Pat Philips, the lead singer of the band Honduras, might be hungover. He’s drinking a lot of water. Philips, Tyson Moore, lead guitar, and Josh Wehle, drums, are relaxing in the front of Radio Bushwick — without alcoholic drinks — before the gig celebrating the release of their EP Morality Cuts, on Black Bell Records. The bass player, Paul Lizarraga, is off somewhere taking a nap.
The venue itself is nice and clean. A small, curved front bar leads into the hall in the back, with high ceilings that provide a bouncy, flattering tone. Honduras have just finished their sound check, whisking through a set preview of the kind of punk rock bred on major chords and Green Day, with a smattering of The Strokes or Blur. (You may recall they went as Green Day for Halloween.) All in skinny jeans, they sounded tight, ready for their upcoming foray into a sprawling list of gigs at SXSW.
Radio Bushwick is reminiscent of the old Knitting Factory in Manhattan. Nicer, certainly, than even the old Brownies in Manhattan (not to mention the old after-hours venue of the same name). Bushwick is growing up, fast.
“Well, that’s just life,” Philips says, dismissing the fact that he’ll never get to play the legendary shithole CBGBs. “It’s what happens.”
Stream tracks off of Mortality Cuts
Tyson Moore adds, “We’re trying to play the modern CBGBs. The CBGBs of our day.” Tyson has an intense look about him. He’s quiet but his few words are pointed. Philips is more talkative and loose, the nicest guy you ever met with a neck tattoo. “Big Snow Buffalo Lodge — that was probably my favorite,” Philips says. “Everybody’s smokin’ weed in the basement, weird art up on the walls. People literally would walk next to you to get a beer while you’re playing. It was a special environment, that place.” Moore tells an abbreviated version of why the venue shut down.
Wehle pipes up, cheerful, “But it felt like a secret clubhouse.”
Moore and Philips have known each other since elementary school in Columbia, Missouri, a bond that might make it easier for the band to achieve longevity. “We’ve been in close quarters for a long time,” Philips says. “It’s almost like a brother relationship.” Shrugging, Moore adds, definitively, “We just get each other really well.”
Despite the name of the band, none of the members have ever been to Honduras, although they now have Hondurans hitting them up. “I didn’t really anticipate how it was gonna turn out,” Moore says. “But it’s been really positive,” says Philips. “Because they say in the press it’s just like murders and violence down there.” Commenters on Youtube, Wehle adds, “say, like, ‘You’re doing a great thing for our country.’ It’s weird having the association.”
There’s chatter on the internet about how Philips sings like a Mancusian. “I just really dig that late ’70s British punk,” he says, not defensively. “It’s just a phase, though — it’s not like I’m trying to sing with a British accent or something. I just dig Swell Maps, Sex Pistols, that sound.” Bands that were not from Manchester. “And I love the CBGBs stuff, too, but particularly the British punk. It’s good for my ears.”
Philips adds, “But I’m definitely super influenced by Please Kill Me, and Richard Hell. I’ve read Please Kill Me like three times. That particular time, that grittiness and sound and energy… we’re definitely inspired by that scene.” And yet, Moore says, “Our music has a mainstream appeal, the way we approach songwriting.”
“We’re trying to write popular songs,” says Philips, and Moore finishes his thought, “We’re not gonna lie about that, we want to be a big band. So we’re trying to write good songs.”
Despite the EP release, Moore says that he “Feels like it’s really old. Those songs were written over a year and half ago. We’re anxious to do a full length.”
“I’m really lookin’ forward to that sunshine,” Philips says, about their upcoming trip to Austin, and then dismisses concerns that it might not be warm down there. “We’ve been hustling the last three months, music videos and everything,” Wehle says, “and it’ll be nice to have time just to kind of enjoy ourselves. Just to play some shows away from Brooklyn. Just play the shit out of that city.”
Philips adds, “I also don’t know where we’re staying, so that’s a little… cause for anxiety.”
Honduras plays the Banners/Wild Honey Pie Showcase on March 12, the Black Bell/Sailor Jerry Showcase on March 13, and an Acoustic Session with other Black Bell bands on March 14.
Bradley Spinelli (@13_Spinelli) is the author of Killing Williamsburg.