Currently touring the UK with emotive brethren Amber Run, London-living Stereo Honey are deep into a two-plus week span of live shows, utilising this time to unveil a host of new music as well as air beloved favourites, these dates symbolise the band’s first shows of 2019. The four-piece has been rolling under the radar for the best part of a year, working out the inner mechanics of their debut album: writing, demoing and recording material that’s in the process of completion, they recently laid down a partial chunk of the record in Wales, at the iconic Rockfield Studios.
Stereo Honey’s sound is sprawling and lush, capturing the introspective and the epic; each song, swathed in sentiment and soul, is intricately weaved; each member plays for the whole and incorporates their individual prowess into the pot. Lyrics play an integral part, weaving narrative-based human stories and personal contemplation of the confessional kind around themes of masculinity and self-acceptance, tragedy and liberation, anxiety and depression in an easy to consume format—but always with powerful overtones.
The live show threads an exquisite, engrossing energy—a concoction of woozy, soaring voice brilliantly teamed with fragrant musicianship. Catching up with the band pre-show, ahead of the tour’s debut in Manchester, we were met by a very candid and enthusiastic, Pete Restrick. Ruminating on various elements of the band’s upcoming work, future touring, the recent Rockfield sessions, and Pete’s own mental health and bravery in overcoming his demons. The conversation moves from light chit-chat to deep, introspective discussion. An open dialogue like this, is a very rare experience—we can’t thank Pete enough for his honesty and willingness to share.
Almost a year has passed since you last played Manchester (or even stepped on a stage). How have the last twelve months felt from your perspective? Did that time impact you in a way you couldn’t have foreseen?
Pete Restrick: “We spent a lot of time writing—cocooning—as it were. You know, we knew we had an album to write, finalising a record deal and a publishing deal… and so, I guess, that may be a bit isolating at times personally. Like, I feel we got so used to being on the road… touring, writing, and then to lose one of those elements, it feels weird, you know. But definitely, I feel like… I got very personal with my lyrics. I started talking about stuff about myself that I wasn’t very comfortable talking about, and it was definitely therapeutic, just to be able to even say some of the stuff… you know, I’m talking about my mental health. There’s loads of lyrics dealing with mental health issues on there that were just quite excruciating to write about at times, but it feels really good to have put those words on a page and turn ‘em into something beautiful that people can dance to, you know what I mean?”
Well, that’s another thing actually that I was going to talk about. Your lyrics. The way you write your lyrics is so interesting, the perspective you take, especially in songs like ‘Angel,’ or ‘The Bay,’ because it’s from a perspective outside of your own world, and writing in a very visual but specific way. Where do you think this comes from? Do you find this method easier than writing autobiographically?
PR: “I don’t know. I mean, there’s definitely been a shift in terms of the way that I’ve been writing, for sure. The first EP was much more conceptual, and honestly, I’d have to say it came from a place of uncomfortability with actually talking about myself, it was easier to write a story about someone else, or talk about something else, than it was to divulge my own feelings. And so, it came naturally probably out of repression, I think, to write in this kind of narrative-ised conceptual way. And now, I would say, I’m much more confident with approaching my lyrics as “How do I feel? What do I want to say? Like, what’s upsetting me? What am I struggling with?” And so that’s definitely been a breakthrough.
“The lads have been so encouraging, pushing me and saying, you know, “dig deep,” and just, find that lyrical honesty. Not to say that there wasn’t authenticity in the lyrics that we had written before, but certainly it feels like a shift in terms of what I’m talking about. I feel like I’m talking about myself a lot more.”
[The conversation at this point diverts and goes a little off-topic discussing Lord Huron and Toothless, and how these artists write in a very conceptualised manner as a way to approach songwriting, which sparks this line of thought:]
PR: “I feel like, lyrics are hard. Do you know what I mean? I’ve had so many conversations with mates and they’re just like: “How do you even write a song?” And I’m like, “I don’t really know! Like, I’ve no idea.” ‘Cos obviously, you know, I’m not really responsible as much for the sonic elements in the band, Nicky’s very much… that’s his forte. He’ll make the song just sound incredible and then I’m like, “Well, what can I offer here?” and I felt, like, [in] the year we spent out, I really started asking that question about myself, being like, “Okay, well, maybe I can just talk about my life a little bit,” and it definitely feels very freeing.”
