HONEYHONEY, a jazzy-folk band with a name that prefers to be shouted at you, is comprised of the talented duo, Ben Jaffe and Suzanne Santo. Full of energy and musical passion, the two consider their relationship one of self-proclaimed ‘soul-bros’ (as opposed to soul-mates), destined to be together in musical partnership. Regarded with a talent that is matched only by their hilarity, I had the absolute pleasure of discussing their upcoming performance at Eddie’s Attic with them and in turn, learn about their first-time meeting (at a Halloween party), the origin of their fantastic band name, and why they are each other’s “Angel of Rock”.
JS: What got you both interested in music and creating a group together?
S: I used to play music for fun-
B: Not anymore!
S: [Laughs] And I was like, “this is just a little hobby or craft,” you know? The late night booze and jammin’… Then I met Ben and we starting writing songs and playing shows together and it became a little more clear, at that time, it was more than just fun.
B: You were doing it more seriously before.
S: Yeah, a little bit, a little bit.
B: I had to sign a contract!
S:[Laughs] Well, yeah! I was just starting to play music when I was 19 or so and didn’t really know what I was doing; then, I met Ben and I was like “Okay, this is the Angel of Rock I’ve been waiting for.”
S: He graced my life with his presence. We just kinda built it together; it started… we’ve been through the fucking ringer many times and keep coming back out and playing more music and being best buds.
JS: Was it the same for you, Ben, as well? Did you get started late like that, after meeting your ‘Angel of Rock’? [laughs]
B: Yes, she is my angel of rock too! She is more like a dancing rock fairy that flitted around my head for a little while and I kept trying to capture-
B: You know, and like put in a cage and it would be my fairy. But then I realized at this point that’s futile and I shouldn’t do that, I should just let her flit around my head and just be grateful as long as she follows me. So that’s kinda the more metatypical view of it.
Musically, I just always played! I’ve always been obsessed with music and I was just, in my early teen years, lucky enough to play with local professional musicians who let me play with them and I started to view it like pretty early on as something that was a legitimate job. So since then I’ve had one job that wasn’t musical but besides that… this is what I do.
JS: So It just kinda fell into place for you both. I read that you met at party. Is that correct?
B: We did, we met at a Halloween party! But, we met because of our friend, Todd, who’s a recording engineer. He’s someone we were both working with and he just smushed us together and it worked out and it still does continue to present us with opportunities.
Some of them have a heavy cost involved too but we keep taking them and it’s good to see it grow but in no way did it… I don’t know maybe it did just fall into place. There was plenty of confusion about where to put the pieces for a long while.
S: I’ve had many psychics tell me that Ben and I have a ‘soul contract’. [makes ghostly sounds]
JS: [Laughs] What is a soul contract, I have to ask?
S: So the spirit people talk about reincarnation.
B: Explain ‘spirit people’.
S: Oh uh… Mediums and shamuns.
S. When you reincarnate you come back with a purpose and a mission and you make agreements with certain other souls to, you know, meet in this lifetime whether it is on a platonic or romantic or professional level. I don’t if you’ve ever met other people in your life and you’re like “oh, there you are.”
JS: Yeah! It’s like you’re supposed to meet each other… I know exactly what you mean!
S: Yeah, absolutely! That’s what it is.
JS: You guys are… soul contracted? I don’t know what the word for that is, I don’t want to say soulmates…
S: We’re soul bros. [Laughs]
JS: [Laughs] That’s great, I’m going to use that in the future.
JS: So, how did you guys come up with HONEYHONEY?
S: We just love the stuff, you know? The nectar of our planet in a way. We were also being forced to change our band name when we were like 22 by our record company and we were just throwing names into a hat.
B: We wilted immediately.
S: [Agrees] We were like ‘yeah, okay, we’ll change it’.
S: So… HONEYHONEY came out of that desperation.
B: Yeah, the desperation of trying to find a fucking band name.
S: [laughs]But, we love it! What’s really cool is on our rider for shows, we ask for local honey, so we have so much amazing honey from our last tour from all over the country! Texas honey, Tennessee honey, Carolina- it’s always different because of the different pollinated plants. It’s pretty cool and I fucking love honey I put it on a lot of food. We’re pretty much stocked for life.
JS: It’s really cool that you guys get honey from all over the country, though-
S: We should’ve called ourselves MoneyMoney. [laughs]
B: We should have! It’s really just a misspelling.
JS: I mean, we go through hundreds of artists’ names and the way yours is just really stands out. I’m not the only person here who’s been wondering where it came from.
B: That’s so funny! We now try to make sure it’s in all capital letters so it’s like being shouted at you.
S: It looks good on a festival poster.
JS: I could see that! It’s something about the repetitive word it just sticks in your head. I like it a lot.
B: Yeah! We got hilariously busted. We’re playing at the Third and Lindsay in Nashville and there’s a band playing the night before who’s name is RepeatRepeat! They’re RepeatRepeat and we’re HONEYHONEY: the real schmoes with the repeating name. [laughs]
JS: So, Ben you used to write music for television and Suzanne, you were an actress for awhile before you guys got started, is that right? How did you decide to move to music and when your music came back to show business was it like it came full circle?
S: Well, at least in terms of acting I was really involved I had a great agent and I was working for a little while so it was kinda something that was very tangible and I thought with my life’s path. I always played music I always sang. When I was younger I played violin when I was 11. In terms of it coming full circle it kind of took over and my priorities shifted. So it’s a little bit without any regret. There was definitely a void of the acting stuff just kinda falling off but I’ll always want to be involved in it again if I can be and it makes sense to what I’m doing with the band and it’s stuff.
