A whirl of fuzzed-out folk rock and murky pop anthems recorded on 1/4" tape, from this group of ex-Hampshire College students. Songs about villains, heroes, and nobodies in the ferment of the digital age. Grungy and dirgy. Like getting wasted with a Mark Twain novel in hand.
Huckleberry Binge is lucky enough to have an identity crisis. What began as a dingy folk duo at Hampshire College consisting of guitarist Jonah Simonak and bassist Will Meyer paying homage to their hometown heroes, The Felice Brothers, mutated into a rock band with the addition of drummer Jad Quesada-Khoury and guitarist Gage Lyons. Mark Twain is on a three-day bender: recklessly emotional with huge opinions. Simonak, Meyer, and Lyons contribute three types of songwriting to one dynamic mess steeped in hazy roots rock and chaotic pop anthems. Dancy and dirgy. They’re coming straight from the Northeastern United States - staring deep into the heart of America from swaying pine trees and regurgitating sonic commentary. Casting themselves into ageless megastorms, gazing from above through the burnt out halls of the missile silos for a clue. Best possible efforts from a bunch of “country-bred pop critters” (The Boston Counter Cultural Compass 5/30).
Huckleberry Binge has been found sharing the stage with Boston politico-rockers State Radio in a shimmery theatre or at home in a sludgy basement packed with local punks looking for a good tragicomedy. They share bills with Pioneer Valley heroes And The Kids, Who’Da Funk It?, Young Tricksters, and Great Smokey as well as more Boston-area rockers Amongst Criminals, The Dig, Cult & Leper, and Noms drawing creatively and motivationally from the host of talent oozing out of Massachusetts.
Their recent efforts, along with producer Joshua Sitron, have resulted in a five song EP recorded onto ¼” tape - their snazziest product ever. Eternal salvation guaranteed or your money back within 34-99 business days. Disaster capitalism is finally financing its own soundtrack. Themes
Huckleberry Binge: The band name implies getting wasted with a Mark Twain novel in hand. They’ve got to be good.
“I think we’re a rock band,” explains Will Meyer, bassist for Hampshire College band Huckleberry Binge. Also known as Huck Binge, the band includes Meyer, guitarist Jonah Simonak, and Jad Quesada-Khoury on drums. This trio of second-years has been working together for about a year. They have played numerous Prescott Tavern and Red Barn shows, as well as plenty of shows off campus. “COCA I hope you’re reading this in the paper,” Meyer said with hopes of performing at Spring Jam.
They’re kind of a tough band to explain. They don’t sound like a lot of music out there, yet sound how you expect a “rock band” to sound. Huckleberry Binge’s songs possess some sort of audible weight. Their songs are heavied by the bass and drums with sharpness added from the guitar. As Simonak put it, “soulful droning but high energy. Like somebody with a hangover who has a lot of energy.” Many of their tracks are also enhanced by various tempo changes, never letting listeners get the change to get comfortable with a single rhythm.
Huck Binge’s songs range from being about the life of John Dillinger (“Desperado”), “what it’s like to grow up in a small town and the things one conjures up with an overacting imagination.” (“Witches’ Circle”), and suburban stoners ordering domino’s (“(Just Another) White Boy Reggae Song”).
“We have some that are, like, straightforward and you really want to rock out, and have high energy, and [I try to] make it interesting at the same time because it’s a lot of different rhythms and tempo changes and all that kind of stuff that’s really fun to play,” says Quesada-Khoury. Huck Binge seems to be just that, fun to play.
They’re fun to listen to too. Every Huckleberry Binge show has either lots of drunken dancing or bobbing and tapping from more sober concert goers. Huckleberry Binge has performed several times on the Hampshire Campus as well as Mt. Holyoke, Smith, and Amherst campuses. “I have to say both times we played at Amherst it was like playing and your parents’ friends’ cocktail party in Westchester,” said Simonak. They have also performed shows in Northampton, filling Sam’s Pizza’s small space a few times. In addition to local shows, “we play a lot of gigs that aren’t necessarily close to home, “ says Meyer. They have traveled throughout parts of the East Coast for concerts, most recently performing in Boston.
