Interview with Carol Pacey and the Honey Shakers
Recently during a recent practice jam session a few local scene musicians were discussing with me their local music scene. It seemed to them and others they played with- the energy that was held during the 90’s had been missing, but they felt it was stirring again. All agreed it would be up to the heart of the local music scene to create this excitement, and the time was right. So with this in mind, I ran across a local band in the Phoenix Metro area that personifies this drive, but to kick it up another notch higher and state their own unique ‘buzz’ to livin, lovin… and believe it or not… its fronted by a woman!
Today is the kicker, to be able to chat with Carol Pacey and the Honey Shakers. Carol is the front woman for the band and if honey is sweet- then its consistency is also a victorious Americana blitz of kick butt formulation, as Carol Pacey and the Honey Shakers give a raucous glow to the alt-country, folk, rock n roll mix.
Let’s begin our confabulation with front woman Carol Pacey.
Song River: East coast girl goes on a journey and lands in the western dry tumbleweeds a blowing desert floor- what were you searching for when you came out west?
Carol Pacey : I usually say that I ended up in Arizona because I was chasing a man, which is true, but I was also looking for adventure, and as it turned out, I caught that man and every day since has definitely been an adventure!
Song: Did your visit first, or was it love at first sight with the, ‘hasta manana’ and the easy going scene of the southwest, better yet what were in the influences?
Carol: Yes, it was love at first sight! I fell in love with the wide-open spaces of the desert and the daily dosing of sunshine.
Song: I know many are transplants to the warmer/drier climates, and for some reason we all came to stay. Whether it was for the food, the ambiance… what were your reasons?
Carol: It’s just good here and I have never thought about leaving. My husband’s family and the beaches we love are in Sonora, Mexico so we can visit both relatively easily without a lot of travel time, win-win.
Song: Your bio stresses two things: returning to the roots of local music and that it should bring your audience to that all important connection of, “Music fans quickly pick up on our choruses and rhythms, and then sing and dance right along with us, which for a songwriter is a huge accomplishment and part of my goal in this grand musical adventure!” And, that you are the front singer… female! With this said, it certainly comes across as being your key element to music in general 1) music has to connect. 2) women can do this very well. When you begin to write, are you bringing these two elements to mind and weaving them from the onset of the process?
Carol: When I first arrived in Tempe. Arizona in 1997, it was at the tail end of what seemed like quite an incredible local music love fest. In fact, when I drove into town on the first day, The Refreshment’s, “Girly,” played on my car radio. I picked up their album, Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy right away and that was it, I was a lifer fan! We saw them at Nita’s Hideaway and a few other events around town, but then they were gone. Like I said, I missed most of the good times, but it sounded fantastic and seeing how (we) fans love to sing and dance along to this music even now after twenty years, whether it’s played live by the them, cover bands or on the radio, I knew I wanted to create something like that too if I could.
When I write a song, the subject matter has to mean something to me first in order to write about it; I’m not very good at writing about subjects that aren’t real in some way. Then I try to construct the song in a way that will hopefully connect to the listeners; a song can connect with me all it wants, but if I don’t try to translate that into something useful for the listener, then I’m not doing a very good job. I am always pleased when a fan or a band mate talks to me about a particular song they like and sometimes it really surprises me which song or which part of a song grabbed their attention. It’s a very humbling experience, every time. I think both men and women can write incredibly touching music. I often try to write without male or female references so either gender can feel the song is written for or about them, but sometimes I just can’t fight it and it’s clearly written from a female perspective!
Song: What do these two important components look, sound, feel like to you?
Carol: As far as music connecting to an audience, when we have a show, I watch people’s reactions to the music, from toe-tapping to wiggling in their seats to full-on dancing. I don’t know what part of the song they are reacting to, whether it’s the tempo, the lyrics or the boys in the band, but they are reacting and that is awesome! Sometimes there is no reaction, it’s just blank stares and that doesn’t feel so good. When I know we’ve done it, that everything came together in a show, I get goose bumps and I can’t stop smiling.
Song: Would you describe yourself more as a songwriter or performer or both? Why and how?
