29 Mar 2023

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Honeybee - EP Review: From An Unreliable Source

15 Sep 2022 // A review by Nicholas Clark
After the success of their first EP Dusty, Honeybee return with a solid and positively shimmering five-track EP written and recorded during the uncertainty of the lockdown period.

This offering contains the same heavily effects laden guitars from Dusty, but there is more energy and perhaps less influence from hip hop. Gone are the keyboards from Pressure or the rap like delivery of Fired Up; now the band seems more rock orientated, albeit of the indie pop variety. The opening track of From An Unreliable Source begins with the lyric “pretty girl you’ll be the death of me, especially when you’re talking like that” sung in the competent melodic flow of vocalist
Kurt Ibalio. It sets the tone for much of the lyrical themes to follow, which seem to be about uncertainty in strange times, but there is a positive energy that dominates this doubt and propels the songs forward.

Harrison Roper, the band’s drummer and producer has balanced the instruments well to make a wall of chorus and reverb drenched guitars sound percussive in some songs, like keyboard stabs in others or rolling incandescent clouds of warm overdriven fuzz. Amid the bass parts, played by Liam Richardson, and the occasionally complicated lead lines from Jason Crombach, Ibalio sings as clearly and tunefully as a pop artist. One instrument doesn’t really fall back to create a simplistic form for others to showcase on top of; rather all five instruments (including Ibalio’s voice and his rhythm parts) seem to weave effortlessly around one another to form a unique and convoluted sound. Occasionally the guitars disappear to reveal a complicated drum beat and vocals that exist equally nicely on their own for a moment like a hip hop song.

Influences heard in their sound range from relatively new alternative bands such as The 1975, Foster the People and Bloc Party, but there are guitar parts and vocal melodies that could be mistaken for The Stone Roses, The Smiths or even Duran Duran.

Although the band could be described as rock, it is mainly through their instruments that this description fits and not in the way they play them or how their songs are constructed. There are no grandiose guitar solos or screamed vocals, indeed there is but one example of distortion being used on Oh No! but before the audience can really appreciate the unexpected viciousness of the tone, the song melts into the EP’s most tender verse. A shrill digital noise wakes us up from the hypnotic moment, and the distortion returns while Ibalio tell us, or perhaps himself, to ‘hold on!’.

Not to say there is little excitement without the presence of loud overdriven guitars, far from it. Every track offers a range of sounds and the emotional quality of the singing coupled with the speed of delivery makes for an engaging listen throughout.

When the band stops suddenly during some songs, the listener can hear the denseness of the effects that continue on afterwards. Quickly you realize the competent drumming patterns keep the complicated instrumentation together, and it is the high hat that is pushed forward (not unlike modern trap music), rather than the snare.

Take Back includes the refrain “Please let me take that”, a clever contradiction relating to desire. Perhaps the lyric is also the precariousness of emotion and permission during the uncertainty the songs all hint at, and indeed the ‘unreliable source’ the title of the EP uses.

Keyring starts with a vocal line instead, only for a blossoming sound of intricate guitar lines and quick fills to take centre-stage, before a funky verse settles us back into familiar territory of spacey reverb and smooth balanced production.

Between bouts of the catchy refrain of “feel this keyring”, Ibalio hints again at a contradiction when he sings “no need to be violent, unless you lie”, as if the whole band or he himself is holding back a power they are merely playing with at a low level. It certainly feels like that considering how complex some fleeting drum patterns and guitar parts are. They certainly could play faster and more aggressively, but here they have found the sweet spot where the music bounces and oscillates at the threshold of the genres of rock and pop.

The last track While We Were Kissing is quirky, upbeat and playful. The Smiths influence is hard not to ignore on this song, but that’s not a bad thing. The band has covered a lot of territory in the four previous tracks leading up to the finale.

There is a solid style throughout the tracks, although there is just enough variety to keep some surprises such as a splash of effects, a jolt of force or an offbeat lyric to keep the listener attentive while nodding along to the infectious melodies. The band is adept at knowing when to have some instruments suddenly drop out too, and this might also be homage to their hip hop influences.

They jokingly refer to themselves as the ‘biggest band in East Auckland’; they might be right to call themselves just that, if not more than just the Eastern suburbs if they continue to produce such sweet and lean alternative rock pop.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )

About Honeybee

Having independently built a robust musical foundation through their self-produced debut EP Dusty, Honeybee are ready to unleash their refreshing take on a familiar sound after spending lockdowns busily writing and recording new material. From An Unreliable Source brings a rougher yet matured sound, blending elements of shoegaze and alternative rock with their indie-pop background.

With poignant lyrical content contemplating how to manage relationships with people whilst dealing with depression, Vocalist Kurt Ibalio is sure to connect with listeners on a deep emotional level. Featuring production from Angus Grainger (Two Waters Studios) and Drummer Harrison Roper, with mastering by KOG's Chris Shetland, the EP provides a track for every fan, with Honeybee’s signature melodic hooks being complemented by their smooth and varied production styles.

Reminiscent of artists such as Spacey Jane, Last Dinosaurs, Mild Orange, and The 1975, Honeybee’s unique sound has landed them on Spotify’s New Music Friday & Indie Shuffle playlists, garnered over 250,000+ streams, and earned them a devoted fanbase.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Honeybee


From An Unreliable Source
Year: 2022
Type: EP
Year: 2019
Type: EP

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