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Detroit, Michigan, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2013

Detroit, Michigan, United States
Established on Jan, 2013
Band Alternative Rock




"Honeybabe Album Review: In Living Memory"

Local quintet Honeybabe’s forthcoming album In Living Memory is as hauntingly emotional, albeit more subtly, as Radiohead’s ‘Ok Computer.’ The difference is that the heaviness of the lyrical content is inverted by warmer textures and surplus ebullience; it is definitely brighter in tone than your average esoteric indie-rock. The arrangements consistently match the catharsis threaded into the lyrics, matching sorrow with measured crescendos of gritty noise amid the gloss.

The album all but bursts with its opening song “Hide My Dreams,” running along at an energizing pace with pop-rock riffs and crooning vocals, even going so far as to call out to the “sunny skies…” But like a great modern rock opera, the song has a second, moodier, murkier movement, descending into a piano-led suite where the guitars become somber and the drums evaporate. It’s a bold opener: 90 seconds of pure plucky pop that darkens into two extensive minutes of lyric-free mood-setting.

This balance of light and dark continues with “Everything Happens For A Reason” surfing over the hum of an organ and propelled by a danceable drum pattern and funky guitar riffs. That fatalistic title is melodically intoned through the choruses, but while it starts out calm and almost meditative, towards the bridge, it builds and churns until finally, it roils over the brim, fueled by the frustration, confusion, and wistfulness of grief.

“Letting The Boys In” is another track that fits their aesthetic dichotomy; another fresh and radiant tempo, summery timbres, and slickly expressive instrumental phrasings, but the lyrics sting like a dead-of-winter breeze.

Honeybabe self-identify as “psychrockjazzpunk,” and the charm their songs is that you’ll typically hear all of those in a fine fusion. In Living Memory is about finding the balance that’s necessary for any emotional recovery: “take me away from this darkness again…keep me sane…” as pianist/guitarist Michael La Bella sings in “And Again.” His vocal melody in that song is augmented by the harmonies of Drew Bartosik (guitar/piano), and Matthew McBrien (on guitar); the rhythm section is ever versatile to accommodate the shift of moods, with Danny Despart (on bass) and Austin Keith (on drums).

The band has been together six years now; this is their second full-length album, in addition to a handful of EPs and singles. While In Living Memory finds them reaching a new level of experimentation, their signature flair for channeling a storm of complex emotions into an arrangement that can feel like pop, funk, or jazz, remains a constant. It’s not denying or discounting the inevitability of heartache, but it’s also not resigned to blocking out the sunshine. - WDET

"Eclectic Honeybabe steps out"

In the age of the internet, infinite playlists, and musical abundance, an increasing number of bands are embodying head-scratching combinations of styles and sounds that span genres, geography, and history.

Honeybabe is a perfect example of this phenomenon going very right. The five-man band combine sun-showered punk with fuzzy, psychedelic rock, sugary vocals, and textured, temperamental songs that are friendly even at their gloomiest.

In advance of their Saturday performance at the Pig & Whiskey, Metro Times met all five members at Hybrid Moments, their practice space in Corktown — a conversation that was as off-the-wall and goofy as one might imagine when wrangling five bandmates, not to mention long-time friends, together in a room.

It begins, naturally, with introductions. Each person named the instruments they play, adding on additional titles like "motivational speaker" and "back up dancer." "I try to be the guru," Matthew McBrien offers, and then immediately abandons. "Actually, I'm the least spiritual one."

All five members, who are all 24-years-old, have been playing together for more than a decade.

Danny Despard, Drew Bartosik, and McBrien went to Berkley High School, while Austin Keith and Michael La Bella attended Shrine Catholic High School in Royal Oak. There was some crossover, with McBrien playing music with Keith and LaBella from an early age.

"Mine and Drew's band would play against theirs in Battle of the Bands. There's still some animosity to this day," Despard jokes.

The two groups, Despard and Bartosik, and La Bella, McBrien, and Keith toiled away in other bands until they joined forces as Honeybabe in 2013.

"It happened naturally," Keith says of the merging. "There were spaces in our musical development that needed filling, and there were some talented dudes that filled them."

Since then, the band has pounded the pavement, frequently performing at venues like the Old Miami, PJ's Lager House, and the Loving Touch. They will go on a short stint of East Coast tour dates the week before Pig & Whiskey, which will be their first time performing outside of Michigan. "We've become a pretty self-sufficient band," Keith says. "We've been around the block, so to speak. Where once we were desperate to play gigs, we're now offered enough to not need to search as much. We've worked hard over the years and paid our dues, and it's nice to see that work pay off."

They've also found their groove as a band that rotates around three vocalists: La Bella, McBrien, and Bartosik. "It's a three-headed dragon singing," Despard says. "Whoever's song it is, that person will probably be the main singer, and then the other two guys will help them out, and then it rotates."

"I always write my lyrics very personal," La Bella says. "There's sad stuff, dealing with death and personal loss. But it's also mixed with happy stuff. Whatever I write, I at least hope that someone can relate to it."

