Even on Memorial Day weekend, when half the city seemed to be out of town, Gramercy Theatre drew a boisterous crowd to see Honor Among Thieves supporting Ten Ton Mojo. The scene was something out of a different New York era, with denim, leather, and tattoos more than well-represented, dudes throwing devil horns, and a whole lot of yelling. Honor Among Thieves has a decidedly old-school sound, straight-ahead rock and roll, what could be called pre-grunge or post-grunge and particularly appealed to the ’80s metalheads in the crowd. If the “Brooklyn Sound”—wall-of-reverb, loud-QUIET-loud, introspective grunginess—has become so ubiquitous in the past few years as to become the landscape, a band with the balls to un-ironically throw up a slamming cover of a Stone Temple Pilots song stands out.
The band’s lineup features Eric Zee on guitar, clearly a fan of Ronnie Wood; new bassist David Alva on the Ernie Ball; Dave Brooks on the drums and also playing laughable scene partner to Maurice Johnson’s frontman antics, which included a crowd poll to determine the name of a new song. The result: “Looks like it’s ‘Cocaine and White Girls.’” Maurice Johnson has a deep connection to Williamsburg, having lived here since the ’90s, once living in a storefront on Hooper and South 1st —the rent of which I simply won’t repeat because it’s just too upsetting.
If Johnson looks familiar, he should: he currently bartends at George & Jack’s and at Rocka Rolla, and he spent a lot of time on the taps at the crotch-rock-and-PBR mecca, Trash Bar, among other favorite haunts of the previous incarnation of the neighborhood. We caught up with him before Saturday’s upcoming gig at Arlene’s Grocery to talk shop.
Arlene’s is a very fun place to play in and I do miss The Trash Bar, Glasslands, Grand Victory, and Death by Audio and it’s sad that aren’t more places to see shows, but venues closing hasn’t affected our band getting booked. We honestly have to turn down a lot of shows.
Aside from playing the show and practicing it’s probably the most important thing. Tommy has been one of the most supportive when it comes to booking Honor Among Thieves shows and the band is also friends with Ten Ton Mojo. The show at Gramercy got put together because of those friendships. I think what makes us stand out, is that we are not trying to stand out or fit in. We aren’t trying to be similar of different to any other New York bands. We are just having a kick ass time writing songs that we have fun playing.
I have been in band since 2009. The founding members of the current line up of the band are Dave Brooks (drums) and Eric Zee (guitar). Founding bassist Sebastian Correa left because of a job that pulled him out of New York. The tough part about his leaving was finding a bassist who fit in with us and had time to do it himself. Luckily we got David Alva and have been playing with him for the last year. We are still having a blast, each show is getting funner than the next. We have a bunch of new songs waiting to get recorded. And a few other tricks up our sleeves that we have to keep secret for a bit…
The theory goes that it’s better to have a band with nine members than three, so that you have a broader base to get people out to shows. You’ve been a bartender for some time—does it help get people out to shows? Or do flaky New Yorkers show their support?
I think New Yorkers are more picky than flaky. There are a thousands things to do a night in this town. So what we do to get people to come to our shows is put on the best damn show every time we play. And we play with other bands that are doing the same. Let the audience do the talking for us after the show. They tell their friends and then we have more people at our next gig.
I don’t know if it’s a rich thing or not, but I do feel like New York has gotten staler than it used to be. A lot of the people that have moved here in recent years seem like they would rather be associated with an artist or trend that already has a ton of traction then going to a club or venue and discovering something awesome for themselves. New York needs its sense of adventure back and that’s what Honor Among Thieves intends to give it.