Honey Stump is unique in a lot of ways. No Bass, No Drums, other instruments that are out of the "rock" mainstream, but the main thing that's unique about Honey Stump is most definitely their music. It's kind of a murky, swampy, ethereal sounding mix of Country, Bules, Rock, Bluegrass, Americana, yet at the same time, it's none of those things. I chatted with Jeff Iwanski, John "Honeyboy" Turner, and Mitch Vande Stowe about their band, and John described their sound as "having a splash of Dennis Hopper", and while that might sound like a weird way to describe music, If you give a few spins to Honey Stump's excellent new self-titled CD, you'll find it's perfectly accurate.
SCS: How and when did Honey Stump form as a band?
John: I mentioned this on our live at the Regional Center performance. Jeff has
been recording music forever and giving me cds of his material. We had
tried jamming together but I felt locked into the blues and had other
commitments. It wasn't until I heard New Light Project and Sum of a
Man that I found myself singing along and enjoying the canvas that he
created. I approached Jeff and said "What do you think about me
singing your songs?" My goal was to get Jeff's music out there but I
didn't realize how self-fulfilling it would be for me. We gave our
demo of 7 songs to Eric at Lone Prairie and he hooked us up with
Mitch. Mitch immediately fit right in and felt what we were doing. He
got it. More and more we each put into it and it really has become a
trio. That all started a year ago and here we are
SCS: How would you describe your band or your sound to someone who’s never heard or seen you?
Jeff: Rock and Roll
John: Neither bluegrass or jug band but a little of both, with a splash of Dennis Hopper
Mitch: A mix of country and blues
SCS: How would you describe a Honey Stump show? – What can someone who hasn’t seen you live expect?
Jeff: Well, first off we have no drums or bass. So that means there are
some holes in our music, but hopefully they are dramatic, good holes.
When we are doing it right you can expect many flying bottlecaps and an
earful of country goodness.
Mitch: Three guys playing a lot of instruments
SCS: What types of music and which musicians/groups influenced the band members?
Jeff: I’ve always been a sucker for performers with unique voices .
Johnny Cash, Nick Cave, Bob Dylan, Mark Lanegan, Howlin Wolf, Jimmie
Dale Gilmore, Jay Farrar, John Kay...etc.
John: Stones, Blues dudes
Mitch: David Gilmour, Duane Allman, Jimmy Page and some blues, bluegrass, and jazz people.
SCS: Tell us your goals for this band? Will you be touring or just playing around town?
Jeff: When do we leave?
Mitch: To keep writing songs we are proud of.
SCS: Where did the band’s name come from?
Jeff: The makeshift studio in my basement, as well as the moniker on my
solo projects, is Electric Stump. It came from the fact that there used
to be an actual tree stump down there, on top of which all of the power
strips resided so it always looked plugged in. That's the “stump” part
Mitch: That's not what I was telling people.
John: Do we need to get into the whole "how did you acquire the nickname Honeyboy?"
SCS: What experience did you have in bands before Honey Stump got together?
Jeff: John and I go back to Grand Island high school days. We were in a
band with the greatest name ever “ Shakin’ Leroy and the Emotion
Commotion”. My first Lincoln band was called Jeff & Me, I was also in
World Record Players.
John: Jeff's nickname was "Little Jeff", what was Brock Beckman's? Ian
McGrobin, Sleepy John, Noodles
Mitch: High school bands, and different recording projects throughout the years.
SCS: How have you grown, musically and creatively, since the band first started?
John: Where do I start? I thought I was just a bluesman, but when I listen to music it is not just blues. In fact it is mostly
alternative. I am learning to sing. I am learning restraint. I am becoming more and more versatile and we are creating something new that isn't easily defined.
Jeff: I have been able to relinquish some of the things I’d always been responsible for to others more qualified. John is a better performer and Mitch is a better musician than me, so in one way it's a load off but on the other hand I have to work that much harder at my part to keep up with them.
Mitch: I've become more experimental. I feel I can suggest anything and these guys will consider it.
SCS: Is there a single songwriter in the band? / Do you come to the band with finished songs, or do you work songs out together??
Jeff: When we started John and Mitch were simply interpreting my songs.
Now the songwriting is much more integrated and there is no telling
where one will come from or wind up. Which is awesome.
SCS: Where do you get inspiration from for your lyrics?
Jeff: The Bible
John: That's true isn't it? Appian Way. What about spending the
majority of high school watching Night Flight on the USA network, Andy
Warhol movies, Eraserhead, Caligula and who can forget Snuff. Bob
Dylan, Tom Waits, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, You can get anything you
want at Alice's Restaurant.
SCS:Do you have a favorite song of yours to play live?