Carol: I would say that I am always working on both and that I am not really better at one or the other. When I first started, I wrote and performed the best I could. Then I wanted more out of the experience and that meant bringing in a band. And now, with this rocking band of very talented musicians, I am more solid in my writing including writing parts with their playing in mind and I’m definitely upping my performance. My philosophy is that there is enough bad stuff going on in most people’s lives that I want our music and our shows to be a respite, a happy place of good times for the band and fans alike, from the littlest kiddos at our age-appropriate shows on up the age ladder. Some of my songs touch on sadder or madder subjects, but hopefully they are disguised in something upbeat!
Song: What bands do you listen to, and what attracts you to them?
Carol: Vocals and a singer’s attitude catch my ear first then the rest of the song for sure with its style, tempo and lyrics. Since moving to Arizona, I have been hooked on the Refreshments and Peacemakers. Before Arizona, the list is pretty endless with No Doubt, Violent Femmes, Counting Crows, REM, Cure, Elvis Costello, the Replacements, Material Issue, INXS, Pretenders, Presidents of the United States of America, and on and on…and not in order of most loved! Within this past year, I became a big fan of Frank Tuner.
Song: When ‘down time’ does occur, what are some of the activities you pursue?
Carol: I love being with my family, some days more than others, and we seem to be in non-stop motion going here, going there. I try to garden when heat permits, ride my mint green cruiser and walk my scruffy dog.
Meet Andy Borunda, lead guitarist of his own developed sound and technique.
Song: Was the guitar the first instrument you picked out to learn and how old were you when you began lessons?
Andy Borunda: Although we had a piano in the house growing up, I was never really interested in learning how to play it. I’d tinker a bit and knew the notes because my older brother Rick was learning. So officially, the guitar was the first instrument I really began to learn. I was about 15 when I first picked it up and I took a guitar class in high school. Those were my initial proper lessons.
Song: Described as self taught, what were you thinking during those two week sessions you were taking guitar lessons? Was it a certainty that it just all made sense to you then and there?
Andy: Just prior to taking the guitar class, I was trying to learn “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin by purchasing the tablature sheet music. Leading up to class, I was just excited that I’d eventually be able to play this epic tune. Day by day, the “sounds” I was making started to sound like actual music that people would be able to enjoy instead of just tolerate. I not only knew how to play in a short time, I recognized the importance of being able to identify what I was actually doing. I was learning instead of just trying to mimic. After two weeks, my instructor, who really only knew basic guitar techniques, chords, etc., told me to go ahead and learn by myself because he couldn’t teach me anything else.
Song: Your list of favorite guitars make a strong statement of what you expect out of your chosen instrument (Gibson Les Pauls and a Taylor 614CE acoustic for live shows and includes a Fender Telecaster for studio work). Is there still one you prefer over another, and are you eying off any particular guitar you’d like to own still?
Andy: My style leans very heavily on a good Gibson Les Paul guitar. This comes from the music I’m most drawn to—blues based rock guitar. My main musical influences are notorious for using the Les Paul—Jimmy Page, Ace Frehley, Slash, etc. I very much prefer this live but in the studio I use a Fender Telecaster a lot. It’s a very common recording technique to record multiple electric tracks on a song and the Tele works very well with that. The Les Paul has a thick sound so I don’t necessarily want to layer much with it—gets too thick! As far as acoustic guitars go, my Taylor is top notch. I need to know that an acoustic can feel and sound like butter with no help from effects or tricks. As far as eying another guitar, I would love another Les Paul. I come from more of a flashy sort of school of playing which I picked up from a lot of guitarists from the ‘80’s so I’d love to have a glittery Les Paul!
Song: Are you currently doing any solo or co-writing of music?
Andy: Musically speaking, the band is my first priority. We are very busy so I don’t have that much free time to work on any solo or outside projects. I do have a bit of a musical library file of ideas that do creep up though. Today’s technology makes it very easy to capture and save your ideas.
Song: You walk into a local independent record store. First what genre of music with the fifty spot in your pocket would you be looking for? Why? And do you pursue collecting vinyl or CD or both?
Andy: I love taking my time at Zia’s (Zia’s is a record/DVD/games and more new/used shop in Arizona and Las Vegas). I love rock n roll! That covers a lot of territory which is why I take my time. There’s great music all around so on any given day I can walk away with an array of music from Elvis, KISS, or the Replacements! Rock music is what gets me, it speaks to me—I get it. This can take on many forms. I think certain Beach Boys songs affect me the same way that maybe a Guns n Roses song does. Being that I mostly listen to music while driving, I buy Cd’s.