Well, the band’s socials had been fairly quiet during the album-making process. Was it a good decision to cut out almost all social media?
PR: “We didn’t cut it out entirely.”
Charlotte, BSS: “I mean, you have been very active on Instagram.”
PR: “Yeah. I feel like, social media makes most people feel ill and I feel that is an un-ignorable fact. You know, the lives that people are living online are not what they’re living in real life, and there’s a lot of evidence in people becoming quite unhappy by using social media. We’ve always kept, I’d say, a bit of a distance to it, just for our own comfortability. But I wouldn’t say we’re a fluent, confident social media band. We obviously understand that it’s so important, but I think, I don’t know… there’s a way of engaging with it that is really cool, like I love the way Lizzo does her Instagram and it’s all about her body image, it’s all about self-empowerment and also like, having really honest conversations about mental health…”
Charlotte, BSS: “Jameela Jamil is another good one too.”
PR: “Yeah, yeah, exactly. I feel like you can slate it but there’s also an aspect of it that’s really… people can find their tribes on social media and people can find a platform to say what they wanna say, as well. So, I don’t ever think we’d ever ignore it entirely but it’s sort of, like, yeah, learning how to use it to suit yourself and what you wanna say.”
It’s good to find balance; while clearly you’ve been very busy behind the scenes, the rhythm of touring and launching an album campaign is very different. Are you eager for the change of pace it will bring?
PR: “Totally. Yeah, I think we’ve all been buzzing to get back out on the road. One of the key emotions of the last year [has been] restlessness. I mean, definitely got really involved in writing and very in that world, but, you know, after a while we were just itching to play so we’re absolutely buzzing for tonight.”
How do you keep yourself healthy in mind, body and soul when you’re on the road for prolonged periods of time?
PR: [Pete immediately laughs into his answer] “Well, it’s really hard cos if you think about it, you sort of finish a show and then you pack down, and leave, and then you drive to the next city, you drive to the hotel, the only thing open really is Burger King. So it’s really, really hard to keep healthy but… M&S Food is always a good one. I mean… that’s probably it, to be honest with you. There’s not very many options, I wish there were more, that’d be great.”
So, how far along into the process did ‘You Are A Monster’ arrive?
PR: “So that was a song we wrote last year, and that was the start of this very self-reflective, kind of “Okay well, how do I wanna approach the lyric writing.” It’s symbolic of the direction, lyrically, I guess. It was an excruciatingly hard song to write… I feel like in many ways a lot of the lyrics that I’ve been writing for this next bunch of tracks, this album, they’re almost like little love letters to myself and not all of them are nice.”
Charlotte, BSS: “Well, you’ve got to face the good and the bad.”
PR: “Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. I feel like [after] looking on Instagram early this morning, when the song came out, and seeing how much people were responding to it and vibing off it, it was really rewarding because it was like, “Ah, I’m really glad I got that off my chest (you know, like, lyrically), and the song sounds great. People are enjoying it.”
“It’s a nice reward.”
Charlotte, BSS: “It’s a beautiful song.”
PR: “Thank you.”
The Rockfield studio sessions looked like a pretty special time… Have you finished the album now?
PR: “Got a bit more to do. Yeah.
“So, we did a week in Wales, in Rockfield—we’ve never been to a residential studio before, we’ve always just recorded in places in London, so you’re going home at the end of the day. It was pretty special. Also, completely back breaking. We were up till, like, three/four in the morning some nights, just ploughing away. Our producer Dave [Eringa] just worked so hard, he was first up in the morning, last to bed. It was just a constant… we were walking around like zombies. But magical. Wales is just beautiful. Enough said.”