At their Boston show they had the pleasure of having Maddog from State Radio, a friend of Meyer’s, in the audience. State Radio, as well as the Felice Brothers, are large influences for Huck Binge. “I try to rip them off periodically to please Jonah,” says Meyer of the Felice Brothers. He is also influenced by Radiohead, while Quesada-Khoury takes his cues from drummers like Danny Carey and Brian Blade. Simonak stated that even though this isn’t his favorite he is inspired by, “Mark Linkus from Sparklehorse[…] and then Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All of course.”
It is very apparent how much they care about the music that they produce. “I guess I try to be as diverse a drummer as I can given the songs we have,” said Quesada-Khoury. They have developed and changed over the past year to develop a more cohesive sound. Simonak thinks that “collectively, our songs sound more like one another than they did before, but they still sound like us…like a year a go I’d say we had some folk songs…and some faster songs, and those songs still exist, but now we have more of a formula for writing songs.”
Simonak also explained that a friend of his categorized them as a folk rock band, which he thought might be a little too tame. “When you write a song on your acoustic guitar, or by yourself, it might be a folk song then, but then you bring it into the practice rooms, and add the electric guitars, and just try and make it rock as much as possible because we don’t know how to write real rock songs…We try to make it a little louder and a little more abrasive than it has any right to be.”
Originally, Huckleberry Binge was called Tequila Mockingbird. It was started by Meyer and Simonak who were later joined by Quesada-Khoury. Simonak explained that the name came about because “at the time we were selling ourselves and an Americana outfit, so we wanted to have a name that had something to do with [that], and what better way to do that than to couple it with drinking.” Last school year Huck Binge included Gage Lyons on electric guitar, who is currently on leave, but will be reuniting with Huckleberry Binge this spring.
The camaraderie between Quesada-Khoury, Meyer, and Simonak is part of what makes Huck Binge so appealing. “There’s something very special, and very humbling about being bored in a car with these guys, knowing that night you’re going to play a gig. I enjoy that aspect of this band and look forward to doing more of that.”
In addition to performing as close-knit trio Huckleberry Binge, Simonak and Meyer each have other music projects in the works. Simonak explains that he and Meyer are always writing songs, “and some of them get put to use in the band and some don’t.” The songs that don’t get put to use Simonak still records as independent works. Meyer is currently bassist in Hampshire band Swift Taylor, or as he called it “Swift Taylor and the Frisbee Bros,” and is also working with non-Hampshire students in a band he described as “fast funk, early [Red Hot] Chili Peppers stuff. I’ll be playing drums there. I’m pretty excited about that.”
Independent projects aside, Huckleberry Binge has lots of upcoming shows and future plans. As recently as February 19th they performed at The Elevens with Pale Cowboy, Kids Choice and Swift Taylor. February 24th they will be featured in a larger Red Barn concert, and if you’re willing to travel, Huck Binge will be in Brooklyn at Hank’s Saloon March 3rd. Look out for recordings released by Huckleberry Binge recorded at Young Hum Studios and mixed by State Radio bassist Chuck Fay. Also, all Huck Binge band members are armed with stickers. Be sure to ask for one, they’re a nice touch to any laptop.
Huckleberry Binge would like to thank The Climax for this piece, and as Meyer put it, “I love reading The Climax when its all about me.”
Huckleberry Binge: A Band that Runs on Vegetable Oil
Posted: December 14, 2012
“Huckleberry Binge runs on vegetable oil,” says Gage Lyons 11S. The band, featuring Lyons on guitar, Jonah Simonak 10F on guitar and vocals, Jad Quesada-Khoury 10F on drums, and Will Meyer 10F on bass and vocal, drives to gigs in a tiger-striped short bus that runs on the aforementioned liquid.