Song: A professed musical sponge… are you one of those rare individuals that can listen to a tune and immediately pick it out?
Andy: I can’t necessarily pick out notes per se when I’m listening to music. I usually listen to and recognize patterns and why it would makes sense that a song is going here or there. I think that is very beneficial when learning songs too. I’m a musical sponge in that I like to learn about the music, the artist, and whatever I find interesting in relation. Then, I usually retain that information no matter how trivial it might be. I think one retains things that most interests them. I must confess that I am blessed and cursed with a great memory.
Pots and Pans- A beat. Meet drummer Ben DeLuca
Song: First of all advice from icons Jim Morrison and Horace Greeley? Really? We’re not worthy, we’re not worthy! Tell us Ben, the scenario surrounding this?
Ben DeLuca: All are worthy… especially those who have read my bio. This was more of a statement of what got me to come out west. My cousin, who I used to jam with as a kid, was a big Jim Morrison fan. Besides forcing me to read “American Prayer” cover to cover, he used to ask me if I thought the “West was the Best”, or was Jim just always high? I wanted an answer to that question. One day I heard the quote, “Go west, young man” which lead me to Horace Greeley’s writings on the opportunities that were available in the west. So one day, I threw caution to the wind, and did what so many song writers have written about…. I packed up my bags and headed out west. Exciting times…
Song: For some people there are things that just come naturally. For you it seemed to be keeping a beat. Do you unconsciously hear a beat of timing in your surroundings or is it something you have to focus on?
Ben: Yes, it’s almost subconscious. Not only a beat… sometimes entire arrangements. That’s why it’s good to have friends like Carol, Andy & Dante to collaborate with.
Song: As a kid, were you ever told to, ‘hey knock it off and stop hitting things!’ or were you encouraged to fill this part of who you are?
Ben: My parents and the people around me growing up were very supportive. It was a very positive environment. I consider myself lucky.
Song: Are you able to play a variety of percussion style instruments? Do you have a favorite instrument? Is there a particular drum brand you like?
Ben: Yes. It’s easy to bang out a rhythm on the drums and move to a djembe, cajon , or even the kitchen counter and continue the pattern. The musical style of the patterns can be challenging at times. The styles that I find a little more difficult are Latin and jazz. As for a favorite instrument I love the drums but I got to give a shout out to the sax. My first instrument … still love to play.
Song: Music you feel is a universal language. A pattern given to evoke a wide arrange of emotions. Share some of those musical artists and arrangements that create strong diametrically opposed emotions within you.
Ben: Besides lyrically and rhythmically, I think music speaks to us in other ways. From the beginning of time people were picking up sticks and banging on trees to communicate. It’s just in our DNA. At this point, I would refer anyone interested to String Theory. Way too deep for a drummer to go into…
Song: For some music comes as natural as breathing. For others it is very difficult. Do you encourage those who lack natural ability from pursuing a career in music or do you try to set them in a direction of working towards what fits them comfortably and encourage them to just pursue the enjoyment of music?
Ben: People should do what makes them happy. I believe if one person can do it anyone can. Some just may have to work a little harder.
Song: Favorite Saturday night, kick back food to eat? Pizza, wings, Greek, Hamburgers?
From Lilith to Carol Meet. Jazz and rock bassist- Dante Fiorenza
Song: More often than not, bassists are thought to be the quiet ones, loners, a bit aloof… would this describe you?
Dante Fiorenza: I have to be very social for my career, so its nice to have some time to be quiet. I have been told I am aloof though, and one of my co workers nicknamed me ‘lupo solo’ which means lone wolf.
Song: How does alt-country fit your bass playing experiences?
Dante: Rhythmically its straightforward and needs to be tight, so it keeps me in check, but sometimes you have to put the circle in the square.
Song: Do you also write music?
Dante: A little bit, really only a couple songs.
Song: Any particular bass guitar brand you prefer?
Dante: My first favorite was Fender Jazz, but now using Musicman Stingray and love it. I’m left handed so options are limited.
Song: Being raised in Boston, at what age did you come out to the west? Do you hear, or feel differences between bass players from one coast to the other? Is there something about the differences coastal that stand out or is a bass player not influenced by cultures and social surroundings?
