Swarthmore student band Honey Pickup performed last Saturday night at Bryn Mawr’s Battle of the Bands. Musicians Dan Eisler ’16, Cosmo Alto ’16, Andrew Gilchrist-Scott ’16, and Hanyu Chwe ’16 began playing together as Honey Pickup last semester, but they explained that the band actually originated their freshman year.
Eisler, Alto, and Chwe were all members of the a cappella group Essence of Soul in their freshman fall semester, but when Eisler and Alto left the group in the spring, they along with Chwe started a band called Contronym. Chwe explained that in their later semesters, they stopped playing due to increased course loads and travelling abroad, but last fall they got the band back together and added Gilchrist-Scott on bass guitar.
“We created a whole new band,” Chwe said, “from the seeds of the old band.”
In their last year of college, the band became something brand new, and they knew they couldn’t keep their old name. They explained that the name Honey Pickup has a sweet story behind it. Eisler explains that initially they didn’t have any ideas, so they created a Facebook page where friends could post suggestions for a band name.
“Some of the best ones,” Eisler mentioned, “were Sycamore Dinosaur [and also] Combat Wombat, but that was taken.”
“I also liked Tuxedo For A Bullfrog,” Gilchrist-Scott added.
However, none of the suggestions really stuck. During this time Eisler was student teaching at an elementary school in Wallingford, and he heard that there was a 4th grade girl in a different classroom whose name was actually Honey Pickup.
“I thought that was the most spectacular thing I had ever heard,” Eisler said, “and it just [sounded] like a band name.”
They added it to the list of options, and after much deliberation, chose it as the name for their group. The band describes their sound as indie/pop/punk/blues. They’ve also been called southern rock, and Gilchrist-Scott says he likes to think of it as country punk.
“That’s just how it comes out,” Eisler said. “There was never an intentional decision made on what our sound was gonna be. It’s just kinda what the songs sound like when we play them.” Due to the unique sound of their music, the band claims they don’t have any clear musical influences. Eisler said he has been compared to many male singer/songwriter artists in the past.
Gilchrist-Scott summed up the band’s sentiments by saying, “We don’t have a coherent sound that’s owing to any one person or group.”
Honey Pickup occasionally plays covers. They recently played a cover show, so they chose a few songs with good energy that they thought people would know such as “Lonely Boy” by The Black Keys. They have also played “American Pie” at Pub Nite, but they insist that it’s rare for them to play covers. They prefer to perform original music.
Several members of the band write songs for the group to play, so their writing processes vary. Eisler will often hear a turn of phrase that he likes and will use it as a starting point for new lyrics.
“Usually it’s just a process of beating my head against the wall until the words fall out in a decent order,” he said.
He writes on his acoustic guitar in his dorm room, and sometimes Alto joins him to jam and collaborate on the writing process. Gilchrist-Scott has also written a few of their songs. He says that he comes from more of a theatrical background and will write dramatic songs for characters he imagines. Once a new song has its general structure worked out, it is introduced to the group in rehearsal where each musician fine tunes his part. The songwriter might have ideas about a specific guitar riff or baseline, but at the end of the day, each individual band member puts his own spin on the song. They say this is what creates their unique sound.
“We sound a little bit eclectic,” Eisler said, “because we are all bringing our own sound to the song.”