Blood and water
Honyock’s rock ’n’ roll record sounds like the family we choose
El Castillo was the right name for Honyock’s first album. And, no, not just because it’s Spanish for “The Castle,” which is still appropriate; all of its demos were laid out in the “record dungeon” at bassist Tyler Wolter’s house.
The Castillo’s a man. A good man. Thomas Castillo plays drums in a local rock outfit called Ex-Rippers, is an all-around sweetheart, and perhaps most of all: He was the guy who showed off Honyock’s demos to Christopher Watson, the co-founder of the Sacramento-based record label Friendship Fever.
“He just did that because he was excited about our shit, and unbeknownst to us, set it all up,” said guitarist and vocalist Spencer Hoffman, who co-founded Honyock with his brother Mason and Wolter nearly a decade ago. “And it was just sort of like: Wouldn’t it be funny to name our first record out of that idea of community?”
Honyock and El Castillo, which released on July 20 under Friendship Fever, are pretty much a “family affair,” as they put it. The band’s name is an old term of endearment their late grandfather used to say, and El Castillo’s cover art, a red sun reflecting onto a blue pool, was illustrated by one of their dad’s best friends.
“We got both, that mixture of water and blood,” said Mason, who also plays guitar and sings in Honyock. Stir frequently to avoid gelatinization, they joked.
It doesn’t hurt that their signing to Friendship Fever is a weird serendipity with another good dude. Growing up, Mason and Spencer were huge fans of a band called Dr. Dog, which signed to Watson’s old New Orleans label, Park the Van, in the early 2000s. Watson left the label in 2010, and in 2016, started Friendship Fever with his wife Sabrina. The Hoffman brothers dreamed of working with industry folk like Watson, who genuinely cared about the music.
“We ended up not getting a guy like him,” Spencer said. “We ended up getting the guy. I feel like a fucking coconut would fall on my head if I didn’t appreciate it.”
When Honyock started recording demos for the album two years ago, its 10 songs were 30, culled to 20 or so, then 16, then down to 12 with Watson’s help.
“The genesis of the record was that we wanted some sort of restart,” Spencer said. “And how we thought we’d be able to do that was to record some DIY, lo-fi, 30-song record that makes us go on a shitty tour forever.” After recording, the band finally nipped the songs to 10.
The oldest tune on the record is “Into My Arms,” which Mason wrote in 2009, at 17 or so, after losing his virginity to a girl named after a Beatles song, Michelle. It’s sweetly dreary, like that time: Mason had been living on a military base with a friend in Washington, mostly isolated and feeling homesick. Originally a pretty sleepy number, it was livened up by drummer Christian “Sunshine” Meinke’s aggressive style.
Then there’s “Heather,” where Spencer finally achieved the sound he wanted: sunshine. A whole parade of it. Lyrically, it reflects on the old cliché, “Don’t know what you have til it’s gone.”
“But also reflective of how certain relationships aren’t meant to be,” Spencer said. “Woulda worked out if only this happened, but that’s never gonna happen.”
The band goes on tour across the U.S. beginning August 15. And while the sappy songs and lyrics reach inward, even sappier—Honyock and El Castillo fondly remember the people around them.
“It’s about lifting each other up,” Mason said.