Dante: I was 24 and came to finish college. There are great bass players coast to coast. I do believe any musician or any career for that matter is influenced by your upbringing and Boston has certainly shaped me, and I think musicians from Latin based countries are exciting, different rhythms, feels and attitudes.
Song: I understand your father has been largely influential on who you’ve become. Can you share some of the things he did with you while growing up that lead you to become the person you are?
Dante: How much time do you have?!
My dad is special, I could write a book ha, ha. The things I did with dad (he worked nights so I was his daytime pal)……he took me to museums, parks, recording studios, record stores, camera shops, art stores, Harvard Square, ungodly amounts of Boston Bruin games, skating rinks… in fact I was born on skates, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Canada. I thought I was Canadian growing up since I worshiped so many of them, plus I am huge Joni Mitchell fan. *[See song “Case of You”].
Song: Do you prefer playing bass with a jazz or rock influence? Who are some of those out of the jazz era that influenced you?
Dante: I prefer playing with both a rock and jazz feel. As a kid all I heard was jazz records playing in the house and my father practicing scales on his sax so its burned in me, but I remember my dad gave me a Jaco Pastorious record when I was in high school and like all other bass players, my head EXPLODED. Game over, Jaco was not from this world!
Song: Pick a cartoon that you enjoy watching. What elements within the cartoon pull you in to become a fan? (yes its a random question, but it lets the fans know you’re human!)
Dante: I liked so many but a more recent one I liked was Kenny the Shark. Kenny was a pet shark and was always getting himself into hilarious predicaments and the family would have to come to the rescue. A lot like real life. And he ate everything in the house!
Group: Opening the floor to allow the group share their own perspectives.
Song: Music ebbs and flows like so many other things in life. When you see where you all have come from as individual musicians and now you’ve collectively created Carol Pacey and the Honey Shakers, pause and reflect- what brought you here?
Carol: With a few of the same songs CPHS plays now, I started playing out as a soloist in 2008 and then formed a duo, then a trio with other musicians, all under my name. I really liked the support of other musicians with this music and I liked what each brought to the table, but it wasn’t until I met Andy that I found the sound I was looking for…a kick-ass sound! I thought I’d lose ground if my name was left off the band name so I asked Andy if he’d be cool with “Carol Pacey & the …” which he was and so we worked on the actual band name. He came up with the Honey Shakers. I balked a little at first, not wanting fans to think we were trying to ride the Peacemakers coat tails, but it proved the winner, do ask him about it! To help sort out a booking agent one time who called us the Honey Makers, I came up with, “Bees make it. We shake it.” Yes, we do.
Andy: Being that Carol and I have been playing together the longest, I think it initially comes down to respect for each others talents and respect as people. We have a similar vision that we are shooting for and we’re just trying to make it happen. All of us have a really good work ethic too—we get it done! One important aspect of this band is that we really get along with each other. This is important because you spend so much time together plus you are doing something that makes you happy. It’s better that the happiness continues with people you like!
Song: What happened, each of you comment as individuals on how you connected and decided to make this happen?
Carol: I found Andy through Craigslist in 2011 with an ad he posted as, “Guitar Player Looking for Something Cool,” (still have his email….) and we went through friends and friends of friends for the other Honey Shakers until we needed Craigslist again where we found Benno and Dante.
Andy: I was looking for a new project as I was a free agent at a point. I was finding a hard time finding something and was getting a bit frustrated on a few failed attempts. I had a Craigslist ad running for awhile which pretty much said I was “looking for something cool”. This was in August of 2011. Carol emailed me, had a bit of back and forth, and we found common ground. It’s important to note that we have different individual strengths as musicians and we work well together because of this. The band was at a bit of a transition in December 2012 and we had to look for a new drummer and that is when Ben came along, via Craigslist as well. At a point in July 2013, we needed a new bass player and Dante found his way into the fold. We really do have a great lineup of not just musicians but as people.
Ben: For me it was simple as finding them on Craigslist, they needed bass player I was looking to play. But the magic is when you all gel and it comes together and that’s what happened.
Song: Do you ever have disagreements on direction? When you do how have you gone about resolving them?