“The music industry consumes so many resources, the amount of energy going into putting on a live show is scary,” Lyons explains. “We were struggling with the question of how we could feel better about playing, and consuming energy, even in this fledgling phase [of the band], so we upgraded to grease. The carbon emissions are next to nothing.”
“We’re a small band, we needed a promo boost, and tiger stripes sell,” Lyons jokes.
Formed in 2010, Huckleberry Binge has played throughout the Northeast. The band’s influences range from indie rock, classic rock, and contemporary jazz to author Cormac McCarthy.
Meyer says his biggest influence is his peers: “The local music scene in the Valley is inspiring to me. I find myself singing local bands’ songs on the way to the bus, becoming obsessed with these bands. It feels really cool to be around such incredible artists. We’re all pushing each other and all in this together.”
The group began practicing in Merrill House, and has played quite a few shows in venues and mods around the Hampshire College campus. “We’ve played a lot of shows here, whether it’s in someone’s mod, or at the Red Barn,” says Quesada-Khoury.
“Hampshire has to a certain extent molded our identities. It has encouraged our creative process in a positive way,” Simonak says. “It changed the way I think about things and see things.”
The band plans to record additional tracks for an album or extended play in the next year, with the hope of touring with local band Who’da Funk It in the spring.
Behind the Beat: Road Warriors
Thursday, November 29, 2012
By Michael Cimaomo
Route 116, familiar to many a Valley resident, spans four different counties and connects Springfield, South Hadley, Amherst and other towns. Commuters and college students alike frequently use the highway, and often joining them in their travels are the members of Huckleberry Binge.
Formed in 2010 by Hampshire College freshmen Jonah Simonak (guitar, vocals) and Will Meyer (bass, vocals), Huckleberry Binge (aka Huck) also features Gage Lyons (guitar, vocals) and Jad Quesada-Khoury (drums). Split between headquarters at Hampshire and an apartment shared by Meyer and Lyons in South Hadley, the group is also quite familiar with Route 116, where it has been known to appear frequently, often behind the wheel of a uniquely painted bus.
“We recently invested in a 1993 diesel short bus that can run on vegetable oil,” says Lyons. “It came from the fact that we needed a reliable, easy way to get around to all of our gigs and needed to feel good about it. We feel better about our carbon footprint now, but realize it’s only a first step. Who knew that crusty rockers could have a conscience? Also, the bus has tiger stripes. It’s pretty hard to miss driving through downtown Northampton.”
Cranking out a mix of Americana and folk rock during its live gigs, Huckleberry Binge may describe itself as “crusty,” but the band actually possesses a fair amount of twang, as evidenced by rootsy tracks like “Grain Whiskey” and “County Fair”.
“When Jonah and [Will] started Huck, the vision was more folk-Americana-driven,” says Lyons. “They wanted to write songs about some of our nation’s unsung heroes and criminals. Sometimes it’s a wall of fuzz, other times it’s an intimate ballad. We’re working on covering all points in between.”
So far, Huck’s output has included a self-titled release and a four-track demo, which features a live track recorded during a performance at Amherst College. According to Lyons, the band plans on working on more material during the upcoming winter months.
“We’ve had various recording sessions that, so far, haven’t resulted in an EP that truly represents us,” he says. “We did a two-day session in Rosendale, N.Y. a couple of weeks ago, but we were out of our element. That said, winter is coming and there will be a lot of time to be trapped inside, pouring over Pro Tools. We’re hoping to revisit some of our folk roots as well, but keep the fuzz. Within the next year, we hope to release a decent EP and full-length album. I’m sure there will be some shows along the way—we’re a little addicted.”•
released August 28, 2013
Recorded onto a Tascam 388 1/4" inch tape machine by Joshua Sitron in Florence MA
Mixed by Joshua Sitron
Mastered by Paul Geluso
Produced by Joshua Sitron and Huckleberry Binge
Vocals: Jonah Simonak, Will Meyer, Gage Lyons, Jesse French
Guitars: Gage Lyons, Jonah Simonak
Bass: Will Meyer
Drums: Jesse French
Accordion: Megan Miller of And The Kids
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