Hot Box Honey 6 January 2016 on Rocket Shop
WORDS BY TOM PROCTOR. PHOTO by JAMES LOCKRIDGE.
Hot Box Honey are the sort of band that are best accompanied with a martini in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Music to make shapes, music to bop to, music to give the eye to that hot piece in the corner and then swing them about the dance floor. Jane Evans with her sultry tones, accompanied by her tremendous backing band, transports the listener back to an era of spats, true gentlemen and the long forgotten American Dream. In short, they deliver what swing jazz is all about.
In the studio to discuss the release of their new album, Flight of the Raven, Jane and husband/lead guitarist Greg give us a glimpse into what goes into the making their songs, why working at home is double edged sword and what musical twists we might expect in the future.
Tom Proctor: So your debut album just came out. What was the process of getting that together?
Greg Evans: It’s been a project between the two of us. We have a home studio so we produced and recorded it all from the homestead. We wrote all the songs on the album together and the process took around two years in total.
Jane Evans: It’s the first album we've created together. I’ve created a jazz album and a soul album prior to this. But this is the first album of purely original songs, something that I didn't know i could do before I met Greg, and of course during this time we got married. It was a pretty good turn of events in general.
GE: We met at a gig which was pretty cool. I’ve had a regular jazz gig in Stowe for the past few years she turned up to a gig and it happend, history was made.
TP: How does recording in your home studio shape the way the album is produced in comparison to doing it at a regular studio?
JE: It’s harder, it takes forever (Laughs.)
GE: But I do find it to be less pressured because you don't have to worry about the time running away from you. There's a lot more flexibility. If I want to switch up mics or record in a way that most people may object to I don’t have go by the book, I’m free to try anything my own way.
JE: It's a double edged sword. Its great that you dont have the pressure but at the same time it takes forever to complete. Scheduling was a bit of a problem as we don't have a big enough studio to fit the entire band, which is a shame as I love the live feel of having the whole band recording together. We have an eight piece band, five core players and then when we have a horn section it swells to eight. I was a big band singer previously so I love having the horns accompany. We’re planning to get that live feel back on the next record.
TP: So how do you two approach writing a song? Is it a collaboration or more of a solo effort from one or both of you?
GE: It comes about in a number of different ways but it really is a collaboration. We both come up with fragments of song then over time we just keep working on them. Its funny how with one song you may think it’s about 85% done and then you abandon it and only take the best parts and incorporate it into an entirely new tune. Which happened a number of times with tracks on this album.
JE: Little things sometimes manifest into entire songs within my brain. This is how we do things differently. I came home on a friday one evening, totally spent from the weekend at work. It was pretty early, maybe three, and I already had a wine. Greg mentioned something about drinking already and that inspired an entire song. In that one instance the whole song had formed in my brain. Sometimes it happens like that, it comes really easily, other times not so much.
TP: Your album is an eclectic mix of genres and styles, is there any areas that you didn't explore on this record that you'd like to experiment with on the next one?
GE: Well we did have one track we made with a DJ on the album that we really enjoyed making and love to explore further. We listened to a lot of contemporary singers that are affiliated with jazz and mixed the old school with the new school. Pardon the cliche.
JE: We made it a wonderful human being Andy Williams, A-Dog. Unfortunately he’s no longer with us, which was heartbreaking, but he inspired us so much that we’d like to do more to emulate that because it was a sound we loved. Jazz overlaid with a hip hop beat.
GE: He was great, he didn't cut it up and make our track an entirely new record. He was very subtle and improved the track from what it was. He gave us an intro, outro and a breakdown but he kept the original element of the song.
TP: You called the new album Flight of the Raven. Is that a nod to Edgar Allen Poe?
JE: (Laughs) Not at all. We were afraid when we chose the name that people would think we’re a goth band.
GE: It comes from a song on the album called Raven. It was the hardest to write, but lyrically I believe it was the best of the album. It’s a really tricky song, very musically involved and one of the songs we were most proud of. The meaning behind the song is with regards to certain types of birds that in the courtship process lock talons and go into death spiral, so we had the song as an anthropomorphisation of avian courtship. We were always fascinated with the way birds chose their mates in this way so we wrote the song about that act in nature, and it was what we ultimately named the album after.