He brought with him a lot of new melodies and unconventional chords and harmonies," Vega continues.

Not long after its inception, the band started playing for free at the Chili Pepper and other South Beach clubs in order to gain exposure; paying gigs soon followed at Churchill's, Cheers, Marsbar, Tobacco Road, and Rose's Bar & Music Lounge. The Honeysticks also performed at Moon Fest in West Palm Beach last Halloween weekend, and opened for Possum Dixon last spring at Miami Beach's now-defunct Respectable Street Cafe. They also earned a 1995 nomination for best new band in Jam magazine's annual Florida Jammy Awards.

The Honeysticks' three-song disc offers a brief snapshot of the band's first few months together, recorded just after Miranda entered the fold. "The sound was really changing, we found we were going in a different direction and wanted to capture that, so we put down the first two songs we wrote together," Vega explains. "Without it, we wouldn't have been noticed, wouldn't be played on WVUM, and wouldn't have a spot on the scene."

The band is nurturing that spot with plans to enter the studio in November to cut a full-length album; it is also hoping to open for national bands and continue building its fan base throughout the state. "We want to get a feel for what it's like to tour, to go out there in a van and sleep on floors and rough it," Vega says with enthusiasm. "We don't expect to put out an album and just go international. We're just starting to creep up to Fort Lauderdale, then we want to creep up to Orlando, and see if we can get Florida hot."

The Honeysticks perform on Friday, August 30, as part of the Florida Music Association's Rezurrect Fest at Rezurrection Hall, 245 22nd St, Miami Beach, 247-1105. Also on the bill are Sol d'Menta, Nation of Fear, Reckless Lester and the Tumbleweeds, Hermit, Y, Mindflower, Rene Alvarez, Doug Walker, Kelley Dollan, Shandra Renee, Lisa "Noodles" Hayden, and Maria. Admission is $7. Showtime is 9:00 p.m.

 
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