Within in seconds of hearing Philadelphia’s Honey Radar for the first time I had one those, stop everything, why I am just finding about this band now, who the fuck is this, moments. Those early releases were such a revelation to me that I quickly sought out every recording available and jumped right in. Luckily , Honey Radar release a considerable amount of music in quick succession. Over the past 10 years Jason Henn has been writing and recording concise and compelling lo-fi pop songs under the moniker of Honey Radar. Their is a timeless quality to the music, as if these were long lost recordings of the mid 90’s 4-track renaissance or perhaps a shelved Elephant 6 project. Henn’s has a gift for recording songs that sound vaguely familiar yet, completely unique. At times Henn’s vocals seems to effortlessly float atop guitar fuzz and tape hiss while tossing out gigantic and lasting pop hooks. In advance of Honey Radar’s performance at Rhode Island Freak-Out I had the chance to speak with Jason about his creative process, growing up in Indiana, and how he came to release music with Henry Owings Of Chunklet Industries.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: Back in April you released Psychic Cruise, can you tell me about the creative process that led up to the EP’s release?
Jason Henn: It was a pretty roundabout process. It came together almost like a comp. Alexa from RAYS visited around Christmas 2016, and we filled a tape with jamming. The song Moon Director came out of that. The song Knocked Out was dropped from our last album for reasons I don’t remember, and Medium Mary Todd was trimmed off our next album for reasons I don’t remember. The songs Psychic Cruise and United Fox were recorded last summer while I had the 8-track set up in the kitchen. I took over the downstairs of the house and had a lot of guests over to make noise. We’d done two other pressed singles with Henry Owings at Chunklet, and I knew he wanted to make it a trilogy, so the concept and artwork all came together with his encouragement.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: Is writing a daily activity for you at this point or do the songs come in bursts.
Jason Henn: I definitely don’t write new songs everyday, but I try to pick up a guitar and play through my list of unrecorded song ideas everyday. Then, new songs will come as they come, sometimes a few at once. I keep a bunch of notebooks and record a lot of voice memos. I have two albums-worth of songs at the moment and hope to record them all before the end of the year and decide exactly what to do with them later.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: Once again you have teamed with Chunklet Industries for the latest release. How did you forge that partnership?
Jason Henn: Henry (Owings) wrote me out of the blue a few years ago and asked if I’d consider doing a 7″. It was a surprise, because I’ve been a fan of his design work and writing for a long time. I always assumed he heard about us through Dynamite Hemorrhage magazine, Chunklet had an ad in the same issue where I did an interview, and it was really soon after that that we started working together a lot. At this point, Henry’s invited us down to Atlanta a bunch of times, crashed at my house in Philadelphia, and invited us to tour with him earlier this year with Bardo Pond and Major Stars. We’re on the bill for his 50th birthday party later this year. We’re lucky to know him.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: It seems most coverage of Honey Radar inevitably links you to Robert Pollard/Guided By Voices. Apart from the lo-fi aesthetic how much do you feel he’s influenced you as a songwriter?
Jason Henn: His volume of output is definitely inspiring. I think archival releases like Acid Ranch and the Suitcase boxes, the way they show how he gets from the germ of an idea to a complete song and the way he reworks and recycles ideas over time, have affected the way I brainstorm and some of the editing decisions I make. I probably have more confidence not to second guess and go with certain absurd lyrics or other strange ideas because of him.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: How did growing up in Indiana effect your desire to create and make music of your own?
Jason Henn: I think my first role models for making music were my family. My dad attempted a career as a country singer and self-released a couple singles in the early 80s. So I had it demonstrated to me from a young age that anyone can make a record and send it out into the world. I forget about that sometimes, but it must be where I first got the urge to put out records. Some of my aunts and uncles also played bluegrass and gospel music. I grew up in Richmond, Indiana, and looking back, it had a more active music scene for its size than you might imagine. There were a lot of townie punk and hardcore bands like Dryrot, Kid With A Stick, and Dagmar’s Fiasco. There were artier bands that went to the college in town, and I made friends with a group called Melba that was sort of quirky and had weird songs about drawing animals and did Velvet Underground and Vaselines covers. They were legendary to my group of friends, because they had recorded an album with Kramer that was never released. Lance from Melba is the person who taught me how to use a 4-track.
The AGP: You will play the inaugural Rhode Island Freak-Out at next week, what can those who have never experienced the Honey Radar Live experience expect?
Jason: People who haven’t seen us before sometimes comment that it’s heavier or noisier than they expected. We have three guitars buzzing pretty much constantly. We figured out at some point that we had to play to the situation and not try to replicate some of the weird arrangements on the records, so we mostly just rock things out.
The AGP: What’s in store for Honey Radar in the foreseeable future?
Jason: We finished an album earlier this year called Ruby Puff of Dust, and it’s coming out sometime soon. We’re also doing a few more split singles before the end of the year.
Don’t miss Honey Radar at The Ash Gray Proclamation Presented, Rhode Island Freak-Out Sunday August 26th at The News Cafe. Event details can be found here.