"I don't have too much lyrical content for Honeybabe so far," Bartosik says, "but for me, a lot of it comes back to nature and cycles of things. Past, present, and future are themes that I notice myself running into. Experiencing things and growing through them. Shedding skin."

These approaches will coalesce with their upcoming album, slated for a late 2017 release. The band explains the ways in which their sound has evolved since their 2014 full-length album Creatures of Circumstance and their 2016 EP Velvet Glum.

"It's going to be different," Despard says of the album. "We've got tracks that are seven minutes long."

"It's going to be less lo-fi than our old stuff — crisper," La Bella adds. "I would also say there's more harmonies. There's some stuff that's really pop-y, like verse, chorus, verse, chorus, 'radio friendly,' you could say. Then there is stuff that is totally experimental."

"I think the best thing to describe it would be elusive," Bartosik says.

Keith agrees. "Just when you think you have your finger on the button, you don't."

When discussing their individual influences, La Bella, whose effusive falsetto can be heard on many of their tracks, was quickly dubbed the Brian Wilson of the group for his vocal harmonies. Despard names Radiohead and the Who as top influences, and Keith mentions Death Grips and drone metal band Sunn O))), the latter of which McBrien enthusiastically agrees.

"Sunn O))) is a huge one," McBrien says. "It doesn't shine through in our music, but we saw them about a year ago and there's really nothing like it. It's very meditative."

"I love weird shit, you know?" he continues. "I love experimental music. I love gospel music from the '30s, I like black metal, I like jazz. A little bit of everything. If you're only listening to one genre you're missing everything."

"Right now, I can see that Matt's sound in the songs that we play right now is more '80s," Bartosik says about McBrien. "But then he also has stuff that's balls-to-the-wall punk."

"If we bring anything to the table, it's that we all have similar music tastes, but we bring a lot of different sounds and put them all together," La Bella says.

"At some point we felt like it was a curse," Keith adds. "Like 'Oh god, how are we going to smash all of this into one box? What's our style? What's our voice?" But at some point we were like, "Maybe this is it. Maybe this is just how we do it."

Honeybabe performs at Pig & Whiskey on Saturday, July 15; East Troy Street between the WAB and Emory, Ferndale. - Detroit Metro Times - by Amy Oprean

"Honeybabe - Velvet Glum"

Honeybabe are a local quintet who met up at a jazzercise class and just dug each other moves that much that they knew they'd have something together, if they started jamming...

Drummer Austin Keith, guitarist/vocalist Matt McBrien and guitarist Michael LaBella have been playing together for 10 years, having grown up in the same neighborhood and attending the same high school. Drew Bartosik joined in 2011, providing psychedelic sounds through piano, synthesizer and guitar. Danny Despard, meanwhile, joined in 2013 on bass. Despite their youth, the ensemble's shown a strong sense for psychedelicized funk-pop journeys and a measuredly strange-ified, distortion-stormed indie-rock.

Honeybabe have been hitting up stages in bars and venues around the metro area pretty regularly since 2013, (the year its members started surpassing the 21-year mark in collective ages). There's some classic flavors of mid 90's fuzz-pop cross-stitched with curly baroque mutations and splindly psychedelia, I'm thinking like Flaming Lips, Enon, Olivia Tremor Control, maybe a more esoteric Shins or a punkier Elf Power. I know dropping names is slipshod, but I assure you, they take quirk-pop and make it their own...

"We're all such avid music lovers," said LaBella, "so we're constantly looking for new sounds, new artists. We're influenced by almost everything we hear. I guess (Bartosik, McBrien) and I are the main songwriters, with myself contributing most of the material. Fortunately, though, I've been in music school for the last few years, and it's really paid off."

LaBella points to pop gods like The Beatles and Brian Wilson, those who started changing everyone's perception of how pop songs are supposed to be composed. "I'm a big believer in the fact that you don't have to be classically trained to make interesting music, but knowing the tools can really help fuel the creativity. I personally like to turn off my music theory brain when I'm writing a song, so I can completely be invested in the sounds I'm creating..."

Over the last year, particularly, the members of Honeybabe have started to finally light a fire under their own respective asses, at least according to LaBella. They're proud of the songs from their first album, Creatures of Circumstance, but can hear their youth, their more greenhorn-ish inclinations, as they listen back to it, these days. A lot can change in three years, and not just sharpened perspectives or girded wisdom.

"I think the material I'm writing now is more complex and definitely more personal," LaBella said. "I suffered a tragic loss over a year ago: losing my brother to suicide, and it's something i've been struggling with ever since. I've really been channeling the emotions i've been feeling through most of the new material i've been writing, some of which is on Velvet Glum. I think music means so much to us, and I know, for me, it's what gets me through the day, so we hope that's comes through..."

"I think one thing that sets us apart from most bands in the Detroit scene is the fact that we're not doing the typical psychedelic blues rock thing...," LaBella said. "Not that there's anything wrong with that, cuz I'm sure we have a song or too sort of in that style, but that's not interesting to us as musicians; it's already been done by so many people. It makes it almost impossible to grow with the music and to sound like you are doing something completely new and unique."