Jeff: The Stump Fiddle Breakdown, that’s the one that Mitch and I both
do percussion on. He plays spoons and I stump the fiddle and John plays
John: Walter's Lament is pretty freakin sweet.
Mitch: Both of those offer the good, the bad, and the ugly of Honey Stump.
SCS: When and where was your first local show, and how did it go?
Jeff: At Duffy’s opening for Steve Owen. We played ok. But Duffy’s
never gets very full when we play there. It hurts our feelings.
John: Duffy's came to the Zoo on our Cd release though and we got a good response at Scenefest
Mitch: We were together for 6 weeks, so with that in mind it went pretty
SCS: What was your most memorable live performance and what made it that?
Jeff: One of our early performances was at the Lincoln Regional Center
lockdown Unit. That was something.
John: The best quote of that night was from Mitch "There were murderers in the audience?"
SCS: You guys have been around the block a few times as far as playing in Lincoln goes. What do you like and dislike about the music scene in Lincoln?
Jeff: : I like the fact that if you really want to play live music, there
is always a place to do it. There are lots of open stages for musicians
to get used to playing in front of people or try out material or
John: Not only the music venues, but the radio stations are super
supportive KZUM especially for us, but KRNU is always playing local
music. By the way will someone please take them a Honey Stump cd. And
lets not forget about Star City Scene of course.
SCS: Have you learned anything in your experiences in a band that you feel newer local bands could learn from, or made any mistakes they should avoid?
Jeff: I consider Honey Stump a relatively new band so I think someone
should give us some advice.
John: Sean Benjamin always told me that we are there to entertain the
audience. We are there for them and that is how I approach the gigs.
SCS: Who are some local bands or musicians that you admire or feel should be recognized?
Jeff: Strawberry Burns is great, as a matter of fact I nominate them
for rock band of the year. Their latest release is excellent.
John: My favorite local musician will always be Mike Keeling. He really made me want to be in a band when I watched him and used to jam with the Leafy Green Things. Sean Benjamin is a true blues musician and is phenomenal. He is as good as it gets. I think Benjamin Kushner is extremely versatile also and his solo cd is great
Mitch: Icarian Bird and Neil McGreevy
SCS: Do you think growing up/living in Lincoln influences your music in any way?
Jeff:I suppose it must, somehow. But not consciously.
John: I was influenced by the Zoo Bar and all the legends that played there. I learned how to perform by watching them
SCS: Do you know exactly what the finished product will be with a release before you even start it, or do you figure things out as you go along?
Jeff: For me it is essential to start any creation with little or no
preconception of the outcome. I feel like if you know exactly what is
going to happen then what is the point in doing it. Exploration is the
only reason I make anything, even if it turns out crappy.
John: Amen brother
SCS: Now that the CD has been out for a while, are there parts you’d like to go back and change?
Jeff: I wouldn't change a thing. It is a perfect representation of
Honey Stump at the time that it was made.
John: There are things I might like to change but I don't know if that would make it better.
SCS: You recorded the CD yourself at home, right?
SCS:You’ve got an interesting atmospheric, swampy, haunted kind of sound what did you record this on, and what type of things did you do to get the sound? Was this recorded mostly live with room mics, or did you add lots of reverb later in the mix?
Jeff: A little bit of both. We didn’t approach every song the same way. Some of the electric guitars were actually done through a POD others were miked. the only kind of mics we used on it were SM57’s and 58’s. It was all recorded and mixed on a Fostex 16 track machine. My secret weapon for recording vocals is an old Ibanez multi effect guitar processor to add just a touch of delay. If it ever broke I would be sad. We had it mastered at Soundvision in Mesa, AZ... it is the first thing that I have ever had professionally mastered, it really made a difference.
SCS: Are there any local producers/engineers you'd like to work with who you think could help to develop your sound even more?
Jeff:We have been talking to Tim from EARS studio about recording some
stuff for us. If we go into a studio where I'm not turning the knobs
the focus will be about doing good takes rather than thinking about
production the whole time. That sounds enjoyable to me.
SCS: Eric Wickizer mentioned that you’ve already got all the material for your next CD done. Any hurry to get that out?
Jeff: We do have a bunch of stuff recorded but at this point we are
just considering them demos. Not that there isn’t some great sounding
stuff. We borrowed a good studio condenser microphone from Jeff Perry,
of the Motherwells, and captured some nice performances. The sound is
crystal clear. We are not sure what to do with them yet.
Mitch: We are concentrating on writing and figuring out what songs go where. In my opinion there is no hurry to get the next one done.
SCS: Going from dynamic mics to Large Diaphram condensers is weird, if you don't know exactly what to expect, the first time I got mine, I had to change when I actually recorded, because it would pick up my neighbors air conditioner, even with my windows closed. So If you could tour with any band in history, who would be your dream band to tour with?