Carol: How our music process works is that Andy gets a complete song from me with lyrics, melody, structure and chords, and then he adds his flavor within the confines of what I gave him. From there it goes to the band to add their awesomeness within the confines of what we two created. There have been some disagreements on this process along with other band issues and if they proved too much, members either left the band or they were asked to leave. While we are very serious about the music we make, we also appreciate a happy, harmonious and respectful band situation, and for the most part, it’s been pretty good!
Andy: When there are 4 members in a group, there are times when you don’t always agree—it’s natural. It is important to point out that we understand we must be respectful.
Song: Do you all feel like you’re possibly leaders in helping the local scene get back to its roots?
Carol: No. I would like to think that we are offering a new reason for folks, who stopped going out to see live music when their fav local bands from the 90’s seemed to disappear, to get back out there and get back into living life off the internet!
Andy: I personally don’t feel like a leader in a particular movement but more of a supporter or cheerleader, if you will. Support between bands is very important and I think that’s what makes a more positive scene overall.
Song: Do you have favorite bands you like being in a line up with? Seems now a days the youth of rock love merchandise, and its become the bread and butter for many bands- how do you feel about it?
Carol: We like playing with other bands in the same or similar genre so that fans are not “shocked” at the differences in music at a show; they seem to turn on your quickly if you are too foreign from who they are there to see. We love playing with Mill’s End, the Hardways, the Minor Injuries, Instant Hobo, Mr. Eastwood and the Frogstranglers, who are all basically in or near our genre. We also love Field Tripp, the Pleasure Victims and Sister Lip, and we have some new shows soon with Truckers on Speed, 13 to the Gallows and the Andy’s. I would like to see us open for the Dagg Nabbit Stubbs, Prehab, Los Guys, Ghetto Cowgirl, Dead Hot Workshop and of course…do I have to say it…Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers.
Song: No Carol… I don’t think you have to say it… because HECKA who wouldn’t want to open/play with them? I’ve seen them live multiple times and would love to photograph them personally! Yes, I too am a lifer… LOL!
Andy: We’ve been fortunate to have made some friends through different shows. It makes the night more enjoyable when you enjoy not only what other bands onstage but how they are as people offstage. A couple of my favorites are Mill’s End and The Hardways. Merchandise if very important. It’s great to have something tangible for the fans to have a memento of your band plus if you make a few bucks at it, you can keep that merch wheel rolling!
Song: Seems now a days the youth of rock love merchandise, and its become the bread and butter for many bands- how do you feel about it?
Carol: I can say that I love seeing our t-shirts on fans, I love knowing that they are listening to our demo songs and someday I would love to see one of our stickers on a back window of a random car going down the road! Money from sales of these items goes right back into the band so it is helpful that way. Otherwise it would be nice to earn some bones from actually playing the music although I think that we have done particularly well in that area in general with only ever playing one cover song and not that often at that.
Song: Several bands who have kept their fan bases, and grown their foundation wide and deep utilize chat sessions and social media to connect- have you all been able to be a part of this 21st century movement in music or do you still prefer to just sit and chat over a coffee or hot tea with your fans after the show?
Carol: I am into social media sans Twitter and Instagram; love me Facebook, YouTube and our website; we have made fans from around the world with them! As we continue, I suspect we will do a few live streaming sessions, but yes, I prefer meet and greets before and after shows!
Andy: You have to use social media to connect. People are at a computer or mobile device all day long—why wouldn’t you use it? I also love talking to people after the show. You can’t underestimate the importance of the good ol’ fashion face to face.
Song: Future events, plans, CD’s, Merchandise?
Carol: I am hopeful for new venues in 2014 with new and old show mates, a full length album is in production for (hopeful) release in January/February 2014, maybe an acoustic EP and hopefully a few show dates around Arizona with the band in 2014.
Andy: Big shows, new CD in early 2014, and rocking people’s faces off!
The excitement all of you share is contagious! Not only just this time we’ve spent being able to talk and get to know who all of you are more- but your performances are more than just mere ‘performances’ ALL of YOU show a marked passion and an element of yes we are kickin’ it and having fun because this is what we love… music, and music lovers! Thank you all for taking time out during this busy season to spend a few minutes giving us all a bit of insight to not only what is happening with Carol Pacey and the Honey Shakers, but what is occurring rapidly on the local scene everywhere. The formulation of Pacey + Honey def = Shakers!
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