By Joey Haney
The California Honeydrops sound fantastic. Every member of the Oakland five-piece plays remarkably smoothly; every song seems effortlessly slick and fun. The frontman, Lech Wierzynski, is the most pleasant of all. Wierzynski’s voice is hook, line, and sinker. If anything will pull you into the Honeydrops’ soul-tinged party music, it’s his pristine vocal stylings.
The Honeydrops’ origin story begins with Wierzynski discovering illegal recordings of American soul singers during his childhood in Communist Poland. Thankfully for us, he made his way to the United States, honing his musical skills throughout adolescence and college. The story continues with Wierzynski and drummer Ben Malament performing as a pair of buskers in Oakland BART stations. They’ve since picked up a keyboardist, bassist, and a sax/clarinet player.
The Honeydrops are hard to succinctly summarize. They describe themselves as being influenced by “Bay Area R&B, funk, Southern soul, Delta blues, and New Orleans second-line.” All the Southern blues, Motown funk, and old R&B influences come through, shellacked in an easy Northern California vibe. To see what I mean, search Youtube for the Honeydrops’ cover of “Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You,” then compare it to Wilson Pickett’s original. Pickett’s rough edges are sanded down and replaced with Bay Area good feelings.
Good feelings are what the Honeydrops are selling. Their music is relentlessly upbeat and danceable. Even their seemingly sadder songs (such as the gospel-influenced “Cry For Me”) are clap-along celebrations of optimism that climax in hip-swinging instrumental breakdowns. The tempo does occasionally slow down (for a taste, listen to “Singing Waterfall”), but downbeat songs are rare in the Honeydrops oeuvre (they are called the Honeydrops, after all).
A note to those of you looking to do some Internet research on the band: check out their live recordings. The studio albums showcase Wierzynski’s captivating voice, but leave out the infectious energy the band brings to their live performances. It’s obvious that the Honeydrops prefer the stage to the studio. So, while their albums are available on Spotify, I recommend dipping into the Honeydrops’ YouTube channel for a more enticing sample of what to expect.
Should you go see the California Honeydrops at Lost on Main on December 5? If you’ve ever donated time or money to KZFR, you’ll probably like the Honeydrops. If you want to support some professional, talented musicians who are completely in control of their sound, you should check them out. If you’re looking for some feel-good funk and R&B without the jam-band influence that pervades so much of the Chico scene, then the Honeydrops are most definitely for you.