Honyock: mischievous, mysterious
‘Folkadelic psychwave’ four-piece Honyock are more than just a strange name
Sacramento, CA 95814
Mischievous might not be the first word that comes to mind when describing Honyock. First of all, there’s music—heartfelt, unpretentious folk-rock with a touch of twang and driving rock beats. Then there’s the band themselves: They are polite, quiet and soft-spoken.
Yet when brothers Mason and Spencer Hoffman were looking for a band name, they chose “Honyock,” a word that loosely translated means “mischievous rascal.” This makes perfect sense to Spencer, who says the band is mischievous in today’s musical landscape because of being simple, straight-forward. They write songs for themselves and from the heart, like groups used to do in the ’60s but is uncommon these days.
“There’s a lot of dishonesty in contemporary music,” Spencer says. “It’s like, there’s the person and there’s the hit-making team behind the person.”
It should be no surprise then that Honyock’s biggest influences come from the ’60s and ’70s, artists such as Buck Owens, the Band and Elvis Costello. Honyock play serious and passionate heart-on-the-sleeve rock without a trace of irony, mixing traditional folk, old country and amphitheater-rock music. Its songs are about pain, loneliness and heartbreak, and the music and singing is just soulful and imperfect enough to really punctuate the emotions of the words.
However, Spencer admits that the band isn’t really mischievous at all, but just out of step with music today. It doesn’t fit in with bands out there trying to write the next hit. It could have very well been at home in the early ’70s alongside Neil Young and Crazy Horse, with whom the group shares a similar vibe and approach—a sense of pride in writing and arranging its own music and less so in creating an image and packaging themselves.
“Whatever we do, we take an honest approach,” Mason says.
The Hoffman brothers’ grandpa was the one who introduced them to honyock. When they were kids, he would call them it as a term of endearment. And the brothers wanted to honor him after he passed away in 2005: naming their band Honyock seemed the perfect way to do it.
“He lived his life very honestly. He was hard-working. He’s probably the greatest man I ever knew,” Spencer says.
Honesty isn’t something that either of the Hoffman brothers takes lightly. Along with fellow bandmates Tyler Wolter on bass and George Rios on drums, they apply integrity to every aspect of the band, even while understanding how the music industry works, that most successful bands embrace commodifying themselves.
“If you’re dishonest in a song, you’re being dishonest to yourself. Writing honestly is letting down all your barriers and writing what you actually feel,” says Mason.
What tends to comes out in Honyock is dark and sad emotions. Take the song “The Rage,” for example. Its message of heartbreak is simply stated, but it still manages to capture the complexities and pain of the emotion in a simple, vulnerable way that anyone who has ever experienced can relate to: “I gave her my heart and she broke it in pieces / my love for her is ugly but it won’t ever quit / not even a bit.”
Mason remembers the frustration of being in bands in high school and not being able to play the music he loved and felt. Everyone he knew was in punk bands, so that was what he did, too. His ideas were mostly too weird for his bandmates and were outright rejected.
He, the older of the brothers, taught Spencer his first few chords. They both shared similar musical tastes and a philosophy that it made sense for them to team up and start their own band.
It wasn’t enough for them to just not sound like the other bands, they also wanted a name unlike the other bands. They liked “Honyock” because it was a word that most people had never heard before, so when they did hear it, they had nothing else to associate it with except for the band.
Interestingly, the brothers seem to have a thing for funny words. When asked what kind of music they play, they answered, “Folkadelic psychwave.” They admit that it’s basically a joke, but it also makes a point: They aren’t really folk or country or rock and, in order to properly label themselves, it would require a ridiculous phrase as such.
What’s also intriguing is that, despite their quiet, modest demeanor off-stage, onstage they are something quite big. And they hope that people will not simply just watch them pouring their hearts out, but will join them for the ride.
“It’s an ambitious goal, but I want people to feel like they were part of our world, not just watching another band play the night away,” Mason says. “I want them to take something away, like maybe solace in the fact that they hear our songs and say, ‘I’ve felt that way, too. I’m not so alone.’”
Perhaps the most fascinating thing about honyock is the mystery of its origins. A small handful of people in the United States recall their grandfathers using this word, but they’ve all seemed to come from different parts of the world.
Even the Hoffman brothers’ grandpa, who meant so much to them, gave them little insight where the word came from.
“It’s a secret only grandfathers knew and didn’t pass down,” Spencer says.