They’re two very different businesses so it was really fulfilling to start being a writer as well and to have control over our material whereas when you’re acting you’re not writing your own scripts, you’re always at the mercy of someone else’s ideas in a way that is very collaborative. Music’s a-whole-nother animal and… I feel pretty lucky to be able to do it for a living that’s for damn sure.
JS: Yeah! I mean, I don’t know much about acting, to be honest with you, but it seems like there’d be more of a personal passion behind writing your own songs?
B: It depends on how people approach it, but there’s definitely a little bit more realistic independence you can get, from music, even as a business person. Acting especially in LA is so regulated. There are unions and guilds and regulations and music is just like, no matter how people try and make it like that it never will be. It’s been an interesting thing to transition from this being like Sue being an actress and me just being like a derrrp kid. Music at this point… we have built our own business. It is a real small business and that’s been fun and really rewarding.
JS: To break the down the business versus creative side of it, do you guys think you equally create the songs and equally do the business or is it equally distributed?
B: Well there’s so many aspects to each of those things. I think probably what the band is founded on is that we both have to agree on whatever it is, whether it’s business or creative and we’re both super medal-ly people who want to know everything that’s happening.
So, it ends up being a pretty pure collaboration, I think. As far as songwriting, we each write songs on our own and we bring them in or we’ll collaborate on an idea and finish them. It’s always shifting. With the business stuff, I probably think about business and numbers and strategy more but Sue is way more protective about things which kinda makes our partnership, really… you know, she catches things that I don’t pay attention to I don’t think about that are real concerns. It kinda works together pretty well.
JS: It seems like you guys balance each other out really well. I do a fair amount of interviews and you guys have a really good dynamic, you seem to play off of each other really, exceptionally well. Do you think that’s just developed from years of being friends and touring together?
S: We’ve been working on this shctick for a long time!
B: [Laughs] This shctick wouldn’t have been worked on if it wasn’t there, initially. You know what I mean? If we didn’t have some sort of… we have a fuckin’ super volatile chemistry.
S: But the grounds were fertile for fun times and comedy, that’s for sure. Since the beginning. We like to have a good time… but we also fight a lot. [laughs]
B: We get along!
S: We don’t.
B: You’re right, we don’t. [laughs]
B: It’s important! I think that’s like any band, unless you’re having some sort of other worldly success, you can’t really do this unless there’s a serious connection with who you’re doing it with! I think that’s why bands are… bands. I think that’s why people respond to them. Because there HAS to be [a connection]. There has to be some kind of emotional chemistry. Are you feelin’ that right now, all three of us! [laughs]
JS: [laughs]You guys crack me up.
JS: I was reading about your benefit concerts in Massachusetts, that you guys were trying to do a show to benefit local music programs. What lead you guys to that idea and is it something you’ll be doing in the future?
B: Yeah, I’m embarrassed of that right now, because that was so long ago, now, and it’s something that’s so important to us. It’s something I want to focus on more. It’s funny though, because it’s something that’s benefitted so much by focusing on music, that the more connective or widespread your music is, the easier all those things are. But, at the same time, if you’re just waiting for some perfect moment, it could not happen at all.
Education is the more fundamental thing we could do to impact any change. So, when it comes to figuring out something we could do to make an impact, that was it.
JS: I just thought it was really great, especially because the arts are so underfunded. You guys focusing on giving back while focusing on music, when music, itself is tough as a career-
B: That’s the thing about it, too, when musicians are more integrated with their communities, there’s more of a motive to it. The more support they get too; it definitely feeds both sides.
JS: So, you guys haven’t been to Eddie’s before.
B: We’ve never played Eddie’s!! We’re really excited, we’ve been talking about Eddie’s Attic for years.
JS: We’re really excited for it! Your shows are doing very well.
S: You know, we’re doing that show as a duo and not as a full band. Do you think that will go over well, doing a show acoustically?
JS: Oh, yeah, absolutely! Artists use our room as an acoustic room all the time. We have a lot fo unplugged shows here because of the great acoustic setting. You guys will be great.
JS: From an audience standpoint, what can we expect from the upcoming shows on April 4th and 5th? Will it be a focus on your new CD or some of your old stuff? Maybe a mixture?
S: It’ll be a nice little cocktail of old and new. We haven’t played a duo show in a while, but they’re SO fun. They’re very intimate and interactive and we can hear each other so well, we play differently.
B: [high pitched voice]It’s a little playful.
S: It’s a little playful! [laughs]
JS: How did your newest CD release, 3, differ from your previous releases?
B: Well, it’s funny, we’ve never been super intentional with our records. We’ve just allowed the circumstances to dictate and for that record, that was our 3rd time doing sessions over four years. So, it took us a long time. As a result, we’re both proud of that record, but sometimes I can hear in it that we wanted to finish it and we wanted to move on. So, as proud as I am, that was a record that we were more focused on accomplishing than really flowing through it, you know what I mean? Which is how I feel like great records are made. It’s not as tone-ally various as we are, as a band.
JS: Are you guys planning on putting out another record any time soon?
B: Well, we just got back to LA, yesterday. Sue’s been working on this guy, Butch Walker’s record. We were on what feels like the end of a touring season… we’ve been in LA two weeks in the last 6 months. We have some time off and we’re gonna start writing and see what happens.
We’re gonna be home for basically May and then touring through June and July. We’ve been touring since… I don’t know how many shows. We’ve been playing a fuckload of shows.
JS: So then what is next for HONEYHONEY?
B: I thinkw e’re just going to be writing like… like cray cray. There’s some scoring stuff I want to get back in to. We also met these really great education activists along the way and we were considering starting a new label; we were trying to figure out how to integrate this side of it, too.