Jeff:How about Judas Priest. That’d be cool.
Mitch: Pink Floyd
SCS: Who was the first person or band you saw that made you want to play music?
Jeff: Kiss. In the early days of HBO they televised a concert, the
blood, the fire, everything. It was unreal. I was about eight or nine.
John: Bruce Springsteen or Prince or something
Mitch: Van Halen
SCS: What was the first album/CD you bought?
Jeff: : Kiss- Destroyer was the first album that I owned but it was a
gift. The first one I bought with my own money was either “Irwin the
Disco Duck” or “Goofy Greats”- it had songs like May the Bird of
Paradise Fly up your Nose and Ahab the Arab.
John: I used to like soundtrack albums Star Wars, Superman, Close
Encounters. I think my first vocal album may have been a KTel
album called Full Tilt with Blondie on it
Mitch: It was either Men at Work "Business as Usual" or Hall and Oates "Private Eyes"
SCS: The most recent?
Jeff:The last cd I purchased was Vic Chesnutt “Left to his own devices”
Mitch: The Gourds "Blood of the Ram"
SCS: Whose music are you listening to right now? -- What other bands would you recommend people check out?
Jeff:Tom Waits new one Real Gone is fantastic. That guy never fails. Ben Weaver I found some good old Glen Campbell and Mills Brothers LP’s at the thrift shop recently.
John: I like Bright Eyes, but who doesn't around here? When the
President Talks to God on Leno was pretty amazing. I listen to our new
material a lot so I can memorize the lyrics. I always try to listen to
the blues so I can keep connected with the heart and soul of music.
My wife, son and I love Dan Zanes and Friends
Mitch: Harry Manx, Richard Buckner
SCS: What are your top records of all time?
Jeff: Damn, that’s too hard, there’s just too many OK, off the top of my head I’ll give these:1. Dire Straits- Dire Straits
2. Bob Dylan- Blood on the Tracks
3. Cowboy Junkies- Trinity Sessions
4. Black Sabbath- Black Sabbath
5. Neil Young- Hawks and Doves
Wait I forgot some...
John: 1. Buddy Guy Junior Wells Smokin' TNT Drinkin' Dynamite
2. Whiskeytown Strangers Almanac
3. Rolling Stones Exile on Mainstreet
4. Beatles White Album
5. Mark Lanegan The Winding Sheet
Ask me tomorrow and I'll come up with 5 more
Mitch:1. Jimi Hendrix Are you Experienced?
2. Led Zeppelin III
3. Morphine Cure for Pain
4. Ben Harper Will to Live
5. The Allman Brothers Band Eat a Peach
SCS: What’s the best gig you've ever seen, local or otherwise?
Jeff: locally it’s a tie, both have been at Duffy’s
Brent Best, from Slobberbone, the last solo show he played, wow!
and Tim Easton backed up by a band called Roosevelt.
Otherwise, Neil Young in Kansas City I think it was the tour right
before he did the Blue Notes thing. First half acoustic, second half
big loud garage band.
John: For local shows it was seeing the Leafy Green Things open for
Charlie Burton in the basement of Theta Chi at Nebraska Wesleyan.
Different shows mean more to you based on that time of your life. As
a teenager I loved seeing The Alarm at the Music Hall in Omaha. This
is a tough question. It is cool to see the band live that you are way
into at that time and what is going on around you. A gig is more than
just the show. It's the venue, the mood, who you are with, how much
you partied before, during and after the show, if you got to meet the
band or not. Having said that here is what swirling through my mind
right now; Screaming Trees at Duffy's, Son Volt during the Trace tour
Granada, Jayhawks during the Tomorrow the Green Grass Tour Bottleneck,
Wilco at Summerfest in Milwaukee, Whiskey Town in a small club in
Middleton Wisconsin. I used to love the Twisters in store appearances
downtown. Seeing the Paladins and Kim Wison with 15 other lucky people
was brilliant. Sorry bout that hrrrrrrrrrrrrr
Mitch: Widespread Panic in 1996 at the Music Hall
SCS: Who do you think is the most underrated artist in the music industry?
Jeff: John “Honeyboy” Turner
Mitch: Harry Manx
SCS: What two bands would you like to see wiped off the face of the earth?
Jeff: That wouldn’t be very nice.
John: I am trying to think of a band or person that makes me mad. I
bet Mitch has a few. Damn cockwaivers
Mitch: There are too many too mention. But I see my disgust for The
Eagles has returned. Another primetime farewell concert (douchebags).
SCS: What can we look forward to in the next year from the band?
Jeff: Mitch is gonna sing more songs.
John:Full frontal stump fiddle
SCS: Anything else you want to share with our readers?
Jeff: Remember, all you need are three chords and a good piece of wood.
- Tery Daly