LaBella said he typically has a tough time describing the band to others, as it drifts towards but never lands on several sounds and styles. "In the end, it's all jazz..." says LaBella. "I just hope, if anything, that people hear it and say, 'Honeybabe is a solid band,' and maybe they can relate to the songs we're writing on a personal level. And, if not? That's okay..."

The EP was recorded over a two-year span, starting in their practice space (The Hydemi Collective) in Corktown, and then bouncing into one studio for a stint, only to come out and be completed DIY style with Bartosik utilizing his degree in Musich Tech from Wayne State.

One of the concepts they were dealing with, thematically/lyrically, was the behavior of people hiding their emotions while dealing with the juxtaposition of feeling happy and sad at the same time. "The idea that laughing and crying are so closely related, and you can experience both of those feelings very close to each other," said LaBella.

The band's future plans include "digging a whole 20 ft deep into the ground and living there for a few years..." says LaBella, "then coming out to see what's changed and mainly conserve our energy." Okay.... in all seriousness: The new EP comes out, but soon after that you can expect a full length album! After that, they're developing the Hydemi Collective (which you can find on Facebook). The group's practice space is attached to Hybrid Moments, the operators of which are part of said Collective. "With that said... we love Detroit and all the people who have been supporting us the last few years, we value each and every one of you and love you all..." - Deep Cutz blog - writer Jeff Milo

"Honeybabe - Creatures of Circumstance"

Not many artists get the honor of saying that they call the “313” home. Detroit has been known for quite a few musical acts, including Madonna, Kidd Rock, Jack White of the White Stripes, and (of course) Eminem. Soon Detroit will be known for another up and coming band, Honeybabe. Honeybabe are the next hometown heroes, and they are bringing their own special sound to the rest of the “D”.

Founded in 2013, Honeybabe is a five-piece Alternative, Indie Psychedelic-Pop, Space Age-y Pop band. Their debut album, Creatures of Circumstance is an 11 track album that displays all of their talents and musical styles. Most of this album focuses on sweet psychedelic vibes with an alternative groove. Make no mistake, for as many genres as Honeybabe dabbles in they don’t get lost underneath all of the sounds. Honeybabe has a distinct sound quality to their music and it parallels the diversity of the city that they hail from. The vocals on this album are enticing and they are similar to Jack White’s vocals, so it gives the album a familiar quality, and fans of the Detroit music scene will appreciate the tonality of the album.

Honeybabe has a distinct ethereal quality to their hard-to-pinpoint music and they are just plain cool. The band has all the makings to become one of the next best hometown acts for local Detroiters. If you live in Detroit or Michigan, or if you’re a die-hard fan of experimental psychedelic rock/funk fusion, then you should keep your eye on these guys- they are the next stars of the Michigan music scene. (Konstantina Buhalis)


Favorite tracks: Don’t Touch (What’s Not Yours), Knowing is Never Quite Enough, I Don’t Mind - Ouch That Hertz - writer Konstantina Buhalis

"Detroit Proud Playlist: Week of 10/5"

Honeybabe’s experimental nature coupled with their on-point psychedelic sound makes their album, Creatures of Circumstance, a must-listen. The guitar licks are perfectly executed and bring out the groovy, surf-pop mood that resonates throughout the release. Each track has a delicate and thoughtful sound with heady lyrics and resonating vocals. It’s refreshing to experience music that is as emotional and thoughtful as it is entertaining and upbeat. Take a dip with these guys, they might just inspire you to rethink the universe. - The CW50 - CBS Detroit Local



Honeybabe is Michael La Bella, Matthew McBrien, Drew Bartosik and Austin Keith. The band grew up in the suburbs of Detroit MI with a taste for all things music and have been jamming together ever since 2011. The band has been gigging heavily in the metro Detroit area since 2013, playing such venues as El Club, The Loving Touch and The Magic Stick and festivals as Whateverfest and the Pig & Whiskey.

In May of 2019, Honeybabe released their sophomore record "In Living Memory" after working on it for 3 years on a self-funded budget. Recorded on 2 inch tape at Tempermill studios, "In Living Memory", it is without a doubt the band's most hi-fi record yet, departing from the prior self-produced Velvet Glum and Creatures of Circumstance. Venturing from psych-rock filled freak outs and classic sunshine 60s pop to modern alternative rock and dark moody dancey tunes, the album encapsulates the live show the band has been refining over the past 5 years in the metro Detroit area. 

"Despite their youth, the ensemble's shown a strong sense for psychedelicized funk-pop journeys and a measuredly strange-ified, distortion-stormed indie-rock." - Jeff Milo


"Make no mistake, for as many genres as Honeybabe dabbles in they don’t get lost underneath all of the sounds. Honeybabe has a distinct sound quality to their music and it parallels the diversity of the city that they hail from." - Konstantina Buhalis


Band Members