I like to think there’s a bigger guitar sound on ‘You Are A Monster,’ paralleling bands like Yonaka or The Amazons, maybe—
The music works hand in hand with the lyrics and the feeling of the song (the drums and bass sound like they’re baring down, closing in, creating a claustrophobic space, then the breaks of sparse electronics link to the solace the lyrics speak of, well the search for it anyway). Do you see the music as a vessel to strength a song’s lyrical message?
PR: “The lyrics always come afterwards, actually.”
Charlotte, BSS: “Okay, that’s interesting.”
PR: “I feel, for me, personally I respond to the music, the music gives me a mood to put words on a page, and sometimes, you know, we spend a long time developing the sound of a song before I’ll even approach the lyrics.
[Pete in response to my point about a bigger guitar sound:] “That’s very much Nicky’s field, it ain’t mine. It’s not something I’d be as confident talking about. He’s definitely cracked out more of the distortion pedal.
“Yeah, I’d say the songs sound heavier—some of them anyway. One of my favourite things about this band is the eclecticism, we’re all into really different stuff, and then we’ve got shared bands that we love and shared sounds that we love. But, I like to think that eclecticism comes out in the music. So, you know, we’ve got songs that sound big and heavy, and we’ve got songs that sound really bouncy and poppy, and then we’ve got these weird, not-quite-sure-what-they-are kind of songs. Yeah, I don’t want that to ever change.”
Looking ahead to tonight’s show, how many new tracks are we hearing?
PR: “Well, I reckon, we’ll probably pop out one or two. We’ll obviously play the new single tonight, and then maybe… one other.”
Obviously a full Stereo Honey headline tour will be announced at some point in the future, do you have significant plans for the stage show, how it’s going to look etc.?
“I dunno. [Pete laughs.] I feel like we set ourselves a precedent with the first two, we all love lighting and stage design—and the video that we’ve just done for ‘You Are A Monster’ was actually Dan Crowther, who we’ve been working [with] pretty much since the beginning of the band, he was helping out on that video. So I feel like there’s a coherency between the stage show and then also visually with what we’re trying to do for that video, hopefully a continuation of that. We might have to put a couple of epilepsy warnings at the beginning—
Charlotte, BSS: “I thought it was great that you did that because some artists, just don’t.” [In relation to the strobe warning notification slide before the music video for ‘You Are A Monster’ opens.]
PR: “Ah yeah. Well, when we were sat in the room [discussing the video concept]… Nicky was like, “Well, I’ve got friends with epilepsy.”—
Charlotte, BSS: “I always think about it when I’m watching a video, how is this going to affect a person that has epilepsy. It’s an aspect that must be considered.”
PR: “No absolutely. It was just something… we had to do it right.”
You seem to have a lot of musician friends in the industry, I imagine those bonds can be essential.
PR: “Oh yeah.”
Fellow peers who can relate, share in the experience and spur each other on. Is there a sense of comradery to the industry, outside of the business element?
PR: “I think it’s just… you meet so many lovely people in music and you meet some not-so-lovely people—and music’s really hard, it’s really taxing on your mental health, it’s really hard financially. And I feel like, when you meet other like-minded people in music you just cling onto them… and you’re all just striving to do the same thing: write songs that mean something, make a career out of it. It’s easier to bond, I think, with other musicians because your heart’s already in the same place, do you know what I mean?”
Last October you posted a tweet with the caption: “Casually in the studio with @rhodesmusic.” Will we ever hear that song or music?
PR: “Ahh. You’ll have to find out.”
Charlotte, BSS: “Secrets.”
[In the room at this time we also have Nicky and Ben. Hearing the topic of conversation, other voices contribute filling the air with a reverberation of the word “secrets.”]
Charlotte, BSS: “Cool, well, I’ll look out for it.”
Finally, let’s bring it back to the present. Now you’re officially back on the scene, what’s the plan for the months/year ahead?
PR: “So, we are planning to release an album next year… we’re not quite sure when yet but it will be some point next year. We’ll release that, then tour it, and then hopefully continue making music. Yeah, can’t wait to arrange a headline tour. That’s gonna be great. Just really hone something special. It’s gonna be fab.”
Stereo Honey’s new single ‘You Are A Monster’ is out now on LAB records – available to Stream/Purchase here.